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Juveniles Charged as Adults in Murder Cases

Juveniles Charged as Adults in Murder Cases

At The Castillo Law Office, we keep up with all of the new laws, particularly those concerning murder cases. Two recent California Supreme Court Cases, People v. Gutierrez and People v. Moffett establish very important sentencing rules for juveniles charged with homicide and special circumstances. Gutierrez and Moffett establish the standard for when a juvenile can be sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole. Given the high amount of juveniles involved in homicide cases in Alameda County and Contra Costa County, the new standards will be widely used by judges to determine the correct sentence.

Juveniles can be sentenced to either life in prison without parole or 25 years to life in prison for a murder that involves special circumstances. (Pen. Code § 190.5.) Typical special circumstances include murder during a rape, kidnapping, or robbery; lying in wait; murder of a police officer; murder by torture; murder by firing a gun from a vehicle; and multiple murders in one case. Once the jury finds a special circumstance true, the judge has the discretion to either sentence the juvenile to 25 years to life in prison or life in prison without parole. There is no presumption of a sentence of life without parole; the court has the discretion to choose either one.

The sentencing court will consider the normal adult sentencing factors in deciding between 25 years to life in prison and life without parole, but because the defendant is a juvenile the court must also consider a number of different "distinctive attributes of youth." The California Supreme Court noted five factors the sentencing court must consider.

Gutierrez and Moffett make clear that fighting a criminal case for a juvenile does not end at conviction. Defense attorneys now have a professional duty to provide the court with information concerning the youthful characteristics of the juvenile so they can argue that the juvenile should not be sentenced to life in prison without parole.

At the Castillo Law Office, Oakland Murder Attorney, Ernesto Castillo aggressively defends juvenile homicide cases. He does everything in his power to avoid the serious consequence of life in prison without parole. Because of his dedication to aggressive defense he is a Super Lawyers Rising Star and recipient of the Client-Distinction Award from Martindale Hubble®. If you have any question about a homicide case, contact Oakland Criminal Defense Attorney, Ernesto Castillo for afree consultation.


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