In California, both adults and children commit significant offenses. However, child offenders are dealt with by a different justice system than adults. The juvenile justice system is about rehabilitation and providing young offenders a second shot in life, while the criminal justice system for adults focuses on punishment. One of the primary juvenile justice system dispositions accessible for the most severe juvenile cases is the Division of Juvenile Justice. It is the closest to an adult prison and a correctional and rehabilitation facility.

A judge in a juvenile court can send your child to DJJ if they face charges for a serious crime. Understanding the conditions that could lead to your child's placement in a DJJ facility and what you can do to defend their rights is beneficial. You could obtain a favorable result for your child's case with the assistance of an experienced criminal attorney. Our Los Angeles Criminal Attorney team has experience with situations like this. Therefore, we possess the knowledge and expertise required to navigate the judicial system successfully.

An Overview of the California Juvenile Justice System

Children from all across the world commit crimes just like adults do. Minors typically commit less serious offenses like infractions and misdemeanors. However, there are instances where young people commit heinous crimes, including rape, burglary, and murder. Like an adult offender, when the police suspect a youngster of committing a crime, they arrest them. The authorities can send the child back to their parents with a severe warning if they merely committed a minor infraction. However, more serious offenses necessitate the authorities taking more drastic measures against the child.

The police must inform the prosecutor of the crime and other information about the case, including the proof, when your child is facing criminal charges. The prosecutor can submit a petition to the juvenile court, file a case with a criminal court, or decide to dismiss the case altogether. It depends on the severity of the crime and the minor's prior history of delinquency. Juvenile court decisions are made in the majority of significant cases involving adolescents. The atmosphere is very informal, and a judge is in charge. The court considers the petition and the evidence against the minor to decide on the best course of action.

When deciding what punishment is appropriate for a juvenile offender, a judge in the juvenile court has various options to consider. Some include detention, informal probation, formal probation, and diversion. Your child will serve their probationary period at home, a group home, camp, or a relative's house if the judge convicts them to probation. However, they will need to follow the court's probationary requirements, which include attending classes, paying restitution, and adhering to a curfew. A more severe disposition is detention. It is typically given to young people who face charges for more serious offenses or have a more severe delinquent background.

The Division of Juvenile Justice serves as a jail facility and rehabilitation program for young offenders. When given a DJJ sentence, minors remain in custody for the time frame the court mandates. Even though DJJ is virtually exactly like an adult prison, it provides children with rehabilitation instead of punishment. The intention is for the minor to have changed by the end of the retention period. DJJ is much more than most parents could ever hope for. Because of this, you require legal assistance to fully comprehend what will happen to your child if they face disposition to a DJJ facility. Your lawyer could assist you in advocating for a more favorable outcome if you believe that detention is not the best option for your child.

What DJJ Entails

The juvenile justice system provides much more assistance to young offenders than the criminal justice system. Adult criminals who disobey the law receive punishment from the criminal justice system because adults can make morally responsible judgments and understand right and wrong. Children cannot comprehend the nature of their conduct or its legal ramifications. They are unable to make wise decisions since young minds are still maturing. Because of this, when they commit crimes, the juvenile justice system gives them a second opportunity. However, for them to improve and stop committing crimes, they must go through therapy, rehabilitation, and education.

Juvenile offenders who fit into any of the following categories are provided with correction and rehabilitation at DJJ facilities:

  • Children who are wards of the court
  • Minors who have previously committed crimes in listed under California WIC 707(b)
  • Teenagers who have just committed a sex crime listed under California PC 290.008(c)

Children sent to DJJ facilities typically endure longer and more serious commitments. They can serve the maximum term in solitary confinement before extending their sentence in an adult prison facility for the same crime. Before sending a young offender to a lock-down facility, the judge takes into account the following factors:

  • Age of the minor
  • Their maturity level
  • Personal requirements and risk factors
  • Need for education

Serious juvenile criminals in California were previously sentenced to the California Youth Authority (CYA). However, when CYA fell under the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation authority, it changed its name to the Division of Juvenile Division. Until age 25, the division offers young offenders counseling and educational opportunities. Only a small portion of young people detained in California receive DJJ sentences. The closest a minor can reach an adult prison is confinement at DJJ.

When the police arrest a child for a significant crime, the judge decides the appropriate course of action after considering the child's environment. The judge can designate a minor as a ward of the court if they commit repeated offenses or their family cannot meet their needs. The court now has to consider the minor's requirements and make decisions in their best interests. Depending on the minor's activities, the judge could commit them to a detention center where they will probably receive the most outstanding care, rehabilitation, and education possible.

The stringent rules in DJJ are precisely what the minor needs to change, even though it is not in their best advantage to put them there. The facilities are specially made to deal with minor offenders who have committed serious crimes. The primary focus will be on meeting your child's requirements so that they can undergo the entire reformation. For example, DJJ provides educational opportunities for minors that guarantee each minor learns the necessary skills to survive. Additionally, DJJ facilities have extensive rehabilitation and behavior modification treatment programs that encourage change.

Offenses That Could Lead to DJJ Detention

Children commit a variety of crimes, some petty and others serious. According to the specifics of each case, juvenile courts provide juvenile offenders with various disposition alternatives. A serious offense will likely result in more severe punishment, like DJJ detention. For juvenile offenders to have healthier, crime-free lives as adults, it is essential to make sure they receive the finest care, treatment, and education possible.

A California law known as WIC 707(b) contains a list of serious crimes juveniles commit. The list highlights the offenses that, if committed by a minor, could result in the toughest punishments. The most common punishment for children found guilty of one or more of the crimes mentioned in this Act is DJJ. The list of these offenses is as follows:

  • Murder
  • Kidnapping
  • Rape committed with the use of force, violence, and/or threats of bodily harm
  • Arson
  • Lewd or lascivious behavior
  • Using a harmful or destructive weapon in an assault
  • Robbery
  • Sodomy involving force, aggression, or threats of physical damage
  • Oral copulation involving force, coercion, or threats of injury to the body
  • Kidnapping to obtain money
  • A violation of California Penal Code 289(a)
  • Kidnapping for Robbery
  • Kidnapping that causes physical injury
  • An attempt to kill
  • Assault with a high risk of serious injury
  • Firing a firearm within a structure that is occupied or populated
  • A violation of California PC 1203.09
  • A violation of PC 12022.5 or 12022.53
  • Carjacking Torture Serious chaos
  • Certain drug-related offenses

A juvenile facing charges for a crime not explicitly included in this act can also be sent to DJJ by the judge if they have a history of delinquency. As a final resort, the judge can send your child to DJJ if they are a habitual offender and alternative dispositions do not appear to be effective in rehabilitating them. Additionally, the judge could adopt this disposition as a final decision if your child commits an offense that significantly harms the victims.

However, the court decides this after carefully considering the particulars of your child's case, examining the evidence used against them, and hearing their defense. You can testify in court on your child's behalf and retain legal representation to advocate for a more favorable outcome for your child. Your youngster is free to explain their choices. Your child will face detention if the judge ultimately decides that sending them to DJJ will be in both their best interests and the community's safety.

Facilities Under California DJJ

The most severe juvenile offenders are housed in secured institutions known as DJJ facilities. Under DJJ, there are currently three prisons and a forestry camp. DJJ's goal is not to punish juvenile offenders, even though it is more like an adult prison for young people. Instead, it is more likely that your child will succeed in the following endeavors if sent to DJJ:

  • Community restoration
  • Rehabilitation and instruction for the offender
  • Restitution to victims

Remember that not all matters handled by juvenile courts are sent to DJJ. Your child could be admitted to DJJ if:

  • A judge in a juvenile court sends them to DJJ.
  • If an adult criminal court sends your child to DJJ after facing trial as an adult
  • If an adult criminal court sentences your child to an adult prison for a serious crime, they will be kept in a DJJ facility until they are old enough to serve a prison term.

The judge can order that your child be committed for 90 days if they cannot immediately decide to send your child to DJJ. Your child will undergo a diagnostic examination, which will help the court decide what kind of care they need while in confinement.

However, for the juvenile court to transfer your child to DJJ, they must be eleven years old or older. If your child is convicted as an adult and sentenced to DJJ, they will be moved to an adult prison when they turn 18. However, if your child can finish their term before they are twenty-five, they will stay in DJJ until the end of their confinement. Your child must participate in the available DJJ programs to stay in the institution.

Factors Judges Consider When Detaining Minors to DJJ

Choosing whether to send a young offender to DJJ is not always easy. Judges consider several variables to ensure that minors benefit from the programs at DJJ facilities. Your child will prepare for detention once the court weighs all the relevant factors and grants detention. The numerous factors to consider include the following:

Your Child's Education Needs

Most juveniles are still enrolled in school when arrested and accused of a crime. Since every child in California has the legal right to an education, even those not previously enrolled in school still have educational needs. As a result, the court will consider your child's academic requirements while deciding whether to sentence them to DJJ. When your child is in detention, DJJ will create plans to guarantee their education continues where they left off.

To properly plan for your child's continued education while in detention, you must submit precise information about their schooling.

Your Child's Age

Judges must consider age since it influences whether your child is suitable for detention. An adult cannot fit in a correctional institution with a child under eleven. The judge must choose another disposition that best meets their needs regarding age and other factors. However, juveniles aged 11 and older can receive a DJJ sentence. Thanks to this information, the judge can choose the appropriate programs based on your child's age and needs. Knowing the proper group to place your child with assists those in charge of correctional centers.

Your lawyer can challenge the decision and suggest a better-fitting course of action if you believe your child is too young to handle the harsh circumstances in detention facilities.

Your Child's Medical History

The best care and attention for children come from their families. However, removing a child from their home could be necessary if incarceration is the only option for helping a juvenile offender turn their life around. However, the judge must consider whether your child has a troubling medical past or any underlying issues that can worsen after detention. To ensure your child is healthy before incarceration, the judge could compel them to undergo simple medical testing. You must inform the judge immediately if your child has any medical conditions, like allergies or a chronic illness. It aids the judge in reaching the best verdict.

Life in the DJJ for a Minor

DJJ detentions are frequently brutal and protracted. Your child could spend years in captivity. They are required to go to school every day during that time. Following high school graduation, the youngster enrolls in college programs where they can pursue vocational training. The DJJ institution where your child is being held can offer them paying employment if they complete their schooling while still in detention. Some of the jobs that are open to prisoners are:

  • Preparation of food
  • Janitorial duties
  • Landscaping

Detained children can enroll in additional programs that cater to their particular needs on top of the fundamental ones DJJ offers. These initiatives comprise:

  • Advanced behavioral therapy
  • Sexual behavior therapy
  • Housing facilities for mental health
  • Programs for behavior treatment

If you are not a threat to your child while in a DJJ facility, you could be allowed to see them there. Every DJJ facility has rules that visitors must adhere to see a loved one being held there. These rules specify how often you can visit within a specific time frame, how many visitors are permitted per inmate, and what you can bring when you go.

The juvenile court judge decides how long your loved one will be in detention. Before they are transferred to a DJJ facility, the court will establish a maximum period. However, the sentence cannot exceed the total amount of time an adult offender can serve for the same crime. Judges in juvenile court can determine a term that is less than the maximum term for adults. However, a minimum period is typically optional.

The judge determines the maximum time a juvenile can be detained during the disposition hearing at the juvenile court. This is after considering both the nature of the crime and the juvenile's prior history of delinquency. The court must expunge your child's conviction for any crime not covered under California WIC 707(b) after two years in DJJ custody or when they turn 21 (whichever comes later). However, young offenders facing this punishment for a crime mentioned in WIC 707(b) could be released after two years or when they turn 23 (whichever comes later).

To that rule, there is one exception. If your child was convicted of a felony with a minimum seven-year sentence for an adult, they must be released after two years of detention or when they turn 25 (whichever comes later).

Remember that a juvenile who receives a sentence of three months or less cannot be sent to a DJJ facility.

Changing or Modifying a DJJ Disposition

The judge's ultimate decision in your child's case is typically not binding. If a juvenile court determines that a disposition does not serve your child's interests, it can be modified or changed. Your lawyer can apply to a juvenile court to change your child's commitment if the DJJ facility cannot accommodate their unique needs. The judge can alter the disposition if the court decides that the youngster is not gaining anything from the institution.

Keep in mind that judges in juvenile courts have a variety of disposition alternatives for juveniles who go through the juvenile justice system. These decisions are made by judges depending on the severity of the minor's behavior and their history of delinquency. Once it is determined that your child is not benefiting from DJJ, the judge can consider several more lenient dispositions. They consist of the following:

  • Informal probation is typically imposed on young offenders who have committed nonviolent offenses for the first time. Up to six months could pass during informal probation. However, the youngster must abide by the court's orders, which can include attending school, compensating the victim, adhering to a curfew, and enrolling in counseling.
  • Being placed in a juvenile camp can help a child develop better social and behavioral skills. It also serves to reunify the youngster with their family and help them reintegrate into their community.
  • Placement in a foster home — If the judge decides that the child's environment is not conducive to the minor's transformation, they can choose to remove the youngster from their family. If the family cannot satisfy the child's needs or removal from the house is necessary for the child's welfare and well-being, placement in foster care can occasionally be advised for chronic truants.

Find an Experienced Los Angeles Criminal Attorney Near Me

Is your child facing a disposition to the Division of Juvenile Justice in Los Angeles?

You need to be made aware of many issues about DJJ incarceration. However, a skilled criminal attorney can assist you in comprehending the implications for both you and your child, the potential length of their detention, and your legal choices. If your loved one's imprisonment is more severe, we could fight alongside you for a better outcome. Our attorneys have previously handled similar cases at the Los Angeles Criminal Attorney. As a result, we know the ideal approaches for better results. To find out more about our services, contact us at 424-333-0943.