Minors often go through trauma when they after an arrest for criminal activities in California. If a person under the age of eighteen commits a crime, it is considered an act of delinquency. California juvenile justice focuses on rehabilitating the minors other than punishing them with fines or a jail sentence.

Sometimes, when minors commit serious crimes such as murder, sexual offenses, or kidnapping, the judge could try them in an adult court. Even though the justice system is not too stringent on minors, the consequences that accompany a conviction for juvenile cases could have long term effects on their lives. Therefore, seeking legal services is crucial if your child is facing criminal charges. At California Criminal Lawyer Group, we will guide you and your minor child through the juvenile justice system to ensure the best possible outcome. We serve clients throughout San Jose, California.

Overview of Juvenile Delinquency

Juvenile delinquency is an act of participating in unlawful activities by an individual below eighteen years. Underage suspects face trial as juveniles in the California juvenile court. The juvenile delinquency court deals with both misdemeanors and felonies committed by minors. The court also handles violations only considered criminal when committed by children.

A minor needs to understand what they need to do in case of an arrest. This will help protect them from unplanned implications. During an arrest for an alleged crime, they need not resist the police and be as polite as possible. Also, your child needs to understand that the police are not his or her friend. Requesting the presence of a parent or an attorney is crucial. Also, a child should avoid making a written confession since the court could use this information to implicate them.

The juvenile justice system aims at rehabilitating minors so they can be better in society. The events surrounding an arrest of a minor could be difficult for the child and parents. Therefore, seeking legal guidance for the s minor is crucial.

Sometimes, a minor could be subjected to a transfer hearing to an adult court. However, the court's decision to transfer your child to an adult court depends on the following factors:

  • The minor's delinquency history. If a minor is a repeat offender who is often in and out of the juvenile delinquency court, committing a serious crime could cause them to face adult court charges.
  • The severity of the offense committed by a minor is significant. In most cases, minors are charged with petty crimes such as underage DUI, violation of curfew, or truancy. However, when the offense your child has committed is severe, they could be charged in adult court. This means they can be found guilty and face a conviction with serious legal consequences.
  • The success of rehabilitation attempts in the past is crucial. When considering to try a minor in adult court, the judge considers whether or not the previous rehabilitation attempts were successful. Juvenile justice systems aim at rehabilitating minors who have committed a crime other than punishing them. Therefore, if attempts in changing their behavior with probation or detention do not seem to be successful, the minor could be charged as an adult.

A judge cannot transfer a child below sixteen years to an adult court. However, the court is treated as adult offenders after committing offenses such as:

  • Armed robbery
  • Rape causing severe bodily injuries
  • Lewd conduct with a child below fourteen years
  • Murder or attempted murder
  • Aggravated assault
  • Kidnapping to commit robbery, among others

There is a significant difference in how the law handles adult and minor offenders in California. If your child faces charges in an adult court, the judge may send them to prison, or you will cater for hefty fines. Also, the child loses the privileges present in the juvenile justice system. Therefore, if the state wants to try your child as an adult, it would be wise to seek legal counsel from a competent criminal defense attorney.

Juvenile Detention Hearings

Depending on the allegations against the minor, a series of hearings could are scheduled to address the case. During the hearings, the judge considers several factors to determine the outcome of the situation. Legal guidance and representation could go a long way for your child in these proceedings. The hearings a child needs to go through include:

Detention Hearing

If a minor faces an arrest and remains in police custody, the detention hearing is the first hearing in juvenile delinquency cases. Even if your child goes to home care awaiting the case outcome, the minor is considered a ward of the court. Unlike adult court, a minor cannot be out on bail while there is a pending case at the juvenile court. The probation officer determines whether or not you will take your child home. If the probation officer wants to detain your child, the only way you can take them home is by convincing the court at the detention hearing.

At the hearing, the minor is informed of their charges and their rights in the hearing. The child will take a plea to the alleged charges. In a detention hearing, the minor could either plead guilty, not guilty or deny the allegations because of insanity.

The judge determines the fate of your child during this hearing. Your child is kept in custody at the juvenile hall if:

  • The minor is a flight risk. An individual is considered a flight risk if they are likely to flee and fail to appear for the hearing. Your child’s attorney has the responsibility to prove that your child is not a flight risk.
  • The child is a threat to their safety and that of other people
  • The minor has a history of escaping court commitment

Should you lose the detention hearing, your child is detained in the juvenile hall awaiting the next court date. However, if you win the hearing, the minor could go home and notice the next hearing. Legal guidance is crucial during a detention hearing. Your child's attorney could help convince the judge to release them.

Pretrial Hearing

The court requires that a juvenile matter be put on pretrial before the case proceeds. If the minor is in juvenile hall, the pretrial hearing occurs within fifteen days of the detention hearing. For minors who aren't in custody, the hearing could happen within thirty days. Some juvenile cases require more than one pretrial hearing. At the pretrial hearing, the judge will inform you and your child of the case's progress. The court will also want to learn of the minor's conduct from the probation officer.

A minor has rights similar to an adult in the middle of the legal process. Therefore, the adjudication hearing allows the minor and their attorney to understand the nature of the prosecution's evidence. At the pretrial hearing, the court determines if the case can resolve out of court. The district attorney may recommend a disposition if the defendant admits to the crime as per the petition. In most cases, supervised probation is offered as a disposition during pretrial hearings at the juvenile court.

Jurisdiction Hearing

In the juvenile court process, a jurisdiction hearing is for the judge to determine if the minor committed the crime for which they are charged. If the minor committed the crime, the judge hands them over to the court. At the jurisdiction hearing, the petitioner presents evidence collected against the child. Your child's attorney will then present defense or witnesses to support a minor's denial in committing the offense. Your child's defense attorney could:

  • Object to the evidence brought against the minor by the petitioner
  • Cross-examine witnesses
  • Present their witnesses and evidence to prove that the minor did not commit the alleged crime
  • Argue the case in juvenile court

When the hearing starts, the judge will read out the petition aloud. The judge reads the outcome of the jurisdiction hearing. Parents or guardians of a minor are informed of the fines they need to pay. If the defense is satisfactory and the court believes that the minor did not commit a crime, the court will dismiss the case.

Transfer Hearing

A juvenile offender could be transferred and tied in adult court under particular circumstances. The process of moving a juvenile case to adult court happens in the transfer hearing. At the transfer hearing, the judge decides whether to send your child to an adult case. If the judge concludes that the juvenile system's measures may not work for the minor, they could face adults' charges.

Dispositional Hearing

A disposition hearing is held ten days after the jurisdiction hearing. This hearing is dedicated for the judge to determine the punishment and way for rehabilitating a minor. Before the disposition hearing, a probation officer must write a report on the minor. The probation officer sends the information to all the individuals involved in the case. The report is based on the minor's family history, criminal record, and the probation department's recommendations.

At the hearing, the probation officer presents this evidence, which aids the judge to decide the best-suited punishment. The judge needs to consider the safety of the minor and other people before handing out a disposition.

Some things could happen after a juvenile court case ends:

  1. Appeal. If a minor is not happy about the case outcome, the lawyer could file a notice of appeal. A request needs to be filed within sixty days of the disposition hearing.
  2. Seek to have the court order set aside. A minor can seek to change the court's ruling. The court could agree to do this if the minor's situation has changed significantly or new evidence.
  3. A stricter disposition. If the minor is not following the disposition hearing rules, they could be called back to the court to receive a more severe sentence.
  4. File a petition to seal the record. If five years have elapsed and the minor was in contact with their probation officer, the juvenile could file a motion to close the records. However, one need not have other issues at the juvenile court. Sealing of the records ensures that the mistakes one made as a child do not affect their lives as adults.

Rights of Minors in Juvenile Delinquency Cases

Minors in juvenile delinquency cases do not have the same rights as adult offenders facing criminal cases. Some of the constitutional rights that children have in the juvenile justice system include:

  1. Probable cause is needed to arrest a minor. Before taking a child to custody, the police should have probable cause. However, individuals with a close relationship with the child need a reasonable suspicion and not probable cause to believe that a minor is committing a crime.
  2. Right to make a call. An arrest can significantly disorient a minor, and guidance from a parent or guardian is crucial. Your child has a right to call you or request the presence of an attorney.
  3. Right to be notified of their charges. Before an arrest, your child has a right to know the reason for the arrest. Also, they need to understand the nature of the charges they are facing.
  4. The right to legal counsel. Several hearings are held between the arrest and end of a juvenile case. Your child needs to know that they have a right to ask for an attorney before speaking to the police. Also, legal representation is crucial in all the hearings.
  5. Right to cross-examine and confront witnesses. Even though the adjudication hearing is not as formal as a criminal trial, a minor can exercise their right to cross-examine witnesses brought by the state.
  6. Right to have their charges proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Before a juvenile faces adjudication or incarceration after the court proceedings, the state must prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt.
  7. No right to bail. A minor cannot be released on bail before the case hearing. However, at the detention hearing, your child's attorney has the responsibility to convince the court to let you go home with the child.

Parental Rights in Juvenile Cases

The arrest of your child for allegedly committing a crime could be brutal for you. It is saddening not to know what is happening to your minor child. Even when your child is detained or in the juvenile justice system, a legal guardian maintains their rights. As a parent, you have the following rights in the juvenile delinquency system:

You have a right to be notified of your child's arrest and detention

When a minor is arrested in California, they are held in a juvenile hall where the judge decides to release them or open a case. Before taking a child before the judge, the probation officer must notify the child's parents of the rights. This allows you to seek legal counsel for the minor before a case opens. Sometimes, a minor suspected of committing a crime can be questioned before the parents learn of the arrest. The child must understand their right to be silent until a parent or attorney is present.

The Right to Know your Child's Rights

When your child is arrested and faces charges in juvenile court, you have a right to be notified of their rights. Facing the juvenile system can be traumatizing for your child, and they could make incriminating statements or give wrong information to the police. By understanding the minor's rights, you can guide them to ensure a smooth process.

The right to Seek Legal Counsel For your Child

Like adult offenders, a child facing the juvenile justice system needs legal guidance. Immediately after the arrest, you must consult an attorney to help your child avoid detention and other consequences resulting from juvenile court. It is essential to let the minors know that they need to ask for an attorney before answering any questions.

The right for your Child's Hearing to be Kept Confidential

The outcome of the juvenile case could significantly impact your child's life—individuals under the age of eighteen lack the mental capacity to make sound decisions. A juvenile criminal record could affect your child's chances to enter a good college or ruin their reputation. Fortunately, you have the right to demand your child's hearings and proceeding to be confidential. This will help protect the integrity of the child.

A Right to Inspect your Child's Juvenile Reports

In most cases, juvenile proceedings remain secret. However, you have the right to access the files and probation reports on your child's case. Also, you have a right to be present at all the hearings held during the juvenile proceedings.

Possible Juvenile Dispositions

The California juvenile justice system aims at rehabilitating minors rather than imposing punishment. Juveniles are educated and guided to help stop criminal activity and reunite with society as productive members. Even though the goal of the juvenile system is rehabilitation, there are several dispositions available in the juvenile court process, including:

  1. Probation

When a minor is found to have committed a minor offense, they could be eligible for informal probation. However, the probation officer will develop a plan to monitor the minor for up to six months. On successful completion of probation, the court will dismiss the charges.

Supervised probation. However, in cases where the home environment is not safe for the minor, they could be placed with a relative or group home. Some of the terms of probation that a minor needs to adhere to include:

  • Mandatory school attendance
  • Enrollment in substance abuse counseling
  • When your child committed a crime that caused a financial or physical loss on another person, they may be required to compensate the victim as a condition of probation. All costs that result from the juvenile justice system are shouldered by the parent or guardian of the minor.
  • Avoid specific individuals that could lead them to the behavior that landed them into legal troubles.
  • Adherence to curfew restrictions.

If a child requires a solid rehabilitation structure, the judge could send them to probation camp for up to three months. The boot camps are education based with a daily schedule to rehabilitate the minor.

Even though the juvenile justice system is not too strict on minor offenders, a juvenile adjudication's consequences could significantly impact a minor's life. Sustained petitions, which are juvenile convictions, are considered strikes and could affect subsequent offenses' sentencing. However, if the crime your child committed is less severe, they could be eligible to expunge or seal the record.

  1. Deferred Entry of Judgment

A deferred entry of judgment is a standard option for the juvenile court for minor offenders. This type of judgment requires a child offender to plead guilty to the allegations brought against them. After the admission of guilt, the charges are dismissed, and the minor attends a one to three years rehabilitation program.

  1. Youth Authority Commitment

Besides transfer to adult court, the YAC is the most severe punishment handed out in the juvenile court. This type of penalty is handed to juveniles who commit crimes that require sex offender registration.

If a child is declared a ward of the court, the judge could sentence them to a term of probation. In less severe cases, probation for minors could be served at home.

Find a Juvenile Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

It can be a saddening experience to learn that your child will face an arrest for allegedly committing an offense. Juvenile delinquency is the act of participating in unlawful behavior for an individual below eighteen years. A child who faces criminal charges will be arraigned in juvenile court and, if found guilty, will face punishment aimed at rehabilitation.

The consequences of a conviction in juvenile court have long-lasting effects on your child's life. There is a series of judicial hearings that are held to address juvenile cases. The allegations charged against the minor will determine how the court handles the juvenile case. If your child is arrested and faces charges in the juvenile delinquency court, it would be wise to seek legal guidance and representation. If you are in San Jose, CA, we invite you to contact us at the California Criminal Lawyer Group to discuss your case's details. Call us today at 408-622-0204.