Offenders Under Age 20 Would Be Tried as Juveniles Under California Proposal

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Teens practice team-building exercises at a juvenile hall operated by the Sacramento County Probation Department. (Credit: Jazmine Ulloa/ LA Times)

Teens practice team-building exercises at a juvenile hall operated by the Sacramento County Probation Department. (Credit: Jazmine Ulloa/ LA Times)

A California state senator wants people 19 and younger accused of crimes to be tried as juveniles.

California’s current law says people ages 16 and 17 can only be tried as adults in certain circumstances. Sen. Nancy Skinner, a Democrat from Berkeley, announced a bill on Tuesday that would raise the age at which people are automatically tried as adults to 20.

Skinner said brain science research shows the part of the brain that inhibits impulses and enables organized, planned behavior is not fully developed in people as young as 19.

“When teenagers make serious mistakes and commit crimes, state prison is not the answer,” Skinner said.

The California District Attorneys Association has not taken an official stance on the bill. But Larry Morse, the group’s legislative director, noted that once someone turns 18, the government says they are old enough to marry, vote and serve in the military.

“This bill suggests you’re old enough to make those decisions, yet not responsible enough to be held accountable for committing a violent crime,” Morse said.

The California Chief Probation Officers of California has endorsed the bill, with president Brian Richart saying it would “help us holistically and individually focus on young people by incorporating proven rehabilitation and restorative justice practices.”

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