The California Supreme Court ruled in San Francisco Thursday that a previous juvenile court judgment can qualify as a "strike" increasing an adult's sentence under the state's Three Strikes Law.
The court by a 6-1 vote upheld a sentence of two years and eight months for Vince Nguyen of San Jose for possession of a gun by an ex-felon.
Nguyen, then 22, pleaded no contest to the charge in Santa Clara County Superior Court in 2005.
A judge set a prison term of one year and four months and then doubled the time because Nguyen had a 1999 juvenile court judgment that he committed assault with a deadly weapon at the age of 16.
The state Three Strikes law of 1994 provides increased sentences for repeat offenders with previous felonies or "strikes."
Nguyen argued in his appeal that the juvenile judgment shouldn't count as a strike because a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2000 said that sentences can't be increased without a jury finding. There is no jury in juvenile court cases.
But the state high court said that later federal rulings show that the U.S. Supreme Court decision "does not preclude the use of non-jury juvenile adjudications to enhance later adult sentences."
The majority decision was written by Justice Marvin Baxter. Justice Joyce Kennard dissented.
The panel overturned a decision in which a state appeals court in San Jose said Nguyen's juvenile judgment could not count as a strike.
Other appeals courts in the state had ruled in other cases that juvenile judgments qualify as strikes. Thursday's state Supreme Court decision resolves the conflict among appeals courts and sets a statewide standard for applying the law.