When your child or an immediate minor faces arrest for Juvenile delinquency, you may receive directives for a Juvenile Delinquency court hearing. As a parent or guardian, you may be unfamiliar with the operations in a Juvenile court, primarily if your child is facing a first offense. Consequently, you will encounter several different requirements and guidelines, including varying sentencing policies. Learning the course of action that your child is set to undertake after an arrest is necessary, primarily because you can prepare your child as the parent. In return, the minor will be more relaxed and prepared to proceed without having too much anxiety on subsequent court visits.
Despite this, the new information may overwhelm you without prior experience, as you try to keep up with deadlines and submit other vital information. Therefore, you need an experienced attorney specializing in Juvenile Delinquency cases to support you throughout the minor's case. With your lawyer's guidance, you will learn of the different processes available in the Juvenile court to prepare adequately. At Los Angeles Criminal Attorney, we provide exceptional legal services to our Los Angeles, California clients. Over the years, we have established strong relationships with different people, thanks to our lawyers' highly trained and supportive team.
The Nature of a Juvenile Delinquency Court
Like other criminal courts, a Juvenile Delinquency court has the mandate to handle felony and misdemeanor cases. The distinguishing factor that makes a Juvenile court is that it predominantly handles criminal offenses committed by minors. With exclusive functions, the judicial system makes distinctions between a minor and adult's case from the onset to avoid mixing up different criteria.
Moreover, Juvenile Delinquency courts listen to status offense cases committed by minors. A state offense in Juvenile court will only involve criminal cases like committing truancy from learning institutions or violating set curfews. Hence, a Juvenile court cannot handle additional state offenses that fall outside the illegal category.
The civil law system is the establishing structure that provides for Juvenile courts. Hence, all matters fall under adjudication headed by a judge, not juries, as is the case with other courts. Apart from the judge, a typical criminal Juvenile trial consists of a district attorney and a prosecutor to follow through with the proceedings.
It is important to note that Juvenile court proceedings are not open to public access, as they involve minors who are a particular group of people. Therefore, you can expect confidentiality during the case hearings and trial to shield the minor from additional scrutiny or prejudice from other community members.
If your case involves controversial offenses that attract media attention, you can seek additional protection of information from the judge and prosecutor. In return, only approved case details will be available for the curious members of the public.
The Juvenile Delinquency Court Jurisdiction
Establishing the group of minors eligible for a trial process in a Juvenile court is essential for a proper case process. Hence, it would be best to understand the category of children whose cases fall in Juvenile courts and when the issue may shift to a different jurisdiction.
Section 602 of the California Welfare and Institutions Code confers Juvenile courts with the jurisdiction to handle offenses by minors between twelve to seventeen years, although some exceptions apply. Such exclusions include hearing cases for children under twelve years in particular circumstances of the case.
On top of this, where a minor within the specified age group commits an offense but does not face trial until later, he/she will still undergo the Juvenile court system. The time-lapse that makes the minor surpass the age limit jurisdiction will be a factor considered by the presiding judge in allowing the matter to proceed in Juvenile Delinquency court.
Despite the existing jurisdiction on minors, a Juvenile court may transfer a case to an adult court. The circumstances determining such moves require that a minor commits grave offenses capable of trial in regular adult courts. Hence, when the judge receives a file and determines that the case's circumstances are too advanced for a Juvenile court trial, he/she will schedule a transfer hearing to move the case.
Some of the factors for consideration before having a case transferred to an adult section court include:
The Type of Crime Committed by the Minor
Normal expectations on minors would see them get in trouble for small offenses like petty theft, among other non-controversial issues. Hence, when a person below eighteen years engages in more severe violations causing severe harm or injury to the crime victims, he/she may face regular charges in an adult court. The rationale behind such a transfer is that the minor was involved in severe atrocities, such that even the Juvenile Delinquency penalties will be insufficient for the crime.
California Welfare and Institutions Code list all the offenses that qualify a minor to face trial in an adult court. Some of the crimes include:
Kidnapping and Demanding Ransom
When a young defendant acts alone or in a group to kidnap crime victims and demand ransom in exchange for their release, the offense creates additional factors that should be tried in a separate court. Moreover, the case facts will provide further information on the offense's circumstances, including whether the minor in question hurt the crime victim. If so, you(the minor) may receive more severe penalties.
Since murder falls under capital offenses, minors who get involved in killing others will face the same trial system as adults. The graveness of the crime leaves little room to negotiate more lenient court trial processes. As a result, the transfer hearing will end in an affirmative transfer. Please note that murder trials in regular courts may attract severe penalties that include long sentences and life imprisonment.
Similarly, attempted murder is considered a severe offense is leading to a case transfer from Juvenile Delinquency courts to ordinary adult courts. The difference between attempted murder and murder is that the crime victim may not succumb to harm. Nevertheless, it is a triable offense, especially if the prosecutor proves criminal intention.
Rape Using Force and Violence
If a minor is involved in rape accompanied by violence, threats of power, and undue force on the victim, he/she will also face a case transfer. Here, the severity of the crime is the considering factor, mainly because of its overpowering nature.
Additional crimes that lead to transfers are:
- Voluntary manslaughter
- Forced oral copulation
- Arson leading to grievous bodily harm
The Minor's Past Delinquency Cases
Apart from considering the type of offense committed, the judge will also check past illegalities linked to the minor. The background check works similarly to an adult criminal record search, whereby past violations will determine whether a defendant faces a more severe trial process and penalties for past offenses. Hence, if you have faced punishment for past criminal crimes, your case will likely undergo a transfer to an adult court.
The Results of Past Rehabilitation Activities on the Minor
The Juvenile Delinquency court also finds it necessary to analyze the success or failure of past rehabilitative orders issued to a minor. In this case, the minor will have undergone previous Delinquency charges that resulted in several court directives.
Subsequently, if the minor completed the rehabilitative process successfully, he/she can present the matter to the Juvenile Delinquency court and have it retain jurisdiction over the matter. Conversely, if the minor continually violated probation orders or had difficulty cooperating with the probationary supervisors, the court may deliberate and settle on moving the current matter to an adult court.
The Level of Advancement in Committing a Crime
Where investigations reveal that you included highly sophisticated activities in committing unlawful actions, the case will not proceed in Juvenile court. For example, utilizing advanced vehicle trackers to identify cars for your carjacking offense may drive the judge to consider your offense's sophistication. Consequently, you will be answerable to criminal charges in adult court, where you will have to explain how you accessed such tools to effect the illegal action.
Moreover, where there is suspicion of your involvement in gang activities, the prosecutor can collect reports from investigators to reveal how you participated in highly organized crimes. If you face a joint trial, you may undergo criminal proceedings with your counterparts in the adult court jurisdiction.
The Juvenile Delinquency Court Process
The legal system provides procedures to guide the apprehension and trial of minors. When using the set procedures, children can undergo a fair trial system that does not undermine their rights as particular groups of citizens.
Thus, it would be beneficial to learn of the processes you can expect to undertake after the arrest. The information will also help let you know when there is a compromise in procedural fairness so that you can raise valid concerns.
Arrest or Delivery to a Probational Facility
All criminal cases begin with a suspect's arrest at the scene of a crime or after comprehensive investigations reveal engagements in illegal activities. Hence, a minor may face arrest and get into police custody until further directives ensue.
Alternatively, the minor may be presented to a probation department whereby the relevant officials will detain him/her in a Juvenile court until the next court process ensues. During the arrest process, officers should follow the usual protocol and inform the minor of the arrest's reason. They should also state the minor's right to remain silent to prevent his/her words amounting to evidence.
Filing a Court Petition
Once the minor is in the custody of proper authorities, the prosecutor must file a valid court petition that includes the suspect's charges. Usually, the petition consists of the charges pressed against the minor and the violations that he/she committed.
The prosecutor must also file a valid petition within a reasonable period to prevent a delay in the case. Hence, as a parent/guardian, you can work with a defense attorney to follow up with the prosecutor. Doing so will keep the prosecution team on their toes to help proceed with other trials on time.
If the filed petition meets all the requirements, the judge will proceed to sustain it, meaning that the matter can move forward to a possible hearing. The systems in a Juvenile Delinquency court allow the case to continue after the judge approves, meaning that the minor will receive additional information after the prosecutor files the petition.
Hearings on the Minor's Detention
Once the judge accepts the petition, other hearings may begin based on the circumstances after the arrest. If police arrested the minor and detained him/her in their facility, there will be a detention hearing to determine release requirements.
During this hearing, the minor will have a lawyer present to help present statements on why the judge should release him/her pending trial. For example, the minor may include the need to continue going to school as the primary reason for the release.
The judge will also provide the guidelines he/she expects the minor to follow after release from detention. The main rules to adhere to are making appearances in court when required and paying the set monetary amounts before release. If the minor is compliant with all the regulations and requirements, the presiding judge will order release from the detention center.
An arraignment in Juvenile Delinquency Court
After release from detention, the case then moves to court arraignment. However, a minor may also proceed directly to the court arraignment if he/she did not face arrest for the alleged offense. The hearing is brief and involves the judge reading out the charged offenses to the minor.
During the arraignment, the minor will also learn of the different options regarding the case. In a Juvenile Delinquency matter, pleas of "guilty" or "not guilty" are not applicable, so technically, the minor cannot take a plea. Instead, he/she will proceed to have the prosecutor prove the involvement in criminal activities beyond a reasonable doubt.
The Holding of Transfer Hearings
If the minor's case involves any of the factors that provide a transfer to an adult court jurisdiction, the judge scheduled a transfer hearing. During the proceedings, the judge will analyze the case's circumstances to determine whether it qualifies for transfer.
Often, the severity of circumstances will push the matter to a different court, primarily if the minor engaged in any of the crimes listed under section 707(b) of the California Welfare and Institutions Code. Furthermore, the minor's previous history and level of criminal engagement matter in determining whether to transfer the case.
The Trial Proceedings
After all, matters are in place; the case trial can then begin. Procedures that apply in regular courts will also work in a Juvenile Delinquency court to promote a fair judicial trial process. For example, the burden of proof should remain on the prosecutor to show that the minor engaged in all crime elements relevant to the charges.
Hence, the prosecutor must prove the minor's guilty beyond a reasonable doubt before the judge issues any further directives. To do this, he/she will rely on various sources of evidence that place all criminal liability on the minor. For example, there may be witnesses present to testify against the child. Additionally, police reports, surveillance footage, and forensic evidence like fingerprints are admissible to prove the minor's guilty intentions and unlawful actions.
The Disposition Hearing
When handling cases in Juvenile courts, the judge's verdict is known as a disposition, not sentencing, as in ordinary courts. Hence, the minor will know his/her case outcome during the disposition hearing. If the judge accepts the prosecutor's claims and determines that the proof presented showed guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the minor will face some consequences.
Disposition Orders Issued to Minors
Minors found to have engaged in unlawful activities are subject to different orders that vary depending on case circumstances. However, the underlying factor in all the charges is to rehabilitate the minor and prevent a recurrence of criminal offenses in the future. Standard disposition orders include:
Undergoing Formal or Informal Probation
When a minor receives formal probation orders, he/she will face restrictions that only allow movement from home to school and back. Moreover, he/she will be under strict scrutiny when in both locations and will.have to comply with set rules.
At the end of the formal probation, the assigned supervisor will prepare a report in court. The presiding judge will only close the minor's case if he/she complied with all guidelines and probation requirements.
Alternatively, information probations are less restrictive on the minor. In this case, the probation period provides various regulations that allow the minor a bit of extra freedom. However, the minor must follow the guidelines or risk facing more severe penalties.
Deferred Judgement Entry
A judge may also guide a minor to take up a deferred entry of judgment. In the situation, all the minor has to do is admit to committing the charged offense. In return, the judge will dismiss all charges, meaning that the minor's record will show a closed case. The deferred entry of judgment is a proper order, although it is necessary to remember that the minor's record may still show the charges even after the case dismissal.
Checking Into a Division of Juvenile Justice (California Youth Authority(CYA)
Moreover, the minor may receive orders to check into a CYA facility that houses different minors. In such an institution, the minor will undergo rehabilitation to prevent him/her from engaging in subsequent offenses.
The CYA rehabilitation program aims to provide corrective instead of punitive remedies for the minors, which should be a more constructive approach. Thus, they will receive medical treatment, education, and additional mental health services for those with other needs.
Issuing of Sanctions
Lastly, the judge can issue additional punitive penalties in aggravated Juvenile cases. The sanctions are mostly issued hand in hand with rehabilitative orders to balance the process out. Some possible sanctions include:
- Community service
- Paying fines
- Taking mandatory victim impact classes
Find a Criminal Attorney Near Me
When your child is facing criminal charges, you will have challenging situations, especially without legal assistance as a parent or guardian. With the help of an experienced criminal lawyer, you can understand the processes that the minor is set to meet and prepare adequately for them. At Los Angeles Criminal Attorney, we pride ourselves in providing excellent legal services for our Los Angeles clients. If you or someone you are close to has a minor currently facing criminal charges, call us at 424-333-0943.