When a minor faces an arrest, it can be a trying time for them and their loved ones. The experience may expose your child to physiological trauma, which may follow them when they grow up. The law holds even children accountable for their delinquent actions that lead to criminal offenses. Most juvenile cases are adjudicated in juvenile courts and are only tried in adult courts if they committed serious felony offenses.

Due to the long-lasting effect juvenile court procedure may have on your child, you should have an attorney who understands the juvenile court process. Although most juvenile court proceedings are meant to rehabilitate your child’s behavior and have no effect on their adulthood, you should be careful.

Hiring an attorney who understands your child’s fear and your concern for their general well-being is the first step you should take when your child faces juvenile charges. An experienced attorney will work hard to ensure your child receives one of the lighter penalties like juvenile probation. At California Criminal Lawyer Group, we work diligently to ensure that your child obtains the best outcome on their case. Our priority is to ensure that your child’s future is not affected by their mistakes.

What is a Juvenile Court?

When a minor breaks the law, the court views this offense as a delinquent act instead of a criminal one. California juvenile court oversees juvenile cases and ensures that the minor receives rehabilitation and guidance. Juvenile courts deal with the hearings of the cases, curfew violations, felony and misdemeanor charges that involve minors who are up to 18 years. There are some instances when the law tries a minor in an adult court. A juvenile court will decide to let the minor be tried in an adult criminal court when the said minor commits the following crimes:

  • Sodomy
  • Forcible rape
  • Murder
  • Forcible oral copulation
  • The threat to cause great bodily harm.
  • Forcible sexual penetration.
  • Arson leading to severe bodily
  • Robbery
  • Kidnapping with robbery intent.
  • Kidnapping to raise a ransom.
  • Assault using a firearm.
  • Escaping a juvenile hall, camp, ranch, and causing any employee significant bodily injury while doing so.
  • Carjacking.
  • Torture.

The best part about the juvenile court is that they only have a judge, a prosecutor, and your child’s defense lawyer making the process less intimidating. The proceedings in a juvenile court are confidential, which ensures your minor’s protection.

A prosecutor will bring forth charges against your child, and if they prove beyond a reasonable doubt that your child committed the crime, a judge will sustain their petition. In a juvenile court, your child will not be found guilty or innocent.

After the case hearing, a juvenile judge may sentence your child to spend some time in a correctional facility or offer them informal probation depending on how your child answers to the allegations against them. If your child doesn’t admit to committing the offense, the judge may send them to serve a probation program, and upon its completion, drops the charges leveled against them.

A juvenile court’s main objective is to rehabilitate the youth and ensure they leave everyday lives where their young mistakes do not affect adulthood. The court can attain these objectives by making a minor into a ward of the court. Being a ward of the court gives the court the responsibility of treating and controlling the minor. A minor can serve their probation from home, even if they are a ward of the court.

The main difference between an adult criminal court and a juvenile court is that adult courts aim at punishing the offender. In contrast, juvenile courts’ primary objective is the rehabilitation of the minor. Though the law expects a child who breaks the law to receive an education, their actions don’t necessarily go scot-free. They are to receive rehabilitation and guidance on integrating well with their family members and society. To achieve this, the court will pass a sentence that will aim at ensuring that the youth changes their behavior, and at the same time, realize the error in their actions.

California Juvenile Court Process

The juvenile court process does not differ from that of adult criminal court. When your child violates the law, the law enforcement officers arrest them. An arrest is the first step in the juvenile court process. Depending on the severity of the charge against your child, the arresting officer may decide to reprimand and release them without involving the court.

The arresting officer may take your child to the probation offices if the charge against them is severe, or they may allow your child to go home but give them a citation to appear in court later. Your child will be taken to the juvenile hall at the probation offices while they wait for the petition against them to go through.

What Takes Place in a Juvenile Hall?

You do not have to worry if the police take your child to a juvenile hall; it is not the end of the world for your kid. a probation officer runs the juvenile hall and has the discretion to decide on your child’s stay at the hall.

On admittance to the juvenile hall, the probation officer will interview your child and then take the following course of action:

  • Release your child to go home under a probation program that does not require them to go to court unless your child doesn’t follow the probation
  • Release your child to go home, but give them a citation to appear in court later.
  • Keep the child at the juvenile hall until a judge reviews their case.

Juvenile Court Hearings

When your child is going to a juvenile court, the subsequent hearings take place:

Detention Hearing

In detention hearings, the court decides if it is in the best interest for your child to go home on dismissal, on probation or if they should spend time at the juvenile hall as they wait for their case resolution in court. The law instructs prosecutors to avoid having the youth incarcerated but to involve them in community-based programs.

You should note that if your child has been sent into a juvenile hall, the following will take place:

No posting bail

When an adult commits a crime and the police arrest them, they are allowed to post bail in California, which gives them the freedom to attend their case from home. The juvenile court does not allow minors to post bail. Therefore, the only way to keep your child out of juvenile hall is to convince the judge during a detention hearing if the probation officer wants to retain them.

They are arraigned in court whether they in custody or not

When your child is arraigned in court during a detention hearing, it means that they will:

  • Have their charges read to the
  • Have their constitutional rights read to them.
  • Make their plea known.

It is the responsibility of the juvenile judge to inform your child of the following facts:

  • They are aware of the charges against them.
  • They have legal representation.
  • They are aware of their rights against any self-incrimination.
  • They can cross-examine witnesses.
  • They can bring evidence to the court for their defense.

During this hearing, your child will not give a guilty or not guilty plea, like in adult courts but will do one of the following:

  • Deny the charges against them
  • Admit to the charges brought against them,
  • Deny the charges against them on insanity bases
  • Refuse to contest

During detention hearing, a judge will determine if the minor should spend time in juvenile hall or detention following California Welfare & Institutional Code 635 (WIC). For the law to allow the judge to keep your child in custody, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:

  • your child committed a crime
  • the minor has disobeyed a juvenile court order,
  • your child posse a flight risk
  • it is vital to detain your child for the protection of other people and property,
  • It is prudent to detain the minor for their safety.

A judge will always involve the minor’s input, the probation officer, the prosecution, the minor’s parents or guardians, and the minor’s defense counsel before making the final decision during a detention hearing.

Transfer Hearing

This hearing determines if the minor’s case should be tried in adult criminal court or remain in juvenile delinquency court. A juvenile judge will decide if the minor is fit to face a juvenile court in a transfer hearing. Several determining factors are available to a judge, and they include:

  • The judge will decide if the juvenile delinquent court rehabilitative program will benefit the minor.
  • The seriousness of the charges leveled against the minor.
  • If the minor has a prior delinquent history.
  • Previous attempts to rehabilitate the minor.
  • The degree of sophistication shown by the minor while committing the crime.

Adjudication Hearing

An adjudication hearing is a trial hearing where your child’s trial is conducted in a judge and the prosecutor’s presence. You should note that a jury is never present in a juvenile hearing.

Disposition Hearing

A disposition hearing is where the judge gives their decision regarding the case. If the judge sustains the prosecutors’ petition, your child will receive their sentence. A juvenile judge will consider the following facts while issuing a disposition on your child’s case:

  • Your child’s age,
  • The circumstances surrounding your child’s offense
  • The seriousness of the crime committed,
  • If your child has any previous delinquent history.

Once a judge upholds the prosecutor’s petition, they will pass their sentence or disposition. There are several sentencing options that a judge can apply in juvenile delinquent cases.

The disposition will consider options that will ensure the minor receives the necessary discipline to ensure that they grow into responsible adults later in life. Some of the available sentencing options include but not limited to:

  • Charges dismissal (WIC 782)
  • Informal probation (WIC 654 & 725)
  • Commitment to Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), formerly CYA
  • Formal probation either at home, group home, relative’s place, a probation camp, or ranch.

Informal Probation (WIC 654 & 725)

When a minor engages in non-violent delinquent actions like vandalism, trespassing and doesn’t have a prior delinquent record, the court may subject them to an informal probation program under WIC 654juvenile court petition, 725.

Suppose a juvenile court petitions a minor who is not a court ward but is subjected to WIC 654 informal probation program. In that case, they will be under the jurisdiction of the juvenile probation office. Under this program, the probation department does not involve the juvenile court. The delinquent act is a low-level one that does not require the prosecutor to file for a juvenile court petition.

A probation officer in charge of the minor will come up with a six-month probation program that ensures that your child is within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court. During these six months, your child will undergo counseling and pursue their education. A minor is scheduled to meet all the terms of the probation, and if they fail to, the diversion program may be canceled, and the prosecution may file a formal petition in the court.

Informal probation under WIC725 is where the prosecution files for a petition, but the court puts the petition on hold until your child completes their six-month probation program. Holding the petition until your child completes their probation is a way to offer them a second chance. You should ensure that your child does not violate their probation terms, or they will find themselves in a position to admit to having committed the delinquent acts.

Under WIC 725(a), deferred entry judgment (DEJ), if the young one admits to having committed a misdemeanor offense, a judge may impose six-month probation. Under this ruling, your child is not a ward of the court unless they violate their probation terms.

Under WIC 725(b), ward-ship probation, the court will declare your child as a ward of the court, thereby claiming responsibility for the young one. As a ward of the court, the minor will undertake a probation program that runs for six months with the following conditions:

  • They will attend school,
  • Observe their curfew,
  • Pay fines,
  • Compensate their victims,
  • Undertake drug tests
  • Undergo counseling sessions.

Once the minor fulfills their probation terms and conditions, the court dismisses the petition against them.

Deferred Entry Judgment (DEJ) Probation

In Deferred Entry Judgment probation, your child’s petition will be dismissed upon completing the program. The minor must meet the following criteria to qualify for the DEJ probation:

  • They should be aged 14 years and above at the time of the court ruling.
  • Their charge must not be under WIC 707(b) list.
  • Your child should not have been a ward of the court on a previous felony case.
  • Your child should not have had any previous probation revocation by the court.
  • Their crime should not be under crimes listed under PC 289.
  • Your child has not been sentenced to CYA or DJJ previously.

Formal Probation

When a judge issues a disposition, the convicted minor becomes a court ward and is sentenced to formal probation. A judge may decide that the remains are under the juvenile court’s jurisdiction but serve their probation from home. After disposition, a minor can be sent to a DJJ, a probation camp, or ranch depending on the circumstances that the judge feels that the kid will be better off instead of home.

If the judge decides that the minor requires a structured life, they may send them to a probation camp. California has over 70 probation camps. Minors sent there to spend three to twelve months in the facility. These facilities are equipped to handle youths with different needs, once here. The child will receive education, take part in recreational activities, and offer them vocational training, which equips them with skills that they can utilize once they are released to society.

Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) Commitment

A DJJ or CYA is one of the facilities where youths are taken when they commit a serious offense, and a juvenile judge upholds the prosecution's petition. Once a minor is committed to these facilities, they are incarcerated per the juvenile court’s terms and conditions. A juvenile board will decide on the duration of parole confinement.

Probation Role in Juvenile Case

When an adult is taken to court, the leading players are the prosecution, the judge, the defense attorney, and the jury. When it comes to juvenile court, the court process does not involve a jury but consists of a county probation officer. A probation officer plays a crucial role throughout the entire juvenile court procedure, starting from the arrest stage up to after disposition.

At The Arrest Stage

Once the law enforcement officer arrests your child, they take them to the juvenile hall, where they meet with the probation officer. A probation officer will interview your child and decide whether to release the minor or hold them in the juvenile hall as they wait for their case resolution in court.

At the Adjudication Phase

During this phase, the probation officer plays a crucial role in your child’s case whereby they:

  • Make recommendations on whether the prosecution should file a petition against your child.
  • They make recommendations on whether your little one is fit to be tried in a juvenile court.

After disposition

Once the judge finds your little one guilty, they usually sustain the prosecutor’s petition against them, and the probation officer takes responsibility for the minor. A probation officer takes care of the minor even if the court allows the youth to go home on probation or sent to a DJJ.

When your child is under probation, they are to follow or observe the following probation terms and conditions:

  • Compulsory school attendance.
  • Attend anti-gang classes
  • Observe their curfew restrictions.
  • Attend anger management classes
  • Community services.

Repercussions of Probation Violations

When the juvenile court system issues a probation condition to a minor, they expect the little one to oblige. A probation condition may allow youth to do something or avoid doing something, and if they fail to comply, they will be found to have violated their probation terms. It is a severe crime to violate probation conditions, which may lead to several consequences.

A juvenile court can terminate a minor’s probation following a violation of probation hearing (POV). At the POV hearing, a juvenile judge will use the preponderance of evidence to determine if the minor has violated their probation terms. If the violation is minor, like not observing a curfew, the court may give the youth a second chance or change some of the probation terms while allowing them to continue with their probation.

The following are some of the repercussions of violating probation:

  • If your child was under WIC 654, the court may revoke the probation and move forward with the prosecutor’s petition.
  • If the probation was under WIC 725, the court may revoke it and then declare your child as a ward of the court. When a minor is not a court ward, they have the right to attend a hearing where the probation office will provide a report regarding their disposition. The court can remove your child from home, and when it does so, your child has the right to attend a disposition hearing where the court will consider evidence that indicates that home on probation is the best outcome for your child.

You should note that if your child is already a ward of the court and is under Home on Probation (HOP), the prosecution may file a section 777 petition to have the probation revoked. When the prosecutor files this petition, the probation office prepares a report that shows how your child has been abiding or if they violated the probation terms. You can have your child’s defense attorney representing them at this hearing and let them defend your little one by providing evidence in court.

After this hearing, the following outcomes are likely to take place:

  • The court may order your child to attend additional programs.
  • Receive a warning from the probation department.
  • Perform community service.
  • Be sent to a juvenile hall for confinement.
  • Attend drug programs
  • Be electronically monitored.
  • Be sent to a group home, ranch, or a juvenile camp.

Find a Juvenile Attorney Near Me

When your child makes mistakes as they grow up due to lousy company, you have to be there for them. If minors commit offenses that lead them into the juvenile justice system corridors, their guardians need to hire legal representation for them. Engaging our attorneys at the California Criminal Lawyer Group will ensure that your child receives the best legal representation. We work hard to ensure that your child receives the best outcome on their case. Call us at 408-622-0204 for a consultation on your child’s case.