Prior to January 2020, youths age 15 and older were automatically tried in adult court if charged with a Ballot Measure 11 crime. This meant that the youth convicted of the crimes would be sent to a correctional facility on a mandatory minimum sentence with no possibility for sentence reduction. The mandatory minimums range from 70 months to 300 months. That all changed after implementation of SB 1008. SB 1008 considered that a youth’s brain is not fully developed and that a youth should not automatically be treated as an adult simply because they committed a crime that fell under Ballot Measure 11.
Now those same youth start in the juvenile court system, and if the District Attorney wants the youth to be tried as an adult, the District Attorney must file a waiver. The court will then conduct a waiver hearing where both the youth via their attorney, and the District Attorney will present evidence as to whether the case should remain in juvenile court or be waived into adult court. This will often come via testimony from a variety of individuals including expert witnesses such as a psychologist that has examined the youth.
The court will consider several factors in determining ultimately where the case should land. This includes the youth’s maturity and cognitive functioning at the time the offense occurred, the youth’s willingness to engage in treatment or rehabilitation and whether the youth would benefit from the treatment, plus whether after rehabilitation the youth could become a safe member of society. The court also considers the nature of the offense, including if it was premeditated, violent, and in addition the damage or loss incurred because of the offense. The court will also consider the youth’s prior criminal involvement as well as whether the case involves adult co-offenders. These are some of the things that the court will consider when making their determination. Ultimately the juvenile court must find that “retaining jurisdiction will not serve the best interests of the youth and society and therefore is not justified.” ORS 419.349.
If a court allows the youth to be waived into adult court and the youth is age 16 or older, the court may order that all future cases involving the youth be automatically waived to adult court without another waiver hearing.
Why would it matter if a youth remained in the juvenile court system rather than adult system? The simple answer is that it matters a lot. A youth is not found guilty of a crime in the juvenile system but instead is found responsible and the primary focus after adjudication is rehabilitating the youth instead of punishment. This often results in the youth being placed on probation or in a residential treatment program versus incarceration in a correctional facility. In addition, the juvenile court is not bound by mandatory minimums for sentencing versus the adult system is bound under ORS 137.707 which sets out mandatory minimum sentencing for youths waived into adult court under a Ballot Measure 11 crime.
To see a full list of the factors considered during a waiver hearing please see ORS 419C.349. Grounds for waiving youth to adult court
To see a full list of the Ballot Measure 11 crimes and their mandatory minimums for youths waived into adult court see ORS 137.707.
Mandatory minimum sentences for certain juvenile offenders waived to adult court; lesser included offenses; return to juvenile court
By Leanna Erickson