Some minors may go through mischievous phases that sometimes cross the line and become criminal behavior punishable by law. When police arrest your child for any alleged delinquent act, you must act quickly to protect his/her rights because the potential consequences of a sustained juvenile petition against him/her in California can harm his/her future.
The California juvenile justice system is lenient to minors because it focuses on rehabilitating the juveniles instead of imprisoning them like in the adult justice system. Although the possible sentences (disposition) a minor can face are not stringent, a sustained juvenile petition can have a significant impact on your child's future, even as an adult.
When you receive a notice or a call that your child is in police custody for whichever delinquent act, we invite you to reach us at Leah Legal, wherever you are in Van Nuys. Our attorneys are understanding and can protect your child's rights and interests during these challenging moments to dismiss or reduce the alleged charges against him/her.
An Overview of California Juvenile Delinquency
Sometimes even childs can run afoul of the law and face the criminal justice system, which is different from that of adults in many ways. Notably, juvenile justice system legal terms are also different from those of the adult justice system.
For instance, in a juvenile court, the judge does not find the defendant (minor) guilty. Instead, the judge "sustains the petitions" submitted by the district attorney. Other terms that you will often hear in a juvenile court include:
- "Disposition" instead of a "sentence."
- "Adjudication hearing" instead of a "trial."
- "Delinquent act" instead of a crime
- "Juvenile delinquent" instead of "offender."
Juvenile delinquency is typically an act of engaging in illegal behavior as a minor or an individual below the majority's statutory age, which is eighteen years. Any person who is above eighteen years of age goes through the normal adult justice system.
Your child might engage in a delinquent act unknowingly or due to peer pressure from a group of friends with mischievous traits. When that happens, the police may take the child to a juvenile court or not, depending on the alleged delinquent act's seriousness. Typically, police officers in California have the following options after arresting your child:
- Detain him/her for a while, warn about the repercussions of committing the alleged delinquent before releasing him/her
- Detain and hold him/her until you arrive at the police station, then release him/her
- Take your child into custody and refer him/her to a juvenile delinquency court officer.
When the case reaches the juvenile court officer, also often known as a probation officer, he/she can choose to deal with the case informally "off the record," file formal charges or dismiss the case. Dealing with a delinquent act "off the record" means your child may appear before a judge or an officer for informal judgment of the case. Potential consequences of informal judgment include:
- Paying restitution to the victim
- Enrolling in a counseling class
- Paying a fine
- Community service
The worst that can happen to your child after the case reaches the juvenile court officer's hands is the filing of formal juvenile charges. Here is what the juvenile court officer will consider before filing your case for formal judgment:
- Whether you are capable of controlling your child or not
- The child's attitude
- The severity of the delinquent act
- The child's age
- The evidence of the delinquent act
- The child's past delinquency history
- Whether the child has an attorney or not
When the juvenile court officer files your child's case for formal judgment in a juvenile court, you should consider retaining an attorney because you wouldn't want your child to go through the formal judgment's possible consequences.
If the judge sustains the petition against your child, the minor could be subject to confinement in the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) facility or other punishments. Sustained juvenile petitions could also lead to life-long consequences to the child, including registration as a sex offender if the delinquent act was sexual assault.
Common California Delinquent Acts that Can Lead to a Sustained Juvenile Petition
Most delinquent acts that the court would consider a crime if an adult did the wrongdoing can lead to a sustained juvenile petition. You will need an aggressive lawyer to fight for your child's right through the whole juvenile justice process to avoid possible dispositions "sentences."
There are specific delinquent acts "crimes" common in Van Nuys and might lead to a sustained juvenile petition once the matter reaches the juvenile court. These delinquents include:
According to California Penal Code 602, trespassing is a misdemeanor offense that involves entering and staying on another person's property without the right or permission to do so. Below are common ways minors violate this statute in Van Nuys:
- Entering another person's property with malicious intent to obstruct or interfere with activities or business going on there
- Entering and occupying or remaining on another person's property without permission or consent to do so and refusing to leave upon request
- Entering another person's property with the intent to destroy or damage their property
- Taking stone, dust, or soil from another person's property
If your child engages in any trespass acts, you must contact a criminal defense attorney for legal representation to protect your child's rights and interests. Your child's attorney can raise the following potentially helpful legal defense arguments during adjudication hearing for dismissal or reduction of the charge:
- The minor had consent to be on the property.
- The minor had the right to be on the property.
- The property was not signed for trespass as an infraction or fenced.
California Penal Code 459.5 defines shoplifting as entering a commercial building with the intent to commit larceny when the building is open during regular work hours, and the property value is less than $950. Example of situations when the police would arrest a minor for shoplifting charges include:
- Entering a bookshop with intent to buy three books and sneak two others into his/her backpack
- Entering into a jewelry shop with the intent to steal a watch or necklace that is worth $700
Suppose the court sustains the juvenile petition against your child in violation of California Penal Code 459.5. In that case, the minor could be subject to an informal probation disposition or, even worse, confinement in a DJJ facility. A reliable attorney can counter these charges against your child by raising the following viable legal defense arguments during adjudication hearing:
- There was a mistake of fact, and the minor did not have the intent to shoplift
- There is no sufficient viable evidence against the minor.
- The minor will repay the business owner via a civil compromise.
You commit California vandalism when you destroy, deface, or damage another person's property. Under California Penal Code 594, this offense is a misdemeanor if the amount of the damage was less than $400 and a felony if the damage exceeded $400. For the court to sustain the juvenile petition against your child for vandalism, the prosecutor must prove that the minor maliciously:
- Destroyed, damaged, and defaced his/her property with graffiti or any other inscribed material
- The property did not belong to the minor or his/her parents
Vandalism is a common delinquent act among many minors in Van Nuys, but a reliable attorney can assert the following legal defense to counter these charges against your child:
- It was an accident
- Mistaken identity
- False allegations
The court can sustain a juvenile petition against your child for sexual battery if he/she touches intimate parts of a friend without his/her consent for sexual gratification, abuse, or arousal. Under California Penal Code 243, a violation of this statute is chargeable as either a misdemeanor or a felony, meaning it is a wobbler offense.
Sexual battery, also commonly known as sexual assault, is a common delinquent act among minors as they go through adolescence stages. Sexual assault disposition hearing might make the minor subject to confinement in a DJJ facility where he/she will face stringent terms and conditions.
Sustained juvenile petitions of sexual battery can also lead to life-long consequences because the minor will continue registering as a sex offender, even if he/she turns eighteen years old. For that matter, you should find an attorney as soon as you receive a notice that your child is in police custody following a sexual assault charge for legal representation.
Depending on the minor's delinquent act seriousness, sometimes the prosecutor can also file the case in an adult court. Whether or not your child should remain in the juvenile justice system depends on what the judge will lure out during the minor’s transfer hearing.
A transfer hearing is a court proceeding where the judge determines if the minor's delinquent act fits the juvenile justice system. The prosecutor will initiate a transfer hearing if the charges the child faces falls under Welfare and Institutions Code 707(b), and the minor is over sixteen years of age. These offenses include:
- Rape with bodily injury or harm
- Forcible sexual penetration
- Attempted murder
- Voluntary manslaughter
Unfortunately, if your child loses the transfer hearing, he/she will have to undergo the adult justice system, which could subject the minor to a prison term and hefty fines. When your child is in police custody following a juvenile case arrest, the sooner you contact a criminal defense attorney, the better because a juvenile case disposition can significantly impact the minor's future.
Disposition "Sentencing" Options Following a Sustained Juvenile Petition
If the juvenile court sustains the petition against your child for engaging in a delinquent act, he/she could be subject to a variety of dispositions, depending on the nature of his/her wrongdoing.
The judge with jurisdiction over the case will craft a disposition that can discipline the child, and at the same time, help him/her become a productive citizen. Here are some of the disposition or sentencing options open to the juvenile judge after sustaining a juvenile petition against your child:
Home on Probation
In a disposition hearing, a judge may decide to place the minor on probation. Minors on a home on probation are allowed to live with their parents, but they have to follow specific terms and conditions such as:
- They have to pay any owed restitution
- They must attend school.
- They must abide by a curfew.
Home on probation sentences comes with two options, which are upon the judge to decide. These options are:
Placement at Home Without Wardship
Placement at home without wardship is the least intrusive option that the judge could impose for this form of disposition or sentence. The judge will place your child at home probation without wardship if:
- The minor is a first-time offender
- The delinquent act was not serious.
- You will be supportive of him/her during this rehabilitation period.
Placement at home without wardship probation lasts for six months, and after that, the minor will be free from the probation's obligations.
Placement at Home With Wardship
The more serious the delinquent act, the more likely the judge will order placement of your child at home with wardship. Commission of the following category of offenses as a minor can lead to placement of the defendant at home with wardship in a disposition hearing:
- Gang-related crimes
- Serious WIC 707(b) offenses
- A felony when you are over fourteen years of age
- Controlled substances offenses
If the judge imposes a home on probation disposition after sustaining a juvenile petition against your child, he/she must abide by the terms and conditions of his/her probation. Violation of the probation conditions can lead to:
- More strict terms and conditions and, or
- Removal of the child from home on probation
- Placement of the child to probation camp, juvenile hall, or Division of a Juvenile Justice (DJJ) facility
Placement in a Probation Camp
There are also other delinquent acts where the judge will order placement of the minor in a probation camp as a disposition following a sustained juvenile petition. The ultimate goal of these probation camps is to:
- Reunite the minor with his/her family
- Reintegrate the minor into his/her community
- Help him/her develop behavioral and social skills.
These camps provide the following type of services to the minor for the ultimate purpose of his/her rehabilitation:
- Mental health services
- Educational services
- Vocational training
The length of stay in a probation camp can either be 3, 6, or 9 months long, depending on the nature of the minor's delinquent act and rehabilitative goals of the disposition. While at the probation camp, the minor can visit his/her family and finish high school studies.
The judge can also order the child's removal from your custody at home and order placement of the child in a foster home, which is also known as foster care or suitable placement. The juvenile court judge has the discretion of making any reasonable orders for your child's custody, supervision, conduct, care, and even medical treatment. Before the court orders removal of the minor from your custody as the parent, the judge must find that:
- The minor was on probation at home under your custody, and he/she has not reformed
- The minor is a chronic truant.
- Your child's welfare requires removing him/her from your physical custody.
- You are not able to provide proper training, maintenance, and educational needs to the child.
The county probation agency has the authority of determining the appropriate and suitable placement of the minor for foster care when the court orders his/her removal from your custody. The county probation agency has the following options for the minor's suitable placement away from home:
- Staying in foster and resource family homes
- Staying with family and extended family members
- Staying at treatment centers and group care homes
Placement of your child outside your home must be in a safe setting that is family-like, least restrictive, and meets the child's individual needs to become a productive citizen.
Placement in a Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) Facility
DJJ facilities are detention and rehabilitation centers for most serious juvenile wrongdoers or offenders. When the judge orders placement of your child in a DJJ facility, he/she will face severe and prolonged commitments, which negatively harm his/her future due to interaction with other young offenders.
A minor could be subject to confinement in a DJJ facility for the maximum time an adult would be subject to for commission of the same offense. The lockdown institution for confining your child will depend on:
- His/her educational needs
- His/her maturity level, individual risks, and needs
- His/her age
If the judge sustains the juvenile petition against your child for the commission of any of the following offenses, he/she could be subject to this kind of disposition:
- A sex offense under California Penal Code Section 290.008(c), for example, rape.
- Offenses listed under WIC 707(b), for example, murder, robbery, carjacking, etc
Commitment to a DJJ facility is the most severe disposition or sentence the juvenile court judge can impose on your child after sustaining the juvenile petition against him/her. A sustained juvenile petition against your child does not have to come down to a commitment in a DJJ facility. A reliable and experienced juvenile delinquency attorney can fight for a dismissal or reduction of the charges against your child for a less severe disposition like home on probation.
Find a Juvenile Delinquency Attorney Near Me
A sustained juvenile petition against your child can negatively impact him/her, harming his/her future education and career goals due to the possible disposition the judge can impose, like confinement in a DJJ facility. When the police arrest your child for an alleged delinquent act, we invite you to contact Leah Legal at 818-484-1100 if you are in Van Nuys to receive an aggressive and assertive representation to protect your child's future.