The law treats young offenders differently from adult defendants. Also, the goal of the California juvenile system is rehabilitation, and your child can be placed on an informal probation program instead of serving time. However, that does not make the experience less stressful or easier, and you will likely have many questions. Your decisions and what you do could have a lasting effect on your child’s future, and making informed decisions require thorough legal analysis. Los Angeles Criminal Attorney can help you take the necessary steps to protect your child and their future. We can also advise you on what you should do, your rights, and your responsibilities.
Defining Juvenile Informal Diversion Program
When a minor child violates the law, the police will arrest them like any defendant. However, the arresting police officer determines what to do. If the officer believes the child committed an infraction, they will release the juvenile with stern warnings. And if the teenager committed a severe crime, the officer can send them to the juvenile hall, where the probation department handles their case.
The assigned probation officer should investigate the case. From their findings, they can either release the child, refer the matter to the prosecution team, or place the youth on an informal probation program.
California juvenile informal diversion allows the probation officer to informally supervise the teenager without requesting a petition to be brought by the prosecution. The supervision duration is six (6) months. The assigned probation officer should balance the interests of the community and the minor. California laws require the probation department to diligently place your child on informal probation.
Before placing a child on an informal probation program without bringing a petition, the probation department should consider the following factors:
- The alleged condition or behavior is serious
- Whether you and your child can settle the legal matter without court action
- Whether further evaluation or observation is required before deciding
- Your attitude or that of your minor
- The minor’s age, abilities, and maturity
- Whether the teenager has a criminal or dependency history
- Whether there exist recommendations for referring agencies or parties
- The attitude of alleged victims
- Existence of circumstances that show informal supervision could be instrumental for their community’s protection and the minor’s welfare
- Whether the teenager has challenges in the community, school, or home that indicate supervision will be desirable
Juvenile Informal Probation Conditions
Informal probation comes with terms. The probation department will evaluate the circumstances and nature of your child’s conduct and craft an agreement that you and your child should agree to comply with its terms. Your agreement should indicate that you and your son/daughter will:
- Engage in education, parenting, and counseling programs
- Acquire drugs use or addiction care and treatment
The agreement should indicate that you should follow these conditions. The juvenile informal diversion program aims to rehabilitate your child and create an environment that can help them change their conduct and learn from their mistakes, keeping them from criminal activity in the future.
The probation department should file the petition if your child fails to enroll in the program within sixty (60) days. Additionally, the probation officer can bring a petition for poor performance:
- within the informal probation duration, or
- within three months following the conclusion of the informal probation program.
Informal probation allows your child to avoid their sustained petition and its consequences. Consequently, as a guardian or parent, you should do whatever it takes to ensure your child completes their program, including hiring a defense lawyer.
What Happens If Your Child is On Informal Diversion and You Relocate to Another State?
Per the Interstate Compact for Juveniles (ICJ), all states should track young offenders from other states. Therefore, your new state will take over California’s role of supervising your child’s probation.
The ICJ also requires states to return runaways and escaped juvenile delinquents to their home states.
Informal Diversion After Probation Department Files a Petition
Typically, the probation department will refer your child’s case to the prosecution for bringing but recommends granting them informal diversion. The court makes the decision based on evidence of the minor’s future welfare and present conditions.
Please note that the judge can order informal probation despite the probation department or prosecutor’s objection.
If the judge grants probation, the case will continue for six (6) months. You, the parent or guardian, should agree to engage in all required educational and counseling programs. The juvenile does not need to admit their petition is accurate.
Driving Under the Influence Crimes in California Juvenile Court System
If your child is charged with driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or a controlled substance, they should enroll in a drug education and treatment program.
However, the informal probation program does not defend your child from the California Department of Motor Vehicles’ consequences of DUI charges. The law is stringent regarding license points for young motorists on the road. Two points within twelve months can result in a thirty-day restricted license. On the other hand, three points in twelve months can lead to a suspended license.
Whether your child turns eighteen during the suspended or restricted period does not matter. The penalty continues for the entire duration.
What Occurs After Your Child Completes Their Informal Probation
After completing the informal diversion program, your child should return to court. Fifteen days before the probation's conclusion, the probation department will present a report to the juvenile court about the youth’s performance.
The juvenile judge will dismiss their petition if your son/daughter has completed informal probation. If their performance is unsatisfactory, the judge can extend their probation. And if your child has not completed probation, the proceedings on their petition will resume.
The judge has a year after the prosecutor brought the petition to restart delinquency proceedings.
Informal Probation and California Felony Criminal Charges
The judge should determine some juvenile delinquency cases. The probation department will defer the case to the district attorney (D.A.) for filing. If the alleged crime is severe and the victims seek justice, the young defendant should face the California juvenile court system. A teenager charged with a California felony when they are at least fourteen cannot be granted informal probation except in unusual cases.
Per Welfare and Institutions Code 654.3, the juvenile judge can:
- Find an unusual case where the interests of justice would be served best, and
- Highlight on the record the reasons for their decision
Even if your child committed a California felony, the judge should find unusual circumstances. Informal probation is a better legal option for the juvenile than the deferred entry of judgment under WIC 790 because:
- Your child does not have to admit their crime
- The probation duration is shorter
- Your child can contest the case if informal diversion performance is unsatisfactory.
- Informal probation conditions are more lenient.
Assume your 12-year-old daughter is arrested for vandalism alongside other minors. Violating vandalism laws is a serious crime, and court intervention is required. The court should find unusual circumstances, allowing informal probation placement. The judge can argue that the child was arrested with other juveniles who were older than her. Hence, they deserve another chance in their lives.
Sealing Your Child’s Criminal Record
When the judge grants a petition to seal your child’s records per WIC 718, it closes the file, so the documents in it cease to be public records. The rationale for sealing the criminal record is to alleviate the stigma associated with criminal charges. Therefore, the child can answer “no” whenever asked if they were ever arrested, have a criminal history, or have a sealed record.
A juvenile record includes all court records and reports involving juvenile criminal activity, including:
- Arrest reports
- Probation reports
- Judge’s rulings and findings
Some of the advantages of sealing your child’s juvenile record include the following:
- The minor can claim that they do not have a criminal history, opening doors for a loan, educational, licensing, and employment opportunities
- Potential employers cannot inquire about or discriminate against your child for having a sealed juvenile criminal record.
- It gives your child an opportunity to have a second chance since their childish mistakes will not haunt them.
Your child qualifies for juvenile records sealing if every statement below is correct:
- They are now at least eighteen years or the court terminated the jurisdiction more than five years ago
- They were not charged as an adult with a crime involving moral turpitude
- The judge believes your child has been rehabilitated
- There are no pending civil litigation stemming from the juvenile incidents
However, your child does not qualify to have the juvenile records sealed if they were at least fourteen when charged with a crime highlighted in Welfare and Institutions Code 707(b), including:
- Murder (PC 187)
- Arson (PC 451)
- Robbery (PC 211)
- Carjacking (PC 215)
- Sex offenses
- Firearm crimes
- Torture (PC 206)
Sealing Your Child’s Record When They Were Not Convicted
PC 851.7 also addresses other eligible individuals to have their juvenile records sealed. If, while below 18, your son/daughter was charged with a misdemeanor and
- they were released due to insufficient evidence,
- the criminal charges against them were dismissed, or they were charged without a conviction, or
- they were acquitted of their charges,
then they can file a petition to seal their juvenile records at any time. It is not necessary that five (5) years have passed since the juvenile court’s jurisdiction or the juvenile has turned eighteen
Sealing Juvenile Criminal Records Process
Typically, the criminal record sealing process under WIC 781 takes up to ten (10) months. You should file the petition in the county where their proceedings occurred.
Your child does not need to go to court. A criminal defense lawyer can show up on their behalf. Nevertheless, the judge can interview them in person.
After the attorney brings your petition, the judge will schedule a hearing. At the court hearing, the judge will review the petition and proof presented by:
- Your child
- The D.A.
- Probation officer
After reviewing the details, the judge can either grant or deny the petition. If the judge grants the petition, they will send a copy of a court order to every agency that has or can access the records, requiring them to seal and destroy them. If the court denies the petition, you can try later.
To ensure the judge grants the petition, you should engage a lawyer who is experienced and knowledgeable about the California delinquency court system.
Why You Need a Juvenile Delinquency Defense Attorney
One of the scariest things for any guardian or parent is having their child arrested for a crime. California's delinquency court system is full of complicated procedures and terms. That is why it is essential to seek skilled legal representation.
However, not any lawyer will do. The juvenile criminal law system differs significantly from the adult system, making it crucial to retain an attorney familiar with juvenile laws.
The attorney understands the importance of negotiating and collaborating with the probation department, prosecutor, and judge. They can ensure your minor child can access the resources required to get their life back on track.
You will have different questions about what happens during the informal probation and how the alleged crime will affect your child’s future. Your lawyer should answer your questions and address your concerns, providing peace of mind.
While you want what is best for your child, you might need a deeper understanding of the laws. The lawyer can balance their knowledge and expertise of the law with your family’s interests. It allows them to advise you on the available legal options and fight for your child’s rights.
Finally, the attorney should fight the criminal charges by addressing the allegations’ specifics. The defense counsel should conduct thorough investigations into the case for evidence like witnesses, medical records, text messages, and surveillance videos. The prosecution should prove the juvenile delinquent beyond a reasonable doubt. The judge should dismiss the case if your lawyer can prove that the prosecution’s evidence is unreliable or inadequate to support the informal diversion.
What to Do When Your Child is Arrested
Receiving a call from law enforcement that your minor child has been arrested is a gut-wrenching moment for you as a parent. Educating yourself and your child on the steps to take can be handy.
Understand that Your Son/Daughter is Not an Angel
Even a good person can make mistakes. Your baby might be in the wrong place with the wrong people at the wrong time. Sometimes children engage in things out of character, or people mistake their children’s character.
Know that Police Officers are Not Your Friends and Do Not Have Your Child’s Best Interest
After arresting your child, the police will use various tactics and tricks to get you or your child to admit to violating the law. You should know these tactics and how to protect yourself so you do not make incriminating statements that can make it challenging for your defense attorney to defend your child. They include:
Law enforcement officers are permitted to lie to you and your child. If you believe them and confess, they can use your statement against the minor. Some of the false statements they use include:
- They have evidence against your child
- They can claim that the prosecution can file severe charges against your child if you fail to speak with them.
- They can promise to reduce the criminal charges if you confess
- They can threaten to arrest your family members and incriminate them
The police can also intimidate you emotionally and verbally. They can also keep your child in an interrogation room for many hours, wearing them down until they confess.
Do Not Play an Attorney
If the law enforcers are questioning your teenager, you should know that they are under police investigation for an offense. Resist the temptation to play a lawyer.
Typically, parents hurt their children’s cases by inadvertently waiving their constitutional rights. As a parent, you are likely to convince your child to make incriminating statements or tell them to tell the truth. Consequently, your son/daughter will likely say anything to please you or the law enforcement officers or end the process.
That is why you should engage a lawyer and allow them to handle all communication with the police and probation officers.
Encourage Your Child to Cooperate and be Respect
When urging your child to be respectful and cooperative, cover the following:
- Avoid calling law enforcers names. Instead, be courteous, polite, and respectful.
- Be calm. Do not think the situation is worse or better than it is or jump to conclusions.
- If the police inquire about your name, phone number, or address for identification, provide the details. However, if the police ask for more information, advise your child to politely tell the police that they cannot speak without their lawyer present.
Parental Rights and Responsibilities
You have rights as the parent of a child placed in the California juvenile delinquency system. They include:
The Police Should Notify You of Your Baby’s Arrest
The police will take your child to juvenile hall following their arrest. The arresting police officer should inform you of the juvenile’s arrest. Not seeing the child at home or school while you do not know their whereabouts can be devastating and overwhelming. Knowing about the arrest prompts you to search for and explore legal solutions, like hiring a defense lawyer.
While you are not entitled to be present during the interrogations, you can advise the youth to remain silent and exercise their Miranda rights.
You can also visit your teenager while in detention. However, your visit is not confidential; the interrogation room has surveillance cameras that record conversations. Resist the urge to inquire more about the alleged crime. Seek legal advice before visiting the child.
Right to Know Your Child’s Rights
The United States Constitution protects the privileges and rights of suspects and defendants of different ages, irrespective of the alleged crime. As a guardian or parent, you should know the juvenile’s rights.
The juvenile child could be confused and shocked and is likely to incriminate themselves when talking to the police. If you understand the juvenile’s rights, you can ensure the minor’s rights are observed and advise them accordingly.
These constitutional rights include:
- The police should have probable cause before searching or arresting the minor
- If your minor is detained, the law permits them to contact you. The law enforcer violates the Miranda right when they deny a child phone calls.
- The police should advise your child about their criminal charges
- The minor is entitled to examine the plaintiff’s witnesses
An Entitlement to Attend Court Proceedings
If your child is placed in an informal diversion program, the court will hold a review hearing after six (6) months. The review is to track the child’s rehabilitation progress and know how you are helping them adhere to probation conditions. You should not miss the hearings since you are entitled to attend, and your presence supports the juvenile.
You Have the Right to Inspect the Child’s Probation Records
Penal Code 5.552 allows you to view your teenage child’s probation records and files. You can file a petition with the court to allow you to access and review the case files together with a defense lawyer. In your petition, you should explain why you should access these case files, the files you want to access, their relationship with the criminal charges, and your responsibility in their case.
The judge will review the application and determine if you can review these files. If you show good cause, the judge will allow you to access these documents.
Find an Experienced Juvenile Delinquency Defense Attorney Near Me
Defending and handling your child’s criminal allegations is not easy due to the complicated nature of California’s juvenile delinquency laws. Much expertise is needed to help your child protect their rights, freedom, and future and seek alternative options and solutions like informal probation. Due to these challenges, you should consult a skilled legal defense attorney.
At Los Angeles Criminal Attorney, we understand how frustrating the process can be. We can stand up for your child’s future, build a strong defense in the case, and ensure you are well-informed throughout the process. Do not hesitate to contact us at 424-333-0943 for a no-obligation case review.