Although it has its critics, the juvenile three strikes law applies in delinquency cases following a conviction for particular severe delinquent acts. It’s in the best interest of every minor (under 18) to avoid a conviction of any delinquent act even if it doesn't count as a strike because possible penalties the juvenile judge may order could affect his/her entire life.

At Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, we believe every child deserves a second opportunity to correct or rectify their mischievous behavior to grow up as a law-abiding and respectable individual. Ensure you discuss with a skilled defense attorney details of the criminal allegations your child is facing for an early investigation to determine appropriate legal defenses to counter delinquent act charges against him/her.

What You Need to Understand About Juvenile Three Strikes Law

The goal of the juvenile delinquency system is to discipline and rehabilitate children guilty of violating criminal law and not to punish him/her like in the adult criminal justice system. While this is true, a commission of certain felonies can make a minor subject to severe life-changing penalties, especially if you have prior conviction history.

The juvenile delinquency law allows a judge to consider a minor's prior conviction history when determining his/her appropriate sentence following a conviction for any delinquent act. If a child has a criminal record, the severity of the consequences he/she is likely to face for any current conviction of any offense will increase with the number of previous convictions.

Generally, the "three strikes" law under Penal Code 667 PC is a type of sentencing "disposition" scheme that allows the judge to order a sentence of up to twenty-five years to life in prison if you're guilty of three severe felony offenses. The idea behind enacting the three strikes law is to curb crimes by ensuring repeat offenders are subject to harsher penalties.

Under the juvenile three strikes law, a "strike" or subsequent conviction for particular severe delinquent acts like rape will make your child subject to a long and severe penalty like commitment to the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ).

Apart from that, most felony offenses that count as a "strike" under the juvenile three strikes law can also make your child subject to prosecution in adult court under certain conditions. When that happens, the possible sentence the judge can order following a conviction will be similar to the sentence an adult could be subject to for a conviction of a similar offense.

However, all this might be avoidable if your child manages to fight the delinquent act allegations against him/her. To increase the chances of fighting the charges against him/her, you might need the services of a juvenile defense attorney.

A reliable juvenile defense attorney can access your child's delinquent act case keenly to explore legal defense options to fight or reduce the alleged charge to a less severe offense, which does not attract sentence enhancements under the law.

Conditions That Make a Juvenile Offense/Conviction Qualify as a "Strike" Under the Three Strikes Law

For the sake of the three-strikes law, a "strike" means the number of prior convictions a defendant has for violating criminal law. Since a juvenile strike can influence a judge's sentence decision if your child is guilty of a felony offense as an adult, below is the criteria that he/she will consider to know whether his/her offense qualifies as a "strike" under three strikes law: 

Whether the Minor Was At Least Sixteen Years at the Time of the Offense

Sentence enhancement under the three strikes law can only apply to your child's case if he/she was at least sixteen years at the time of the offense. Therefore, if a juvenile delinquency case follows your child to adulthood, the court will not consider his/her case conviction as a "strike" if he/she was below sixteen years of age at the time of the alleged offense's commission.

Whether the Minor Was Eligible to Appear in Juvenile Delinquency Court

While the juvenile delinquency court is responsible for prosecuting minors, some minors are not fit to appear in a juvenile court. For any alleged commission of a delinquent act, the juvenile delinquency court will consider the minor's age before taking jurisdiction over his/her case.

Typically, a minor can be subject to prosecution in the juvenile delinquency court if he/she is between 12 to 17 years at the time of the alleged offense's commission. However, following the signing of the Senate Bill 439 by Governor J Brown on 30th September 2018, minors below the age of 12 years are now subject to prosecution in the juvenile delinquency court for commission particular severe offenses, for example:

  • Rape
  • Oral copulation
  • Murder
  • A threat of significant bodily injury
  • Sodomy
  • Sexual penetration by force

The Minor's Offense/Delinquent Act Was a Violent or Severe Felony

According to the three-strikes law, your child offense can only qualify as a "strike" for subsequent convictions if the offense was a violent or severe felony. Below are some examples of these violent and severe felonies under section b of the Welfare and Institution Code (WIC) 707:

  • Assault with bodily injury
  • Voluntary manslaughter
  • Carjacking
  • Kidnapping
  • Attempted murder

The Minor Was a "Ward of the Court" for Commission of Severe Delinquent Act

When the juvenile delinquency court makes your child a "ward of the court," after adjudication of his/her delinquent act case, it means the court will take over the responsibility of his/her control and treatment, depending on:

  • The minor's age
  • The minor's past delinquency record
  • The sophistication of the minor's delinquent act case

Note, the juvenile court could make your child a ward of the court and still allow him/her to serve his/her sentence at home under your custody. Retaining the services of a defense attorney to counsel and represent your child during these challenging moments can increase his/her chances of achieving a desirable outcome in any delinquency case.

Before a juvenile or an adult court judge orders a sentence enhancement under the three-strikes law for a "strike" or subsequent conviction of a felony offense against your child, he/she must consider the above criteria or conditions.

An Overview of Common Delinquent Acts That Qualify as a Strike Under the Three Strikes Law

As mentioned above, a delinquent act qualifies as a strike only if the offense is severe or violent. Below we will discuss some of these everyday delinquent acts that can make a minor subject to a sentence enhancement under the three strikes law:

Assault with a Deadly Weapon (ADW)

Attacking or attempting to attack another person with a deadly weapon like a knife or gun is unlawful according to Penal Code 245 PC. Even if your child didn't manage to inflict an injury on the victim, the prosecutor could secure a conviction against him/her for violating PC 245 under the following conditions:

  • He/she was attempting to attack another person, and
  • He/she had a weapon that is likely to cause a bodily injury

Depending on your child's unique delinquent act case facts, the prosecutor has the authority to file his/her charge as either a felony or misdemeanour because ADW or aggravated assault is a wobbler offense. Below are examples of situations when the prosecutor can charge a minor with ADW under PC 245:

  • Attempting to stab another kid with a fragment of a broken soda/beer bottle
  • Telling his/her bulldog to attack another person
  • Throwing a knife or hammer at someone during a fight

Before a conviction of this offense, the prosecutor must prove particular elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. For example, he/she carries an evidentiary burden to demonstrate to the judge that your child dangerous acts were willful and intentional, meaning he/she had the intent to:

  • Break the law
  • Gain an advantage over the victim or hurt him/her

A conviction of misdemeanour ADW as an adult will make a defendant subject to the following consequences:

  • A confinement term in the county jail for a maximum of one year
  • A fine not exceeding $ 1,000
  • Summary probation

However, a conviction of felony ADW is punishable by the following penalties:

  • A confinement term in the state prison for a maximum of five years
  • A fine not exceeding $10,000
  • Formal probation

According to the three-strikes law, any subsequent strike or conviction for committing an ADW or any other felony will attract another additional penalty on top of the underlying offense penalty, making your child's sentence more severe.

A reliable attorney can counter ADW charges by arguing that your child was acting in self defense or he/she didn't have a willful intent to injure the victim, which is a viable legal defense tactic in most criminal cases.


Due to the deadly nature and the damage a fire can cause, law enforcement officers treat an arson offense severely, especially if the fire led to physical injury or death of another person. According to section 451 of the Penal Code, a person commits an arson offense when he/she sets fire, procures or aids in burning a structure, property or forest land intentionally and willfully.

Below are an example of circumstances or situations when law enforcement officers can detain or arrest your child for violating PC 451:

  • Burning another person's vehicle as an act of revenge
  • Causing a bush/forest fire wilfully and intentionally by dropping a lit cigarette on dry leaves or branches

A conviction for violating PC 451 is a felony regardless of the severity of the fire damage. The punishment for violating PC 451 includes an incarceration term in the state prison for up to nine years and a possible "strike" according to the three-strikes law, which will make the underlying sentence severe.

Even if the cause of the alleged fire was recklessness, the prosecutor could charge your child with an arson offense under section 452 of the Penal Code, which is a separate arson law. Unlike felony arson under PC 451, arson under PC 452 is a "wobbler" offense, meaning it is chargeable as a felony or misdemeanour, depending on the facts surrounding your child's unique arson case.

Due to the complexity of laws surrounding an arson offense, it is in your best interest to have a dedicated defense attorney by your child's corner to help him/her counter the alleged charges, which could negatively affect his/her future.

Law enforcement officers don't show any leniency when it comes to arson charges. However, an experienced defense attorney will know applicable and viable tactics to fight or reduce the alleged arson charge to a less severe offense.

Voluntary Manslaughter

Just like homicide or murder, voluntary manslaughter under Penal Code 192 involves unlawful killing of a person. However, in a voluntary manslaughter case, the killing happens while the defendant is in the heat of passion or perhaps a sudden quarrel. Voluntary manslaughter differs from murder because killing another person happens without malice aforethought or malicious intent to kill.

For the sake of murder law under PC 187, malice aforethought means the defendant had intentions to kill, or his/her actions portray disregard for human life, which makes this offense severe. When the prosecutor is pursuing a voluntary manslaughter charge against your child, he or she will focus on the mental state of the minor before the commission of the killing to know whether he/she had the intent to kill.

To secure a conviction against your son or daughter for violating PC 192, the prosecutor only needs to prove to the judge that your child had the intent to inflict bodily injury or cause death to the victim following a provocation or quarrel.

Generally, a violation of PC 192 is a felony that carries a sentence ranging from probation to incarceration in state prison for three, six or eleven years, depending on the case facts. Apart from that sentence, a conviction for violating PC 192 can also attract a "strike" on your criminal record under the three-strikes law.

A "third strike" of voluntary manslaughter can also make a defendant face life in prison. Below are viable defenses most criminal defense attorneys will use to fight voluntary manslaughter charges against their client for the best possible appealing outcome:

  • The alleged killing was an accident
  • The alleged killing was due to insanity
  • The alleged killing was due to involuntary intoxication
  • The alleged killing was due to an imperfect self-defense


Another common and severe delinquent act among minors that qualifies as a strike is a robbery. Penal Code 211 describes robbery laws and makes it illegal to take another person's property or asset from his/her direct possession or in the immediate possession of another person using force, fear or threats of physical injury.

Depending on the specific and unique facts of the case and the place where the alleged robbery offense takes place, the prosecutor will file a charge for violating PC 211 as either:

  • A first-degree robbery, or
  • A second-degree robbery

A first-degree robbery is chargeable where any of the following facts are true:

  • The place where the alleged robbery takes place is in an inhabited boat, trailer or house
  • The alleged victim of the robbery was a passenger or a driver of a taxi, bus, subway, cable car or any other similar kind of transportation for hire
  • The alleged robbery offense occurs while the victim is using an ATM or immediately as he/she leaves the ATM

A first-degree robbery is typically a felony under the law, and it's punishable by the following penalties:

  • Incarceration term in the state prison for three, four, or six years
  • Formal probation
  • A fine not exceeding $10,000

Any other kind of robbery offense that does not satisfy the above facts is a second-degree robbery, and a conviction of this offense will attract the following consequences:

  • Incarceration term in the state prison for two, three or five years
  • Formal probation
  • A fine not exceeding $10,000

For sentencing enhancement purposes, a robbery conviction will also qualify as a strike according to the three-strikes law. That means, if the defendant has a robbery conviction on his/her record, any other subsequent felony conviction will make him/her subject to double the usual sentence of that offense.

To achieve a satisfying possible outcome following a robbery charge against your child, a reliable and skilled attorney can apply the following legal defense arguments to counter the alleged allegations of violating PC 211:

  • The minor had reasonable belief that the property in question was his/hers
  • The minor is a victim of mistaken identity
  • The minor is a victim of false allegations
  • The minor didn't apply force, fear or threat of bodily injury when he/she was taking the property in question

While the penalties for all of the above offenses apply in the adult criminal justice system, your child can also be subject to the same penalties if his/her prosecution takes place in an adult court, which is possible under particular conditions we will discuss below.

When an Adult Court Takes Over Jurisdiction of Your Child's Delinquent Act Case for Commission of Any of the Above "Strike" Offenses

As mentioned earlier, there are instances when your child could be subject to prosecution in the adult criminal justice system. That is possible if he/she is facing a delinquent act charge that qualifies as a strike under the juvenile three strikes law.

Before a transfer of your child case in the adult criminal justice system, the juvenile court will consider the following factors:

  • The sophistication of the child's unlawful behavior
  • The success of past attempts by the court to rehabilitate and discipline the child
  • The child's past delinquency history
  • Whether a rehabilitation can benefit the child before expiration of the juvenile delinquency court jurisdiction
  • Circumstances and gravity of the alleged delinquent act case

Your child delinquent act case is eligible for prosecution in an adult court as long as he/she is sixteen years or above and his/her alleged delinquent act case falls under WIC 707(b). Some of these offenses include robbery and other "strike" offenses discussed above.

Unlike the juvenile delinquency court, which focuses on the rehabilitation and treatment of the minor, an adult court focuses on punishing an offender guilty of any criminal offense. A conviction in an adult court can impact your child in various negative ways because he/she is likely to interact with other adult offenders guilty of more sophisticated cases.

Due to the harshness and the impact of the possible penalties arising from a conviction in an adult court for commission of these severe offenses, your child's attorney should try his/her best to counter charges against the minor during the transfer hearing. A transfer hearing typically occurs after the detention/arraignment hearing to determine if the minor's case is fit for trial in the juvenile delinquency court.

Expunging a Juvenile Strike

Expungement of a juvenile strike from your child's criminal record is possible. However, it will depend on the specific delinquent act, leading to the strike under the juvenile three strikes law. Your child would not be eligible for an expungement of his/her juvenile strike under the following circumstances:

  • The offense that led to the juvenile strike was a serious sex offense mentioned under section b of WIC 707.
  • The minor is subject to sex offender registration requirement
  • The minor was fourteen years old at the time of the commission of the offense

For all other juvenile strike crimes, your child's attorney can file an expungement petition with the court with jurisdiction over his/her case. However, the court has the discretion to grant the petition or not, depending on his/her attorney's legal defense argument.

Find a Juvenile Defense Attorney Near Me

At Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, we don't rest until we achieve the best desirable result in a juvenile delinquency case. We believe children are not young adults, and they deserve exceptional guidance when it comes to legal matters to know what is right and wrong.

Call us now at 714-740-7848 to discuss your child case with our understanding and aggressive attorneys for an outstanding legal representation to reduce or dismiss the alleged delinquent act charge against your son or daughter.