15-year-old juvenile (name withheld to protect the anonymity of the accused) has been charged with murder (CA Penal Code 187) for having allegedly shot a man at a party in Santa Rosa. Local law enforcement officials were called out to an apartment complex on Piner Road in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Witnesses claim that the juvenile and another 20-year-old (also of Santa Rosa) got into a verbal altercation during the party that quickly escalated and then moved to a nearby parking lot. He now stands accused of shooting the victim once in the chest and once in the arm; the victim expired later at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.
In cases such as these, there is always a debate over whether to prosecute the alleged perpetrator as a juvenile or as an adult. It’s an important decision, one that can mean the difference between a number of years in a juvenile detention facility and the death penalty. So, what is taken into account when prosecutors make this determination?
First, it is interesting to note that persons as young as 14 years of age can be tried as an adult in the state of California. However, only a person 16 years of age or older can be held in adult prison facility. Once in the adult system, they no longer have access to important resources that they would if in the juvenile system. This means no access to common rehabilitative services like educational and vocational programs. Second, juveniles tried as adults are treated as just that, adults who can be sentenced to the same amount of prison time and other punishments as their older counterparts. If he is convicted of murder, he may face life in prison or the death penalty.