The legislature in October of 2018 enacted a new law raising the age of criminal responsibility. The theory behind this law recognizes that the adolescent brain is not fully developed and many adolescents act impulsively and get into trouble. Under the new law, all 16 and 17-year-olds charged with felonies are defined as adolescent offenders (AO’s) and their cases are heard in the newly-created Youth Part. The Youth Part is a superior court part presided over by a family court judge.
The cases start out in the Youth Part, but the majority of the cases are intended to be transferred from the Youth Part over to the Family Court.
All non-violent felonies are to be transferred unless the district attorney files a written motion objecting to the transfer alleging extraordinary circumstances exist. It is then up to the Judge to decide whether or not the case will remain in the Youth Part or be transferred to family court.
The nonviolent felonies have to undergo a hearing first to determine whether or not certain aggravating factors exist which would cause the case to remain in the Youth Part. If the court does not find those factors exist, then those cases are also eligible for transfer to the family court.
All vehicle and traffic felonies are excluded from being eligible for transfer to the family court.
When a case is transferred to family court, the adolescent is able to go to the probation department to begin receiving services to try and divert the case from ever appearing before a family court judge. Voluntary probation services are also available while the case is pending in the Youth Part.
When an adolescent is arrested, he/she must be advised of his/her right to remain silent and right to an attorney. Additionally, the adolescent’s parent or guardian is also required to be advised of these rights. If either the adolescent or the parent/ guardian requests an attorney or indicates that they are not willing to answer questions, law enforcement must stop the questioning process.
This is a very important change in the law to help protect the rights of adolescents. Our office regularly appears in the Youth Part and we are available to take advice cases. If the police are looking for your adolescent or are attempting to speak to him/ her, please tell the police that you want an attorney and call our office immediately. We will step in right away and represent your child free of charge.