PLEASE NOTE: To protect your safety in response to the threats of COVID-19, we are offering our clients the ability to meet with us in person, via telephone or through video conferencing. Please call our office to discuss your options.

Juvenile Delinquency

When handling juvenile cases, the California court follows a different procedure from the one used in adult criminal cases. Every state has a unique juvenile court system for juveniles who engage in illegal activities. Even though some courts judge minors to be delinquent, everyone that plays a part in a juvenile case, including the judges, prosecutors, and police officers, have broad discretion to create other consequences.

Juvenile cases can be complex to handle, which is why you should reach out to an experienced juvenile attorney if your child has been arrested. Our qualified attorneys at Leah Legal are willing to help you fight for the rights of your child. Reach out to us today if you are in Van Nuys, and we will guide you through the entire process.

Factors Contributing to Juvenile Delinquency

Certain factors lead to minor's involvement in illegal activities. They include:

  • Peer pressure
  • Violence in their social circles
  • Poor standards of education
  • Poor school attendance
  • Violence at home
  • Poor moral guidance
  • Alcohol or drugs abuse
  • Socioeconomic factors

Parents and caregivers must guide the minors from an early stage as some of these factors could have long-lasting impacts on the minor's life.

The Background of Juvenile Representation

In California, juvenile systems follow different ruling procedures from the adult systems, but that does not make juvenile cases simpler.

After a juvenile offender has been arrested, he/she stays in police custody until a detention hearing is organized(usually done within the first 72 hours). Even if they are not detained, the detention hearing must also be done within 72 hours. After the hearing, the offender can request another hearing (individually or through his/her attorney) to challenge the charge's efficiency. It should be done within three days.

Depending on the charge, additional hearings would be considered to:

  • Examine the evidence
  • Determine the duration the juvenile will be detained
  • Determine if the minor will be detained
  • Consider jurisdiction matter

Some courts may choose to:

  • Guide the juvenile offender to legal guardianship
  • Put the offender on an adoption plan.
  • The rights of the offender's parents may also be invalidated.

Type of Juvenile Crimes In California

Some of the common juvenile cases in California include:

  • Vandalism — keying cars and cutting auto tires, tagging, graffiti, or drawing on public toilet walls.
  • Alcohol-related offenses — Some of the crimes related to alcohol are Underage purchase or possession of alcohol, Consumption of alcohol by underages, Giving alcohol to underages, or if the underage was found in a public area with an open alcohol container.
  • Theft/ larceny — shoplifting, stealing from backpacks and lockers, or stealing a bicycle.
  • Disorderly conducts — Some of these conducts include, Fighting in a public place, cursing a teacher, flashing, mooning, or indecent exposure.
  • Possession of Marijuana — using marijuana in a public area or having a small amount of marijuana is also considered a severe crime in California.
  • Battery/ simple Assault — shoving a person, bullying resulting in an assault, a physical disagreement between a child or a parent
  • Traffic Violations —not wearing a seatbelt or wearing it wrongly, over speeding, riding behind a truck.
  • Tobacco Offenses — Illegal purchase of tobacco, using tobacco in school, or giving youths tobacco.

However, for some cases, the California juvenile grants rehabilitation of the juvenile offenders instead of imprisonment.  But for some cases, depending on the age of the offender and their criminal history, the judges may seek harsh penalties. In a minor's case, the judge makes the final judgment since there is no jury. Most judges make their decisions based on:

  • The flight risks
  • The offender’s criminal history
  • The nature of the crime

Following the detention hearing, the case moves to a fitness hearing, which takes place in the juvenile court.

Fitness Hearing

The prosecutor is likely to petition for a fitness hearing depending on the severity of the case. At the fitness hearing, the judge determines whether the offender will be tried with the juvenile system or the adult system. The severity of the crime and the offender's age are factors that the judge will look into.

If the judge decides that your child will not benefit from the juvenile court’s rehabilitation, he/she is taken to an adult court.

Explanation of The 602 Proceeding

In California, if any child below 18 years is arrested for committing a crime, they should be taken to juvenile court, according to The California Welfare and Institution Code Unit 602. It is also called "the 602 proceedings".

There is no guilty or not guilty rule; if based on the evidence presented, the judge decides that you are guilty of the crime, he/she will check the district attorney's petition.

According to Senate Bill 439, only a minor below 12 years can be tried under the juvenile court system. However, it is used in cases where the offender juvenile has:

  • Has been involved in oral copulation by either duress, fear, or violence
  • Acted in sexual penetration by fear of injury, violence, forces, duress, or menace
  • Committed murder
  • Was involved in sodomy by either force, violence, duress, menace, or fear of injury

The Difference Between an Adult Criminal Court and a Juvenile Court

The adult criminal courts and the juvenile court systems have a few differences. As per the juvenile court systems, adults who have committed a crime are very different from the juveniles who have committed a crime. They believe that even though the youth has committed an offense, they should be handled differently from adult offenders.

The most common differences include:

  • The cases are presented to the judge, and the prosecutors present the evidence to be ruled upon. In both courts, there is a defense attorney who defends the juveniles. However, the juvenile court has no jury. It is the responsibility of a presiding judge to decide if you are guilty of committing the crime or not.
  • In the juvenile court, if the judge decides that the juvenile is guilty, he/she supports the petition filed by the district attorney. Instead of sentencing the minor, the judge recommends dispositions like local home probation, Welfare, and Institution code 725 formal, and code 654.

Juvenile Crimes Tried as Adult Cases

As per California law, certain offenses lead the minors automatically to an adult court.

These crimes are noted on the California Welfare and Institutions in section 707(b). Some of them are:

  • Kidnapping
  • Robbery
  • Murder
  • Forceful rape
  • Forcing oral or sodomy copulation
  • Carjacking
  • Arson causing severe harm
  • Assault using fire
  • Attempted murder
  • Forcing Lewd and lascivious acts on minor below 14 years
  • Disposing of a gun in a residential apartment that is occupied
  • Voluntary manslaughter

The prosecutor can either file the offenses direct to the adult court or appeal for a fitness hearing and let the judge make a decision.

Penalties For Juvenile Crimes

In California, the juvenile criminal law applies only to juveniles between 12 to 17 years who have committed an offense. In other cases, it could also be used for adults between 18 to 22 years.

What Happens to Offenders Below 12 Years?

 In California, children under 12 years are not prosecuted. If a child below 12 years commits a crime, the parents are urged to guide them or send them to a youth care counseling center for professional guidance. If the child fails to change his/her behaviors after the counseling, a family member is appointed by the court to supervise the child.

The Halt Juvenile Crime Prevention Program

This program is meant for minors who commit minor offenses. The program gives them a chance to correct their evil ways and be better people. If they complete the halt program and pay for all the damages they caused and apologize to the victims, their criminal records will be cleared.

However, if they fail to attend the HALT program or fail to complete it, their case risk is forwarded to the public prosecutor and prosecuted.

Alternative Sanctions

They comprise a training program, community services/unpaid work, or the orders combined. During these sanctions, the Child Protection Board supervises the juveniles.

Youths Detention

The detention of youths occurs in a young offenders' Institution. For the minors sentenced to youth detention and are between 12and 15 years, they are convicted for one year, and juveniles between 16 and 17 years are convicted for a maximum of two years.

Youth Protection and Custody Order

Juveniles with behavioral disorders require intensive treatment and counseling to help them not fall back to their old destructive behaviors. A "PPIJorder" is established, and the juvenile is put in a youth protection and custody center.

The PIJ order runs for three years, but it can be pushed to up to 7 years in some cases. However, during their last year of a PIJ order, juveniles can have the order lifted but be closely monitored by the probation services.

Overnight Detention

It is a type of provisional detention. Students are detained at night in these kinds of custody and allowed to attend school during the day or attend classes in a young offender's center. It will enable the minor to participate in school or work.

Behavioral Program Order

If the suspended sentence is witty, and the custodial sentence appears harsh, the minor is likely to be put under a behavioral program (GBM). This program comprises training courses on refraining from drugs and alcohol and treatment sessions. The youth probation services are responsible for monitoring this order.

Other Juvenile Penalties and the Non-punitive Orders

Additional penalties and non-putative orders include:

  • Payment and fines on damages caused
  • Blended sentence — JUveniles are convicted in a juvenile facility until they turn 18 years after being taken to an adult jail.
  • Confiscation of property and goods that were acquired illegally
  • Adult jail — If your child committed serious offenses, he/she could be detained in a county jail or state prison.

Juvenile Probation

Your child could be put on informal probation depending on the nature of their case under the "California Welfare and Institution code 654." If your child is placed on informal probation, it means that they do not accept the wrongdoing.

If the juvenile completes the probation program, their charges will be dismissed. Even if your child has a specified ward in the court, he/she could still be allowed to undergo probation from home.  Some of the terms for the informal probation program include:

  • Removal of any graffiti
  • Community service
  • Curfews
  • Restitution to the victim
  • Substance abuse counseling
  • Mandatory school attendance
  • Restrictions on the people they are supposed to hang around

If you want to understand these terms better, you can contact our law firm to offer free consultations.

Constitutional Rights For The Accused Juveniles

Although juvenile cases in California are held in civil courts and not the criminal courts, juveniles are still entitled to several constitutional rights. In the criminal justice system, youths share the same rights as adults. These rights are:

  • Right to notice charges — As a juvenile, you have the right to know the charges you are being tried for.
  • Probable cause to arrest — The police must have a possible reason when charging you with various reasons, but officials with a "quasi-parental relationship" like the school officials only need a reasonable suspicion to detain the juvenile rather than a probable cause.
  • The right to make a call — If a juvenile is in police custody and is likely to be detained for longer, he/she has the right to make a phone call. They can call their parents or guardians, who will later reach out to a defense attorney on their behalf. The minor can also decide to reach out to the defense attorney by themselves.
  • Right to counsel — If the minor or his/her guardian cannot afford to pay the attorney fee, the state is supposed to appoint a lawyer for the minor.
  • Right to confront and cross-examine the witness — As the juvenile, you have the right to challenge testimonies presented by the witnesses through your lawyer. There is no limitation on the number of questions you are supposed to ask, so you can ask as many questions as you wish, but the questions have to be related to the incident/case.
  • Right to seek bail — You have the right to seek bail even though most juveniles are set free before the arraignment.
  • Right to have charges fully proved — If a juvenile is charged with incarceration or adjudication, the U.S supreme court states that the state must prove these charges "beyond a reasonable doubt." However, if the juvenile is charged with other charges, the government only needs to prove by "preponderance evidence."
  • No right to jury trials — In California, Juvenile delinquency cases do not allow jury trials apart from a few exceptional circumstances.
  • Self-incrimination privilege — Juveniles are not supposed to testify against themselves involuntarily during the juvenile proceedings.

The Juvenile Court Process

The arrest of the juvenile offender is the first step of the juvenile court process. At times, the police may decide to use a simple reprimand and release the minor after a few hours. In other cases, the minor offender is taken to the county probation department, resulting in filing a petition against the minor and the offender's detention in the juvenile hall. Several hearings happen in the California juvenile court. They include:

  • Adjudication hearing — The judge looks at the district attorney's evidence and concludes if the juvenile committed the crime.
  • Detention hearing — If the minor has been detained for over two days, the judge determines if the minor stays in custody or if he/she should be set free.
  • Disposition hearing — If the juvenile offender is found guilty of committing the crime, the arrangement of a disposition hearing begins. A disposition hearing is also the sentencing.
  • There is also an arraignment for minors in custody.
  • Transfer hearing which mainly involves offenses listed on 707(B)

In each of the mentioned hearings, the California law issues the timeline and procedures included.

However, your defense attorney and the prosecutor could reach an agreement and move directly to the disposition at each stage. There could be one or multiple red-herrings if errors occur at any stage.

As a parent, you are allowed to attend all the court hearings.

Sealing of Juvenile Records

After completing the juvenile crime sentence and turning 18 years, your child has the right to file a petition with the court to destroy his/her conviction records. For the petition to be granted, the court will look at the crime committed and how long it has been since committing the crime. The juvenile crime records could hinder your child from great future opportunities; that is why it is vital to have his/her criminal records destroyed.

Find a Juvenile Attorney Near Me

As a parent, the detention of your child not only affects his/her life, but it could also affect his/her future as well as their mental stability.  Reaching out to a skilled and experienced attorney could be the best alternative following the arrest of your minor. A Juvenile attorney can help with dismissing your child's case and having their criminal records erased. Leah Legal has dedicated attorneys ready to help you fight for your child's freedom. Contact us today at 818-484-1100 if you are in the Van Nuys area.