‘Three-Strikes’ Law Counts Juvenile Crime

California’s Supreme Court upheld a provision that allows crimes committed while a minor to affect sentencing under the state’s controversial Three-Strikes law, according to the San Francisco Gate.

Under the three-strikes law, any second felony conviction receives twice the normal sentence; any third felony conviction receives an automatic life sentence. The court’s decision means that even if one or both previous felony was committed while the offender was under 18, it still counts as a strike.

The provision was already part of  the California law, but had been challenged after a district court heard the case of San Jose defendant, Vince Nguyen, who was sentenced in 2005 to 32 months for being a felon in possession of a firearm — twice the normal sentence.

Nguyen received a previous felony in 1999 for aggravated assault when he was 16, according to the S.F. Gate article.

In his appeal, Nguyen’s defense attorney argued that because juvenile court cases are decided by a judge and not a jury, allowing a juvenile record to affect a later trial violates his client’s right to due process.

In the decision for the 6-1 ruling, Justice Marvin Baxter wrote that juveniles in California have “every substantial safeguard required in an adult criminal trial except the right to trial by jury,” including the right to be convicted beyond a reasonable doubt.

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