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News Update

Youth under 16 can’t be tried as adults in court, California affirms

The California Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that 14- and 15-year-olds can no longer be tried as adults in court, which could result in a lifetime prison sentence, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

The ruling came after a 2019 state law prohibiting youth younger than 16 from being tried as adults was challenged by prosecutors who argued that the law violated the 2016 Proposition 57, which allowed 14-year-olds to be charged as adults if a judge decided so based on the crime and the youth’s record.

Currently, the maximum confinement for juveniles is up to age 25. However, courts can place what’s called a “safety hold” after that threshold requiring placement in a medical center. The recent ruling makes California the first state to prohibit adult prosecutions of youths under 16, the Chronicle reports.

Tough sentences for youth disproportionately affect Black and Latino youth, according to the Sentencing Project, a group that works to reduce imprisonment.

“Now the state will focus on rehabilitating young people,” Elizabeth Calvin of Human Rights Watch told the Chronicle. “Youth who are sent to the adult system miss out on the treatment, education and services offered in the juvenile system. Youth kept in the juvenile system are less likely to commit new crimes.”