Penal Code section 17, which allows a trial court to reduce a felony offense to a misdemeanor, applies to juvenile proceedings. In 2013, the minor entered an admission to battery with serious bodily injury (Pen. Code, § 243, subd. (d)) and grand theft from the person (Pen. Code, § 487, subd. (c)), and was granted probation. On the minor’s first appeal, the case was remanded so the juvenile court could declare whether the offenses were felonies or misdemeanors (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 702). The minor’s grand theft offense was subsequently reduced to a misdemeanor (Prop. 47); the battery was declared to be a felony. In July 2015, the minor asked the juvenile court to reduce the battery to a misdemeanor (Pen. Code, § 17, subd. (b)(3), hereinafter 17(b)(3)). The trial court denied the motion, finding section 17(b)(3) inapplicable to juvenile proceedings. The minor appealed. Held: Reversed. Penal Code section 17(b)(3) “provides that a ‘wobbler’ offense is a misdemeanor when the court grants probation to a defendant without imposition of sentence and at the time of granting probation” or at a later time on application of the defendant, the court declares the offense to be a misdemeanor. Although section 17(b)(3) uses language that is generally not applicable to juvenile proceedings (i.e., “defendant,” “sentence”) a juvenile’s maximum term of commitment must be linked to adult sentencing laws by requiring that a minor not serve more time than would an adult for the same offense (Welf. & Inst. Code, §§ 702, 726). Other subdivisions of section 17 apply to juveniles who are committed to the Department of Juvenile Justiceit would be incongruous for the Legislature to allow reduction of wobblers for this class of juveniles but not for those who perform well on probation. Further, application of section 17(b)(3) to juvenile proceedings is consistent with the juvenile law principle to foster rehabilitation.
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/A146287.PDF