Juvenile Criminal Cases
A juvenile can also be charged with crimes in California. Generally speaking, this section will apply to any minor, who is a person under the age of 18 years of age. Juvenile criminal court is a court dedicated to the handling of felony and misdemeanor crimes allegedly committed by minors. Traffic cases are generally not handled by a Juvenile Court.
The purpose of the California juvenile justice system is designed to “rehabilitate” the children offenders. In essence, the Court process is meant to help save children while they’re young, to put them on the right track to success, and never return to any kind of Court Proceeding again.
This section will explain how Juvenile cases are handled by the Court and the District Attorney’s, what you need to know, and the importance of hiring an Attorney experienced in the defense of Juveniles.
What is the difference between Juvenile and Adult Criminal Cases?
Juvenile cases are filed with what is known as a Petition, whereas adult cases are filed with a Complaint. By being charged on a Petition, a Juvenile case is generally considered a civil case, in nature. This means, on your first hearing date, you do not enter a “Not Guilty Plea” to start your case, you instead Deny the Petition that is filed against you. In adult Court, at your first Court Date, you enter a Not Guilty plea to the Complaint filed against you.
Juvenile delinquency proceedings are sometimes referred to as “Section 602 proceedings” which can be found under the Welfare and Institutions Code 602 that governs Juvenile cases.
In adult Court, people generally see cases that, if they do not settle, end up in a Jury Trial. This is where 12 people from the area will sit in Judgment after hearing a Trial on your case. In Juvenile cases, however, a Judge, not a Jury, would hear your case, not a jury, and you would not have a right to a Jury Trial in a Juvenile Case. A Trial in Juvenile Court is referred to as a Jurisdictional Hearing which is heard in front of a Judge.
The other main difference is that the Juvenile Court provides many programs that are used in an attempt to help the children. This can be through counseling with their parents, one on one counseling with a professional, community service work, or additional educational work. In adult Court, the main reason is from retribution – to make offenders pay for the crimes they have committed. That is why many times people consider cases in Juvenile Court to be more lenient on the children charged than if they were an adult.
Because of this leniency, children do not get sentenced to County Jail or State Prison. A child can only be sentenced to State Prison, for example, if their case were to be moved to adult court through a transfer hearing. This can only happen in the most serious cases, and it is up to a Juvenile Judge to determine whether or not the child can be rehabilitated in Juvenile Court, via having to suffer the more severe punishments of adult Court.
Generally speaking, a minor can still be sentenced to Juvenile Hall, sent to California Youth Authority (although the name changes over the years), sent to a foster home, they can also be subject to informal, or formal probation, and be given community service as a term of their plea agreement.
If you are convicted of a Strike Offense in Juvenile Court, that Strike will follow you to adult Court. In addition, if you are convicted of a Sex Crime that requires Sex Registration under PC 290, you would have to Register as Sex Offender, but only if you are sentenced to California Youth Authority. If you are not sentenced there, then you would not be registering.
How does the process go in a Juvenile Case?
At your first Hearing in Juvenile Court, also known as your Detention Hearing, it is one of the most important hearings you can have for your child. The reason for this, as can be told by the name of the Hearing, is that Judge on that first date will determine whether you can be released to your parents’ custody, or if you are going to be in Juvenile Hall while your case is happening. Thus, not only are you denying the Petition filed against you, but you are also fighting to remain home with your parents.
Since most minors are not arrested for their juvenile offenses, you usually show up to the Courthouse with your parents for the first hearing. If a Judge determines that the minor should remain in Juvenile Hall, then you could be subject to remain in custody in your case. You do not have a right to a bail hearing if you are detained at your first court date, thus, it is important to be prepared to fight a request for Detention with an experienced Attorney.
If a Judge were to determine that you should be Detained, your Attorney can request what is called a Dennis H. Hearing. This is a hearing, that takes place 3 days after your Detention Hearing, where the Officer who wrote your Report must come in and testify to the facts of what you are accused of. The purpose of the Hearing is that the Prosecutor must show that there is Probable Cause that you committed the offense and that you should remain in custody. The second part allows your Attorney to present information as to why the minor should be released into the care and custody of their parents.
After your Detention Hearing, several intervening Court Hearings can happen called PreTrials, this is where your Attorney receives additional evidence in your case and begins negotiating with your District Attorney. If a deal is not reached, then eventually your case will be set for a Jurisdictional Hearing.
At least one parent or guardian must be present at each Court date with the minor.
Sealing Your Record
Most often Juvenile Records are sealed, but there is a process to have a Judge Seal your child’s juvenile record after some time after their case resolves. This way it is not going to affect your child’s future, and everyone can cleanly move on from this case. This requires your child to be crime free for a set amount of time after their case closes.
Juvenile cases can be scary and confusing, it is important to speak to the right Attorney who is familiar with the Courthouses, the Judges and the Prosecutors to help your child receive a favorable result. Adult Criminal Cases are handled differently than Juvenile cases, so it is also imperative to find an Attorney who knows how to handle Juvenile cases in Juvenile Court. Kids require an extra set of attention that many seasoned Criminal Defense Attorneys do not seem to have the patience for. That is why you need to call today, I can help you and your child through this difficult time. Call me today 909-939-7126.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)
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