Los Angeles’ top prosecutor, District Attorney George Gascón, is pushing to remove youthful offenders from California’s strict career criminal law that extends prison sentences. Gascón has backed proposed legislation that would prevent juvenile “strikes” from counting toward future sentencing enhancements under California’s three-strikes law, which can result in life in prison for offenders who repeat serious crimes.
Gascón has said that the “juvenile system is based on rehabilitation, not on punishment” and has also noted that juvenile offenders aren’t offered the constitutional protections that adults have. For example, since juvenile cases are not considered criminal proceedings, defendants do not have the right to jury trials.
However, juvenile strikes for minors 16 and older are treated similarly to adult offenders and can face long prison terms if they are later convicted of second and third strikes. A second strike doubles the underlying sentence, while a third strike for a serious or violent felony can result in a life sentence.
Democratic Assemblyman Miguel Santiago introduced AB-1127, which would allow individuals who have been given a strike in juvenile court that chance to have it vacated or to request resentencing if they are currently incarcerated. According to Santiago, “It makes absolutely no sense that a kid who can’t go to prom would have an action at that point ... that could be used down the line to count as a third strike.”
Although the bill requires two-thirds of legislators to vote in favor to change the state’s three-strikes law, Democrats currently hold an adequate number of seats in the Legislature to pull it off.
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