Governor Jerry Brown Recently Signed SB-439 – Limiting Juvenile Court Jurisdiction to Minors 12 and Older, With Exceptions

On September 30, 2018, Governor Jerry Brown approved Senate Bill No. 439 which made significant changes to the jurisdiction of the juvenile court.[1] SB-439 will amend Welfare and Institutions Code sections 601 and Section 602 and will add Welfare and Institutions Code section 602.1. The amended codes will take effect on January 1, 2019. The newly added Section 602.1 will become operative on January 1, 2020.

Under current law, a person who is under 18 years of age when he or she violates any law is within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court and may be adjudged as a ward of the court. SB-439 modifies Section 602 and now states that: “any minor who is between 12 years of age and 17 years of age, inclusive, when he or she violates any law of this state” is within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court and the juvenile court may adjudge the minor to be a ward of the court.

Amended Section 602 still provides juvenile court jurisdiction over a minor under the age of 12 when the minor is alleged to have committed any of the following offenses: (1) murder, (2) rape, under certain circumstances, (3) sodomy, under certain circumstances, (4) oral copulation, under certain circumstances, and (5) sexual penetration under certain circumstances.

Newly added Section 602.1, effective January 1, 2020, commands counties to pursue appropriate measures to ensure the safety and well-being of minors who are under 12 and whose behavior would have otherwise brought them under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court but for the amendments to Section 602. The Legislature intends for counties to use available funding sources to provide for alternative services for these minors.

It is clear by enacting SB-439, the Legislature is trying to limit exposure to the juvenile court system for minors under the age of 12.


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