People v. Superior CourtAnnotate this Case
The defendant was charged in adult criminal court with sex crimes allegedly committed in 2014 and 2015 when he was 14 and 15 years old. The law then in effect permitted the prosecutor to charge the case directly in adult court. After the charges were filed, the electorate passed Proposition 57, the “Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016,” prohibiting prosecutors from charging juveniles directly in adult court. Such actions must commence in juvenile court. If the prosecution wishes to try the juvenile as an adult, the juvenile court must conduct a “transfer hearing.” Only if the juvenile court transfers the matter to adult court can the juvenile be tried and sentenced as an adult (Welf. & Inst. Code, 707(a)). The Supreme Court of California held that the provision applies retroactively to all juveniles charged directly in adult court whose judgment was not final at the time it was enacted. The possibility of being treated as a juvenile in juvenile court—where rehabilitation is the goal—rather than being tried and sentenced as an adult can result in dramatically different and more lenient treatment, so Proposition 57 reduces the possible punishment for a class of persons, namely juveniles. Nothing in Proposition 57’s text or ballot materials rebuts this inference.