The California juvenile delinquency and the adult criminal court systems differ significantly. Even the jargon or terminologies used in these two court systems are different. When your child commits a delinquent act, the DA files charges in a juvenile court. It is like a complaint in a criminal court.

The case then goes to the adjudication hearing (trial), where the judge evaluates all the evidence presented against the minor. If the prosecuting team proves beyond reasonable certainty that the minor engaged in a crime, the court will sustain the petition. Sustained juvenile petitions are similar to guilty verdicts and can result in adverse consequences on your child.

At the California Criminal Lawyer Group, we are here to help your minor if they have been arrested for a crime or obtained a sustained petition. Our defense attorneys will help you mount the right defenses to contest the charges.

General View of Sustained Juvenile Petitions

Like adults, minors might engage in violations of the law. However, an arrest can be traumatizing for them, so their cases are handled in a juvenile court and not an adult criminal system. The common offenses many minors in San Jose, CA, are likely to commit are status and delinquent offenses. A status offense is one that your child commits because of age. The offenses usually carry lesser consequences. On the other end, delinquent offenses are serious criminal acts that would be heard in a criminal court.

Juvenile Delinquency Court

Although the law punishes minors, the manner of punishment is considerate. California has established juvenile courts where misdemeanor or felony crimes by children are heard and determined. The courts also deal with truancy and curfew violation cases. It is under the civil court system and only handles offenses committed by minors between 12 and 17.

And like adult criminal courts, juvenile court systems have judges and criminal attorneys. However, jurors are absent in these courts. Take note that juvenile court proceedings are otherwise called Sec 602 proceedings, and as per SB 439, they don’t handle minors younger than twelve years.

However, particular crimes can prompt minors under 12 years to be charged in a juvenile court. The offenses include:

  • Rape
  • Sodomy
  • Inflict or attempt to cause great bodily injury
  • Murder
  • Oral copulation
  • violence

Remember that if your child is below 18 years at the time of violating the law, the case will be handled in these courts even if the violation is discovered when the minor is 18 years or older. Further, after examining the evidence against you, the judge doesn’t give a guilty or not guilty verdict. Instead, they sustain or dismiss the juvenile petition.

The process begins with an arrest for a particular violation of the law. Once the minor is arrested, the law enforcement officers can decide to warn and release them. They can also jot down a citation requiring the juvenile to visit a probation officer or refer them to a juvenile center.

The police officers’ decision depends on the nature of the violation and the minor’s number of prior violations. If they decide to send your child to a juvenile hall, it means the offense committed is severe. A crime that results in a written citation requiring a minor to visit an officer from the probation department indicates that it’s a serious matter that could end up in juvenile court. Therefore, you should take it seriously.

After evaluating the offense, the officer might request the DA to a juvenile court petition. When your minor is not in custody, there is no timeline for filing a petition by the DA. However, when in detention because of a felony, the prosecutor must file the petition within 48 hours. A misdemeanor, on the other end, allows no more than 72 hours to file the petition.

If you are being detained in adult criminal courts, your bail hearing might happen simultaneously with the charges’ reading. The same happens in a juvenile court. A detention hearing is held to determine if your minor should stay in custody awaiting the juvenile hearing or should be released. You need a criminal defense attorney at the detention hearing because when the judge decides to lock up the minor, they will stay in detention until the case is concluded.

With the help of an attorney, you can present concrete evidence demonstrating why they should release your child pending the adjudication hearing.

California Juvenile Court Adjudication Hearing

The time it takes for the adjudication hearing to happen depends on whether your child is in detention. The hearing will occur within fifteen days if they are in detention. However, when not in custody, the hearing happens no more than thirty days after the arrest. The court will mention the charge and explain its meaning at this hearing, including the consequences of a sustained petition.

The child will have a chance to confirm if the petitions against them are accurate. Even if they engaged in the violations, they should not accept the petition because doing so will be similar to pleading guilty. Instead, the minor should deny the petition and fight them. A defense attorney can help you understand the kind of petition the child faces and the penalties associated with it if it’s sustained.

An attorney will evaluate and contest the prosecutor’s evidence against you, cross-examine witnesses’ evidence, present counter-evidence and argue the case on the minor’s behalf. Besides, your child has the right to remain silent, and they choose to exercise this right, the court will sustain the petition.

After sustaining the petition, a new court date will be set to determine the child’s treatment. However, if your defense attorney mounts the proper defenses to contest the charges, the petition will be dismissed based on an invalid petition.

California Disposition Hearing and Penalties for Juvenile Offenders

Once the court sustains the juvenile petition against you, what follows is a sentence or disposition hearing. Typically, the hearing occurs ten days after the adjudication hearing if you have been in detention or thirty days if you were released. However, when an adjudication hearing can happen, there is no specific time limit because it can be extended if the persons involved agree.

The hearing guides the judge and determines the penalties for your minor’s offense. Before the disposition date, a probation officer conducts a social survey geared on the juvenile’s critical life aspects to determine the consequences or treatment. Every person involved in the case will receive copies of the study before the hearing. The information in this social survey includes but not limited to:

  • Your minor’s school or family record
  • The juvenile’s prior criminal record
  • The child’s statement if the charge is a felony
  • Recommendations

Note that even after the judge sustains the petition, your defense attorney and the prosecutor can still present additional evidence. Your attorney can also present an audio or written statement as a mitigating factor. When deciding the kind of consequences your child should face, the court will take into consideration the child’s best interests, treating the casualty's injury, and the need to protect and keep the community safe.

After both parties have presented their mitigating and aggravating circumstances, the court might decide to:

  • Put away with the sustained petition and dismiss the petition. The judge can take this action if it’s for the juvenile’s interest or the juvenile justice system. Further, the sustained petition might be dismissed if it’s determined your minor doesn’t need medical examination or rehabilitation.
  • Your minor may be placed under summary probation for six months
  • Your child becomes a court ward. It means the court and not you, as a parent, will be making decisions or plans on the child’s behalf. The court will control the juvenile’s life.

When your child is declared a court ward, it means that the judge could:

  • Release the minor on probation
  • Place the minor with another person like a relative if they feel it’s for their best interest
  • Place the juvenile in a foster or group home
  • Send your juvenile to a detention facility or boot camp

The court might also decide to punish the minor through verbal warning, court fines, community service, counseling, or electronic monitoring.

California Juvenile Probation

California WIC 725 permits juvenile judges to send minors home on supervised or unsupervised probation for six months if they sustain juvenile petitions. However, the court sets terms and conditions that the minor must adhere to; otherwise, there might be an adjudge to make the minor a court ward. The conditions might require the juvenile to relinquish some rights, but in general, the requirements should be for your child’s best interest. The terms of juvenile probation include:

  • The minor must attend school with zero absenteeism
  • As a minor’s parent or guardian, you should participate in the juvenile’s counseling and education.
  • The minor is under a curfew ranging from 2200 and 0600 hours. Your child can only leave home during these hours if they are in your company.

Probation requirements are mainly based on your child’s criminal history and the nature of the offense.

If your minor faces charges because of use, possession, or furnishing of controlled substances or possession or alcohol consumption, the court will impose severe drug or alcohol conditions. These conditions include:

  • Random and regular alcohol or drug testing
  • Completion of a drug or alcohol education program

Other requirements the court might impose are:

  • Taking part in community labor
  • Attending work program without pay
  • Refraining the minor from meeting particular individuals
  • Driving restrictions
  • Fine and victim restitution
  • The minor could subject you to an unexpected search without a search warrant

When your child is required to compensate, you should make this payment as the parent or guardian.

Failure to adhere to the above requirements will result in the court declaring you a court ward.

Consequences of a Juvenile Criminal Record

Many individuals think that juvenile petitions don’t affect criminal records. However, the truth is that a sustained juvenile petition can have devastating ramifications on your child. It’s for this reason that we at California Criminal Lawyer Group encourage you to fight sustained petitions, by all means, necessary because it can have a devastating impact on your child’s future. The aspects of a minor’s life a sustained juvenile petition can affect are:

  1. College Application

During college admission, the institution checks you or your minor’s criminal record. If they come across a delinquent history, they might turn down your child’s application. The college might require the minor to straighten their behavior first before seeking admission. Even if they decide to admit the minor, they will be under strict monitoring by law enforcement to ensure their past behavior isn’t repeated.

  1. Job Application or Search

Like is school admission, employers conduct background checks on prospective employees. Although employers are prohibited from discriminating against job applicants on the grounds of their criminal record, if they come across a document showing you have a prior sustained petition, they could deny you the opportunity.

Other job applications require the applicant to disclose any criminal record. If you do so, they are likely to dismiss you based on history. Not revealing the history might also be considered dishonesty, denying your child an excellent job opportunity.

  1. Enhanced Penalties

If, after your minor’s sustained petition, they end up with a conviction for another offense in the future, the court will impose harsher penalties. The court will also consider sustained juvenile petitions for the current San Jose offense. A criminal record will haunt the juvenile in the future such that even if the current offense doesn't require incarceration, they might end up serving jail time.

  1. Application to Join the Military

The U.S. armed forces have rules on the eligibility of applicants with a prior delinquent record. It means based on the branch your child is applying from, having a delinquency history can affect their eligibility when making an application to join the armed forces. It’s common for applicants with a previous delinquency record to be denied the chance to join the armed forces. However, those with minor and non-violent delinquency records can acquire a waiver and be allowed to join the military.

Therefore, if your minor is interested in joining the military and facing a juvenile petition in a court, talk to an attorney right away to contest the charges. If the judge does not sustain the juvenile petition, the child won’t have a delinquency history meaning they will be eligible to join the military in the future.

Steps you as a Guardian or Parent of the Juvenile can Take after a Sustained Petition

Once the judge sustains your child’s petition and a disposition hearing is held to determine the punishment, there are multiple actions you could take. You can choose to appeal the judge’s decision, request a court order to be set aside, pursue more restrictive disposition or sentencing, or seal your criminal record.

You can petition the juvenile judge’s decision if you are unsatisfied with the petition’s outcome or feel your child’s rights were violated as an offender. You must petition the court 60 days after the disposition date. Talk to the child’s defense attorney and begin the process right away.

Similarly, where new evidence is available in the case after disposition, the attorney can present it before the judge and request them to adjust or cancel the initial court order.

A stricter disposition can also occur after a judge sustains a juvenile petition. A breach of the terms of probation means your minor will return to court for severe consequences.

Sealing your Criminal Record

You have seen above how a criminal record can have life-changing consequences on your child, even for a sustained juvenile petition. As a minor’s parent, you don’t want your child’s mistakes to haunt them in their adult life. The best way to achieve this is by sealing their criminal records. It will streamline the child’s college admission, job application, and application to join the military.

Unfortunately, record sealing is possible if the minor interacted with a probation officer. When a judge sustains the juvenile petition, you could apply for record sealing after the minor turns 18 years. Take note that record sealing can only happen if you don’t commit another violation within five years. Your child’s criminal defense attorney might request the judge to seal the arrest records if the court dismissed the juvenile petition.

If a court sustains the juvenile petition, you can request the judge to seal all the paperwork and files, probation paperwork and files, and forms of all other agencies that might own your minor’s juvenile court records or case.

Applying for record sealing is a complex process, so you should retain your criminal defense attorney’s services. There is also an application fee for this process, so you should prepare for the payment. The probation department has the discretion to grant or deny your request. If they give the petition to seal your child’s record, the officer handling the case will:

  • Resolve if your minor is eligible for a criminal record sealing petition
  • Complete and file charges if the minor is eligible
  • Submit a report regarding the minor to the judge
  • Obtain a date to appear in court
  • Notify the prosecutor or DA of the petition

The juvenile judge will obtain, evaluate and review the request to seal a criminal record. To decide whether to grant or deny a petition, the court considers the following:

  • The kind of offense committed by your child
  • Whether the juvenile completed their sentence
  • If there are pending lawsuits regarding the violation by the minor

When your child’s record is sealed, any background check conducted on the minor will not show the minor’s delinquency history. This will help them avoid the effects of having a criminal record. However, for you to seal the delinquent, you must work closely with an experienced criminal attorney.

Transfer Hearing for a Minor 16 Years or Older

A transfer or fitness hearing is a proceeding where the judge determines if a minor accused of a breach of the law fits a transfer to face charges in a criminal court. The juvenile judge will consider multiple factors when deciding on whether or not to transfer your minor. The factors include:

  • The degree of criminal experience demonstrated by your child
  • The rehabilitative services available in the juvenile court
  • Your child’s prior delinquent record
  • If there have been prior attempts to rehabilitate the minor and their results
  • The nature and gravity of the minor’s criminal law violation

Remember, if the judge concludes your child will not benefit from the rehabilitative services in a delinquency court, the minor will automatically be transferred. Further, your child must be between 14 or 15 years old and must have committed a crime under WIC 707b.

In most situations, minors accused of an offense are adjudicated or tried within the juvenile court system. However, in grave cases, as indicated above, minors are tried in adult courts. Whether the DA wants to adjudicate the complaint in a criminal court comes down to the juvenile judge’s decision in a fitness hearing.

A minor charged and convicted in a criminal court is subject to a lengthy sentence like other adult offenders. It’s for this reason that even if the juvenile loses the fitness hearing, you should talk to your child’s attorney and file a writ petition within 20 days after the first arraignment that resulted in the transfer to an adult court.

Find an Experienced Criminal Defense Law Firm Near Me

As a parent, you mustn’t overlook status offenses or delinquency acts committed by your minor. These offenses can have detrimental effects on the child’s future if a juvenile judge sustains the petition against them.

It’s critical to work closely with an experienced attorney to influence the judge for a favorable outcome. The California Criminal Lawyer Group helps clients understand the whole process and provides legal representation. Call us today at 408-622-0204 for quality legal services.