When 15-year-old Audrie Pott took her own life this past September, it was, her mother claims, it was the fault of 3 boys who sexually assaulted Audrie at a party, then shared pictures of the assault with the entirety of her Saratoga high school. Each of the boys involved were arrested for 1 misdemeanor and 2 felony counts each, including charges of sexual assault, penetration with a foreign object, and possession of child pornography. In September, the 3 were removed from the Saratoga High School football team, but not expelled from school as the assault happened away from school grounds at a private residence. Yet, even there is little question in the public’s mind that the boys are guilty, they may not be tried as adults when the case goes to court – prosecutors in Santa Clara County are keeping that information tightly wrapped up for the moment.
According to California state law, Welfare and Institutions Code §602(b);707) juveniles as young as 14 may be prosecuted as an adult in criminal court and, thus, may also be subject to the same punishment as adults receive if convicted; depending upon their alleged offense and their criminal offense history. In fact, the United States is the only country in the world that allows juveniles to be sentenced to life without parole. Couple this with the fact that the juvenile justice system has a large focus on treatment and rehabilitation as opposed to the adult system, which focuses on punishment, and the 3 boys involved in the Pott case could be in over their heads. Crimes that juveniles can be tried for at the age of 14 include murder, armed robbery, drug crimes, and rape. However, sexually assaulting a person while they are intoxicated, as Potts was after drinking spiked Gatorade the night of the incident, is not one of these.