Senator proposes legislation that would see 18- and 19-year-olds tried as minors

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) -- A new California Senate bill would prohibit prosecutors from automatically charging anyone younger than 20 years old as an adult.

By introducing Senate Bill 889 this week, Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, wants to stop prosecutors from charging 18- and 19-year-olds as adults.

“The bill is following the science,” said El Dorado County Chief Probation Officer Brian Richart, who is also the president of Chief Probation Officers of California.

Sen. Skinner consulted with Richart’s organization when crafting the bill. Richart pointed out many of those under the age of 19 have brains that are not fully developed.

“The brain science has shown that adolescents are really maturing at a much later point in time,” he told FOX40. “And the fact of the matter is that we’re putting people into an adult criminal justice system when from the maturation standpoint they still behave much more like juveniles.”

The National Center for Youth Law also worked on the bill.

However, when FOX40 tried to speak with the senator at the State Capitol on Thursday staffers said she did not have time to answer questions.

Meanwhile, Nicole Clavo is skeptical.

“I don’t believe that you can just say a certain age group of kids are not mature enough to understand their actions,” Clavo said.

In 2015, her son, JJ, was killed before his Grant Union High School football game by a gunman police say was just 15 years old.

This past August, that suspect, now 19 years old, was found guilty on three counts, including first-degree premeditated murder.

Clavo said she worries this bill will allow killers like him out of prison after just a few years.

“Eighteen, you know, I can legally join the military, the armed forces, give my life to this country,” Clavo said. “But now you’re telling me I’m not mature enough to know my actions when I’m murdering, robbing, raping or stealing from someone?”

However, she told FOX40 she is not completely opposed to the bill.

“I want to see the breakdown. I really want to see what this looks like rolled out,” she explained.

She said she plans to reach out to Sen. Skinner’s office in the hopes of joining the conversation.

“I think it’s real critical throughout California that victims have more of a voice and not be silenced,” Clavo said.

If the bill becomes law, prosecutors can still charge anyone aged 16 to 19 as an adult. They will just first have to file a motion in juvenile court. At that point, a judge could grant it.

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