Los Angeles Teen Charged After Santa Barbara Spring Break Disturbance

A Los Angeles teen is facing criminal charges after allegedly assaulting a Santa Barbara County sheriff's deputy during last weekend's "Deltopia," a spring break party that turned into a violent disturbance in Isla Vista.

The incident occurred around 9:30pm on Saturday night in Isla Vista, a half-square-mile neighborhood near UC Santa Barbara. An extensive spring break party was being held in the neighborhood, with an estimated 20,000 to 25,000 people attending the event, dubbed Deltopia. The raucous party escalated into a riot, according to officials at the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office. About 190 law enforcement officers worked to regain control and 130 people were arrested during the melee, which lasted several hours. Several deputies were injured.

On Tuesday, the 17-year-old teen was charged with mayhem, resisting an officer, assault on an officer, causing great bodily injury and committing a violent offense. Santa Barbara County prosecutors are charging him as an adult. His arraignment is set for Thursday.

Sheriff's officials said they were trying to break up a fight during the event, when a deputy subsequently attempted to arrest the teen. He then allegedly swung a backpack full of liquor bottles at the deputy, striking him in the head and causing a wound that required 20 stitches.

This may be the first of a number of criminal charges associated with the Deltopia incident. According to an LA Times article, authorities are reviewing surveillance camera footage in the hopes of identifying additional parties who may be held accountable for the events that unfolded that night.

Trial as an Adult and Penalties for Assaulting a Peace Officer

Although this teen is still a minor, he is being charged as an adult. In California, a minor as young as 14 can be charged and tried as an adult in criminal court. This may happen in various circumstances, depending on the minor's prior criminal record (if any) and the nature and severity of the charges. The prosecutor may file directly in adult criminal court, or the prosecutor may file a "fitness" petition at juvenile court for a hearing to be held that will determine whether the minor should be tried as an adult. Some "aggravated" offenses automatically qualify for trial as an adult, if the minor has prior offenses.

When a juvenile is convicted in adult court, he or she will face the same penalties as an adult. For the Los Angeles teen discussed above, this means he may face years in state prison if convicted on all charges. Assault alone is a misdemeanor offense under California Penal Code § 240, but assaulting a law enforcement officer triggers an enhanced sentence of up to 1 year in county jail. Because the deputy suffered great bodily injury, the teen also faces penalties for that offense. If he is charged with battery on a peace officer causing serious bodily injury under California Penal Code § 243, he may face 2, 3 or 4 years in state prison.

The teen's charges may also count as " strikes" on his record if he is convicted. Under California's three strikes law, a second strike would result in double the normal sentence and a third strike could result in a lifetime in prison.

This situation serves as an example of how quickly things can get out of hand at a large party or gathering. This teen has been accused of grave offenses and may face years behind bars if convicted. If you ever find yourself arrested or under suspicion of any criminal offense, in relation to the Isla Vista riot or in another situation, assert your rights. Involve an attorney as quickly as possible and make sure you are not taken advantage of in your efforts to cooperate. If you are arrested, you have the right to refuse questioning and demand an attorney.

The early involvement of a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer is essential for adults and teens charged with criminal offenses involving disorderly conduct, assault on a peace officer and more. To discuss your case and concerns, contact Lessem & Newstat today.