LA District Attorney, State Lawmaker Intro Bill to Prevent Juvenile Strikes from Being Used in Adult Proceedings


AB 1127 News Conference from LADAOffice on Vimeo.

By Julia Asby and Max Kennedy

LOS ANGELES, CA – Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón and Assemblymember Miguel Santiago (D-LA) have introduced state legislation to prevent offenses committed by minors from being considered as a strike in adult proceedings.

Currently, in California, anyone convicted of a felony with two or more strikes must be sentenced to at least 25-years-to-life.

If enacted, this new law would eliminate strikes committed by minors from consideration in later cases, and enable people to petition the court for resentencing if a juvenile strike was used to enhance their sentencing as an adult.

“This bill underscores the real purpose of the juvenile justice system: to rehabilitate young people. To use crimes committed while an adolescent’s brain is still developing to punish them as adults just does not make sense,” Gascón said.

He also argued that the bill would improve public safety as “over-criminalizing” youth increases recidivism and can be detrimental to communities.

Assemblymember Santiago, the lead author of AB 1127, also stressed that juvenile courts must focus on rehabilitation, not punishment.

“It makes absolutely no sense that a kid who can’t go to prom would have an action being taken into consideration for a strike once they are older,” he said. “We must reverse this backwards system so that we focus on rehabilitating, not incarcerating our communities, and so we can treat all Californians with fairness and dignity, especially people of color.”

At a press conference announcing the bill, both Gascón and Santiago emphasized that juveniles are not fully developed adults, and called on Dr. Minagawa, a supporter of the bill, to explain the science.

“The science is overwhelming in showing that minors are not fully developed adults,” said Dr. Minagawa. “To hold [minors] accountable years later for things they did when their brains were not well developed, when they are being influenced by pressures and forces that are not under their control, is just inherently unfair.”

Miguel Garcia, Advocacy Coordinator at the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, was also featured in the press conference, and spoke about his own juvenile conviction.

He emphasized that despite an honorable discharge, an official certificate of rehabilitation and a court order dismissing his case, his own conviction could count as a strike were he to commit a crime in the future.

“The reality is juvenile strikes are over-punitive and unjust. That is why we need to eliminate juvenile strikes and create a just system focused on rehabilitation and not incarceration. That is why the ARC and I support AB 1127,” said Garcia.

“The essence of this bill really rest on science and equity,” Gascón stated. “Youth lack the maturity as an adult would.”

He added, “We also know that African-American and Latino kids are more likely to be impacted by the criminal justice system. They’re more likely to end up with a strike in their record. We know that poor, especially people of color, are more likely to be charged with strikes later on. A juvenile strike would increase the likelihood that they will be sent to prison for very long periods of time.”

He noted that this doesn’t impact public safety, but it does contribute to the destruction of the community.

Max Kennedy graduated from Harvard in 2016 with a degree in History. He is an intern with the San Francisco Public Defender and most recently worked as a digital organizer with Joe Biden for President.

Julia Asby is a third year student at UC Davis majoring in Political Science with a minor in Sociocultural Anthropology. She is originally from Sacramento.

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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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8 thoughts on “LA District Attorney, State Lawmaker Intro Bill to Prevent Juvenile Strikes from Being Used in Adult Proceedings”

  1. Eric Gelber

    At a press conference announcing the bill, both Gascón and Santiago emphasized that juveniles are not fully developed adults, and called on Dr. Minagawa, a supporter of the bill, to explain the science. “The science is overwhelming in showing that minors are not fully developed adults,” 

    Once again, we have a policy being justified based on unwarranted scientific conclusions. It’s one thing to say that brains of juveniles are not fully developed, but quite another to attribute juvenile offenses to such incomplete brain development. The vast majority of juveniles are not at risk of committing such offenses, and criminal behavior is not limited to juveniles.

    Other, environmental and experiential, factors are far more likely the primary contributing factors. Addressing those issues is hindered, however, by distracting, unwarranted “scientific” conclusions about brain development.

    Bills like AB 1127 are warranted on grounds of fairness and justice. There’s no need to invoke unproven scientific theory to justify doing what is fair, just, and equitable.

  2. David Greenwald


    A series of recent landmark cases in the U.S. Supreme Court has evolved to change our legal responses to juvenile offending. They have abolished the death penalty for crimes committed during adolescence, found mandatory life-without-parole sentences for murder in violation of the 8th Amendment, and eliminated life-without-parole sentences for crimes less than murder. In Massachusetts, life sentences for juveniles were ruled unconstitutional, and the review of cases in which those sentences were given in the past has already begun. A significant part of the argument for these decisions included an understanding of adolescent brain development. While society’s attitudes will ultimately dictate the shape of law, science can be used to confirm and dispel common ideas about teenage behavior to forge a more scientifically sound and financially viable system for adolescent reform.

    Scientists know that the adolescent brain is still developing, that it is highly subject to reward- and peer-influence, and that its rate of development varies widely across the population. They have developed basic tools that offer data with which to judge the potential for juvenile desistance, recidivism, and rehabilitation.

    With its ability to examine the workings of the teenage brain, neuroscience is improving our understanding of adolescents, and potentially, juvenile offenders. Through their window into the brain, neuroscientists understand, for example, that adolescents mature at markedly varied rates. The presumed trajectory of brain development, demonstrated in existing “bright line” age cut offs for voting, military service, and drinking, however, is not reflective of this variability in brain maturity. Similarly, neuroimaging research by CLBB faculty (Somerville, 2010) clarifies that it is teenagers’ heightened vulnerability to reward that drives risky behavior, contrary to longstanding beliefs that teenagers are unable to gauge risks. They can often recognize risks, but incomplete development of brain mechanisms related to modulation of impulsive behavior reduces their tendency to heed those risks.

    Science may also help us understand which juvenile offenders are likely to commit future crimes and which may not. A longitudinal study, “Pathways to Desistance” (Mulvey, 2011), has collected significant data on factors such as substance abuse and instability in daily routine that lead to youth recidivism. The seminal paper, “Rewiring juvenile justice: the intersection of development neuroscience and legal policy” (Cohen and Casey, 2014), elucidates how key new scientific findings about the development of the adolescent brain may inform policy.


  3. Eric Gelber

    Two things can be correlated without being causally related. Some juveniles may be more subject to peer pressure and lack impulse control on the one hand and have incomplete brain development on the other. That doesn’t mean that juveniles commit relatively more offenses than adults as a result of lack of brain development. The “evidence” you’ve posted doesn’t establish otherwise.

    It’s far more likely that some juveniles commit offenses because of such experiences as poverty, inferior educational opportunities, abuse and neglect, dysfunctional families, etc. Attributing their misconduct to delayed brain development (about which nothing can be done), without direct evidence of a causal relation, is counter-productive because it reduces the justification for addressing those environmental factors that can be mitigated.

    1. David Greenwald

      Felony arrest rates for juveniles are consistently higher than those for adults.

      The felony arrest rate peaks at age 16 for property crime and at age 18 for violent crime.

      1. Bill Marshall

        Arrest rate maybe… but juveniles can present horrific results…the juvenile who killed, violently two seniors… the kids who pushed a ‘friend’ into a train, at edge of Davis/UCD… the murderer of an Asian immigrant @ Davis High… whom an human relations honor is presented, yearly…

        So, none of those incidents should be used against them, if they offend brutally again?  Josh Bettencourt was one…

        Filmmaker explores causes, effects of youth violence – Davis Enterprise

        Cry me a river…

        Even the DV has posted several posts by a ‘literary genius’ who excoriated, demonized a juvenile named Marsh… hypocrisy…



      2. Eric Gelber

        Felony arrest rates for juveniles are consistently higher than those for adults.

        Not sure what that fact has to do with whether brain development is the primary cause.

        1. Bill Marshall

          Need to separate ’cause’ from ‘effect’?  Does ’cause’ fully exonerate ‘effect’?  Or, is ‘brain development’ a “get out of justice” card?

          I fully agree BD should dictate how to deal with person… one of many factors… but, I just don’t see it as “an excuse”…

  4. Chris Griffith

    At the rate we’re going it won’t be long before there is also a very real issue in that even school kids could be studied in advance of violent behavior and those destined to get violent could be spotted in advance. Then what? What do we do if we have a good testing method that predicts a violent criminal act within the next seven years with an 85% accuracy rate? Prison wouldn’t be the best idea for obvious reasons. Therapeutic intervention may not have much effect even if we can afford to pay all of the huge costs to get appropriate mental health treatment to be readily available. So in the end we would know we had a human time bomb out and about but would be helpless to prevent his crimes. Punishment also goes out the window. Obviously if we can x-ray the problem and it is chemo-physical in nature where does guilt enter the picture. It is not as if the individual wanted or somehow deliberately applied a malfunctioning brain. And for such persons to control their crimes may not be something within their powers at all. In essence they are brain damaged victims of their condition. It would force the public to challenge basic notions such as responsibility.

    I think we need a law in California that would require all state employees and elected officials to get a brain scan to figure out if they have fully developed brains.


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