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Name: People v. Superior Court (O.G.)
Case #: S259011
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 02/25/2021
Summary

Opinion By: Justice Groban (unanimous decision)
Senate Bill No. 1391, which eliminated the ability to prosecute juveniles accused of committing crimes when they were 14 or 15 years old in adult criminal court (subject to a limited exception), is a valid amendment of Proposition 57. Days after the passage of SB 1391, the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office filed a petition in juvenile court alleging that the minor O.G. committed two counts of murder and other offenses when he was 15 years old. They simultaneously filed a transfer motion to adult court. The juvenile court found SB 1391, which prohibits such transfer, an invalid amendment of Proposition 57. O.G. petitioned for mandate. The Court of Appeal held SB 1391 is inconsistent with Proposition 57, and thus invalid. The California Supreme Court granted review. Held: Reversed. Proposition 57, requires prosecutors to commence all cases involving a minor in juvenile court. It allowed prosecutors to move to transfer to criminal court some minors as young as 14. The voter guide for Proposition 57 authorized amendment of its provisions so long as they are consistent with and further the intent of the act by a statute that is passed by a majority vote of the members of each house of the Legislature and signed by the Governor. SB 1391 (effective 1/1/2019) removed the prosecutor’s authority to seek transfer to criminal court of a minor who was age 14 or 15 at the time of the offense, unless they are first apprehended after the end of juvenile court jurisdiction. The purposes of Proposition 57 were to protect public safety; save money by reducing wasteful spending on prisons; prevent federal courts from indiscriminately releasing prisoners; reduce recidivism by emphasizing rehabilitation; and to require a judge, not a prosecutor, to decide whether minors should be tried in adult court. Here, the court determined SB 1391 furthers each of these purposes. Like Proposition 57, SB 1391’s fundamental purpose was an ameliorative change to the criminal law that emphasized rehabilitation over punishment.