When a person under eighteen commits a crime, they can face an arrest and charges under the juvenile justice system. Although juvenile criminal cases work the same way as adult cases, the juvenile court is lenient when dealing with minors. The juvenile court system aims to rehabilitate the child and encourage them to make better decisions in the future. After an arrest, your child may go through various court hearings before the court determines whether or not they committed the crime.

Although the dispositions in juvenile cases are not as harsh as the penalties in criminal court, the consequences of a juvenile criminal record can be detrimental to the minor’s life. Learning that your child has been arrested can devastate you and your family. However, even as your child undergoes the juvenile justice system, their rights and your rights as a parent are recognized.

Once informed about the arrest, you should contact a skilled criminal attorney to guide your child through the legal issues. At Los Angeles Criminal Attorney, we offer top-notch legal guidance for all our clients battling criminal charges in Los Angeles, CA.

Overview of Juvenile Delinquency in California

When a child commits a crime in California, the act is referred to as juvenile delinquency. In California, minors are individuals under eighteen years. Minors lack the necessary mental capacity to make the right decisions. Therefore, when a child commits a crime, they are charged and tried in juvenile court. Unlike the adult court, the main aim of the juvenile system is to rehabilitate and educate minors.

After an arrest, the law enforcement officer decides whether to release the child or take them to the juvenile hall. If your child faces an arrest, the police officers can:

  • Record the arrest and allow the child to go home
  • Send the child to a shelter or agency where they receive guidance
  • Give the juvenile a notice to appear in court on a particular date
  • Place the child in detention at the juvenile hall

While at the juvenile hall, the prosecution could file charges against the minor. Often criminal charges committed by minors are handled in juvenile court.

The juvenile court is dedicated to dealing with felony and misdemeanor charges committed by minors. The court can also handle status violations which are only considered criminal acts when committed by minors. Minors go through traumatic experiences when they face an arrest. Therefore, when you learn of the child’s arrest, you should seek legal guidance for them.

Juvenile Court Hearings

If the prosecution files a criminal case against your child, several hearings will occur between the arrest and when the child is found to have committed the crime. California law stipulates timelines within which the hearings must take place. The hearings that your child must undergo in juvenile court include the following:

Detention Hearing

Upon receipt of a petition alleging that your child committed a crime, the court files a petition and notifies the involved parties. The court will hold a detention hearing if the child is detained in the juvenile hall. At this hearing, the court determines whether your child is eligible for a release with a pending case. As a parent, it is important that you attend and participate in all court hearings. Your presence proves to the court that your child has a strong support system.

If a child is in police custody for a non-violent crime, a detention hearing occurs within forty-eight hours of the minor’s detention. The hearing could wait longer if the child committed a serious felony or misdemeanor. The detention hearing begins with the prosecution reading your child’s charges. The minor can either accept to deny the allegations.  Some of the factors that could affect a judge’s decision to release or detain a minor after the detention hearing include:

  • The Child's criminal history. The juvenile court aims at rehabilitating minors. Therefore, being a repeat offer means the minor hasn’t learned from their mistakes. If your child has a substantial criminal history, the court may order them to remain in juvenile hall.
  • Flight risk. Although minors do not need to make a monetary commitment to secure a release with a pending case, the court expects them to appear in court as scheduled. If the child has a history of escaping detention or failing to appear in court, the judge will order continued detention.
  • Child Protection. A child’s home environment can contribute to their delinquency. The child will remain in the juvenile hall if they are in danger.

Jurisdiction Hearing

At a jurisdiction hearing, the court determines whether or not the minor committed the alleged criminal acts. Like a criminal trial, the district attorney will present witnesses and evidence to prove that your child committed a crime. After the prosecution presents its case, your child’s attorney can present counter-evidence in defense of the minor.

The jurisdiction hearing must occur within fifteen days if your child is in detention. However, if the minor goes home with you after their detention hearing, the court schedules this hearing in thirty days. If your child contests the charges, they have a right to cross-examine the witnesses, present witnesses, and argue the case in court.

A juvenile delinquency case does not involve a jury. A judge will listen to your child’s case and determine whether or not the allegations are true. The court dismisses the case if it is determined that the child did not commit a crime. However, if the evidence proving the child’s criminal acts is sufficient, a disposition hearing is held within ten days.

Disposition Hearing

A disposition hearing is a court proceeding where the judge determines the steps to take for a child’s case. The dispositions offered in juvenile court are aimed at minors' rehabilitation, treatment, and counseling. Before deciding on your child’s fate, the judge requests a probation officer to assess the child’s situation and write a recommendation. The probation officer will visit your home and interrogate different people in the child’s life. Other factors that could affect the judge’s decision include:

  • A child’s school and family history
  • Criminal history
  • Victim's statement about the current charges

The court will also consider how the dispositions affect the child’s life and future. Before the judge orders a disposition, your child can give an oral or written statement.

Transfer Hearing in Juvenile Cases

Although minors are tried in juvenile court, there are situations where your child could be transferred to criminal court to face charges as an adult. Learning your child’s potential transfer to adult court can be challenging. Fortunately, the child’s attorney can prevent this in a fitness hearing.

The prosecutor will initiate a fitness hearing in your child’s case if the minor is sixteen years or older and has committed a crime under WIC 707. Some of the common offenses under WIC 707(b) include:

  • Robbery
  • Forced rape
  • Arson causing serious injury
  • Forced Sodom
  • Murder
  • Attempted murder
  • Firearm discharge into an inhabited building
  • Kidnapping for ransom

At the fitness hearing, the court determines a child’s edibility for transfer to adult court by considering the following factors:

  • Your child’s previous delinquent acts
  • The degree of sophistication used to commit the crime
  • Whether or not your child will benefit from dispositions offered in juvenile court
  • The seriousness of the child’s case

If your child faces charges as an adult, they could face a conviction and serious penalties like prison time and fines.

Rights of Minors under the Juvenile Justice System

Although minors in the juvenile justice system do not have the same rights as those adults facing criminal cases, your child can exercise the following rights:

     1) Rights to a Phone Call

After an arrest, your child has a right to at least one phone call. Using their phone call, your child can call you, and you can seek legal guidance. By asking to contact an attorney, your child involves their Miranda rights. Therefore, if law enforcement officers ignore the child’s request to make a call, any information the child provides cannot be used in their case.

     2) Right to be Notified of their Charges

When your child faces an arrest and detention in juvenile hall, they can be released without the filing of criminal charges. Often, this occurs when the probation officer feels no need to detain them. However, if the minor has to remain in custody, they have a right to know about their criminal charges.

     3) Right to Legal Counsel

Juvenile court proceedings can be challenging for a child. Fortunately, your child has a right to seek legal guidance. A skilled criminal attorney can help protect the child’s rights and guide them on how to act throughout the juvenile proceedings. If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer for your child, they have a right to be represented by a state-appointed lawyer.

     4) Right to Cross-Examine Witnesses

Although the adjudication hearing is not similar to a trial in adult court, a child has a right to cross-examine or question the witnesses brought by the prosecution and challenge their testimonies.

     5) Right to Have their Criminal Charges Beyond a Reasonable

Not all juvenile criminal cases are based on factual events. Therefore, when a child faces incarceration as a delinquent, the state must prove their charges beyond a reasonable doubt. If the penalties in the child’s case are not an issue, the state will only need to prove the charges by a preponderance of the evidence.

     6 )Right Against Self Incrimination

After an arrest for committing a crime in California, anything you say to law enforcement officers could be used against you in court. However, minors have the right to self-incrimination. Therefore, the prosecutor cannot force the juvenile to testify against themselves. 

     7) No Right to Bail

Although most juveniles are released to go home with their parents with a pending criminal case, minors do not have a right to bail. Instead of making a monetary commitment in exchange for a release, your child must prove that they will show up to court for other proceedings after an early release.

Parental Rights in Juvenile Court Proceedings

When a minor is arrested for violating the law, they may be placed in juvenile detention before going through the court system. You are still a parent even when your child is under the juvenile justice system. Your rights to involvement in the child’s case are recognized. The most critical aspect is that you are the physical and legal custodian of the child. Therefore, your rights can only be terminated when the child becomes a ward of the court, or you lose them in adoption.

Some of the parental rights you can exercise in your child’s delinquency case include the following:

Right to Be Notified of your Child’s Arrest

Not knowing the whereabouts of your child can be nerve-wracking. When a minor faces an arrest, they are placed in juvenile detention awaiting a release or opening of a criminal case. Before your child is taken before a probation officer in the juvenile hall, the law enforcement officers must notify you of the arrest. Learning of the arrest allows you time to seek legal guidance for the minor before the court proceedings begin.

However, you must understand that you do not have a right to be present when law enforcement officers question your child. Therefore, they can question them before notifying you. When you visit your child in the juvenile hall, you must avoid discussing any specifics in the case. This is because interrogation rooms are fitted with recorders to capture the conversations.

Right to Know the Minor's Rights

Even while you face criminal charges in California, you have constitutional rights that must be respected throughout the arrest, prosecution, and punishment. When your child faces an arrest and charges, you have a right to know about their rights. Dealing with police officers can be traumatizing for a juvenile and cause them to make incriminating statements. Therefore, when you know your child’s rights, you can guide them on how to act throughout the court process.

Right to be Present at the Court Hearings

Your child may undergo several hearings between their arrest and when they face punishment. The number of people present at a juvenile court proceeding is limited. This helps keep the case confidential and avoid stigmatization of the child. However, as a parent or legal guardian of the child, you have a right to attend these hearings.

Right to Have your Child’s Court Proceedings Kept Private

The consequences of juvenile detention and criminal cases can be detrimental to your child’s life. The social stigma that accompanies juvenile charges can ruin your child’s future. Fortunately, parents have the right to keep their child’s court hearings secret. Some of the common reasons why confidentiality is key include the following:

  • Confidentiality promotes the juvenile’s integrity. Less social stigma is associated with the situation when the public does not have access to juvenile records.
  • Keep sensitive family matters secret. Juvenile court proceedings can evoke scrutiny in the child’s family. Allowing the proceedings to stay confidential prevents the public from using the family situation against the child.

Right to Take your Child Home while their case Pends

Sometimes, you can exercise your right to go home with your child while the outcome of their juvenile case is pending. However, your ability to exercise this right is based on the child’s crime, flight risk, and criminal history.

Every right comes with a responsibility. Therefore, as you exercise your rights in your child’s case, you should know that you are responsible for ensuring that your child shows up to court after a release during a detention hearing. Additionally, if your minor's sentence includes court fines, you must pay the fines.

Juvenile Court Dispositions

Several sentencing options are available for minors who are found to have committed a crime, including:

Informal Probation

When your child’s crime is less serious, the judge could send them to informal probation. Under WIC 654, the minor's case is diverted to probation before the prosecution files a petition. Common cases that could end in informal probation include shoplifting and trespass. The informal probation program in juvenile court lasts for up to six months, including counseling and education.

Another form of informal probation is WIC 725. The main difference between WIC 654 and WIC 725 is that the prosecution files your case under WIC 725 and puts it on hold for informal probation. The conditions of informal juvenile probation include school attendance, curfew restrictions, and counseling.

Deferred Entry of Judgement

Another common disposition for juvenile delinquency is the deferred entry of judgment. DEJ is a type of probation when a juvenile admits to committing a crime. The court will not enter the judgment in exchange for a probation program. Since DEJ is reserved for first-time offenders, the probation sentence is designed to rehabilitate and prevent future criminal activity.

If your child faces felony charges, the court will consider them for DEJ under the following circumstances:

  • The child has not been a ward of the court
  • Your child has never been committed to a DJJ facility
  • The current offense does not fall under
  • The child must be fourteen years or older during the hearing
  • The child’s offense was not sex-related

The court will send your child to the DEJ if the judge believes the child will benefit from the program's treatment, rehabilitation, and education.

Formal Probation

If your child is found to have committed a crime and is considered a ward of the court, the judge could sentence them to formal probation. A ward of the court can complete their formal probation sentence at home or in a suitable placement. While on probation, a juvenile must follow through with the following probation terms:

  • Curfew restriction
  • Avoid association with certain individuals
  • Community service
  • School attendance
  • Victim restitution
  • Drug and substance abuse counseling

CYA Commitment

Commitment to the CYA is the most serious juvenile disposition in California. Your child could face this sentence if they are found to have committed a crime under WIC 707 or crimes requiring sex offender registration.

Sealing Juvenile Records in California

Contrary to what many believe, a juvenile criminal record is not sealed when a person turns eighteen. Instead, you must file a petition to seal the record under the Welfare and Institutions Code Section 781. A person over eighteen years can petition to seal their juvenile records five years after termination of the juvenile court jurisdiction.

A juvenile record contains the following documents:

  • Arrest records
  • Investigation reports
  • Court orders and judge’s findings
  • Probation reports

Like adult records, a juvenile criminal record can present substantial barriers to your life. Therefore, it would be best to seal the records. Penal code 851.7 allows individuals who have been arrested for misdemeanors to have their records sealed under the following circumstances:

  • You were released due to insufficient evidence to support your charges
  • Your charges were dismissed
  • You were acquitted of the charges against you

Sealing your juvenile record takes up to ten months, and you can do it by filing a petition and scheduling a hearing. Unless the prosecution objects to your petition, your presence at the record sealing hearing is unnecessary. With a sealed juvenile record, you can state that you have never been arrested and do not have a criminal record during your job or school applications. Legal guidance is key if you or a loved one seeks to seal their juvenile record.

Find a Reliable Criminal Attorney Near Me

Society doesn’t hold minors completely responsible for their actions. Therefore, if an individual under eighteen engages in criminal activity, they are handled in the juvenile justice system. Juvenile cases are based on criminal acts committed by individuals between twelve and seventeen years. Since this group of individuals is still under a parent or guardian, you will be involved in your child’s case.

California law considers the effects a juvenile criminal case can have on a child’s life. For this reason, juvenile court proceedings are confidential. The main aim of trying minors for their crimes is to rehabilitate and change their behavior. If your child is found to have committed a crime, they could send on probation or placement out of the home. Unfortunately, if your child is arrested for a serious offense like arson, murder, or rape, they could be transferred to adult court, where they are charged and convicted as adults.

Being charged as an adult is the worst outcome of your child’s criminal case, and you can see them spend time in prison. If your child faces criminal charges in Los Angeles, CA, they will benefit from our guidance at Los Angeles Criminal Attorney. Contact us at 424-333-0943 today.