Victory: Prop 57 Abolishes Direct File in Adult Court
After years of advocacy to eliminate the practice of prosecutors directly filing juvenile cases in adult criminal court, the Youth Law Center celebrates the passage of Proposition 57, The Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016. While Proposition 57 encompassed a number of criminal justice reforms, its primary impact for youth is to require that a judge, and not a prosecutor, make the decision as to whether a juvenile should be tried in adult court. The new law is effective immediately, and should apply to all juveniles’ cases that are not yet final. It eliminates the “direct filing ” by prosecutors of juvenile cases in adult court. Now a “transfer” hearing must be held, and the prosecutor must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that an individual juvenile’s case should be transferred to adult court. There is no presumption in favor or against transfer. The court must make an individualized determination to transfer the case or have the youth remain in juvenile court. Proposition 57 takes a significant step in the direction of emphasizing rehabilitation over excessive, punitive measures for youth. The new law, passed with substantial voter support, also reflects the growing scientific and societal understanding that youth do not have the same capacity and culpability as adults and, at the same time, have enormous potential for growth and development into contributing adults. The Youth Law Center is particularly proud of the work of YLC juvenile justice advocate, Javier Stauring, whose tireless advocacy on behalf of young people in the adult criminal justice system helped to secure this long awaited victory.