July 18, 2019 • Jerod Gunsberg, Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer
Over the years, I’ve represented many children accused of serious crimes. Crimes so serious that the District Attorney filed a motion to transfer the case to adult court. Recently, I had a 16 year old kid accused of attempted murder. The DA also alleged gang involvement and use of a handgun and wanted to send him to adult court. If he went to adult court and was convicted, my client was looking at a maximum sentence of life in prison.
After working up the case for the past year, I finally convinced the Los Angeles County District Attorney to keep the kid in juvenile court. He was sentenced to time in a juvenile facility and will likely be released in a couple years.
Over the years, I’ve handled many cases like this. Which is why the randomness of the entire enterprise struck me on this case. This kid could have ended up in adult court. Easy.
Just as important as the facts of your case are the DAs who happen to staff a courthouse at any given time, the particular judge you’re in front of, the defense lawyer’s access to competent expert witnesses, social workers, psychiatrists, investigators, and sure, the defense lawyer matters too.
So much of this comes down to luck and the stars aligning. The stakes are way too high to leave anything up to chance. And throw that in the mix with everything we now know about adolescent brain development. It’s terrifying.
We should stop trying to send kids to adult court. Hopefully some day we will, but until then, if your child is facing serious charges in juvenile court (or any charges at all), it is imperative that you retain an attorney who not only understands how to handle these cases from a legal and procedural standpoint, but also understands the practical realities of any given courthouse and DA’s office. Your attorney needs to know what works and what will not work to achieve the best possible result.
I have been doing complex juvenile work in Los Angeles County for over a decade. I have seen, all too often, what happens when children are represented by an attorney who may be strong in other areas of criminal defense, but who has no experience in juvenile delinquency court proceedings. Juvenile defense work is a specific skill that requires great care and attention. I pride myself on giving this attention and using my skills as an experienced juvenile defense attorney to help my clients in each and every juvenile delinquency case.