The number of minors’ arrests has decreased within the last years, although it still makes up 9% of all the arrests. The early years play a crucial role in shaping a person’s life. It is your responsibility as a parent to try to bring up well-behaved children. However, it is not always the parents’ fault when a minor is involved in illegal activity. There are other contributing factors like:
- Poor education standards
- Poor school attendance
- Peer pressure
- Violence at home
- Socioeconomic factors (for example, in poor neighborhoods where children feel that they must prosper, they must commit crimes).
- Violence in their social circles
- Drugs or alcohol abuse
- Poor moral guidance
There are possible ways in which these can be prevented, which mainly revolve around the parent or caregiver role in the early stages of a child’s life. It is because the most critical stage of a person’s life is during adolescence and childhood. During these first years, they develop emotional, physical, and cognitive capabilities. The experiences your minors acquire during these periods, whether positive or negative, can have long-lasting impacts on their life.
You should contact a skilled juvenile attorney to represent your child and fight for justice if your child has been arrested. At the Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney, we have handled similar cases before, and we have helped minors attain their freedom back. Contact us today for a free consultation.
Background of Juvenile Representation
Although juvenile systems are different from the adult systems in California, they are also very complex and confusing. If the juvenile offender is in police custody, a detention hearing must be arranged within 72 hours. If they are free and not detained, the detention is conducted within 72 hours. Depending on the charge, the offender or his/her lawyer can ask for another hearing within three days to challenge the charge’s efficiency. Depending on the orders, more hearings would be needed to:
- Consider jurisdiction matter
- Examine the evidence
- Determine if the juvenile will be detained
- Determine the period that the minor will be detained
In various cases, the court may decide to :
- Place the juvenile offender on an adoption plan.
- Direct the offender to legal guardianship
- In some instances, they invalidate the rights of juvenile offender’s parents
Common Juvenile Crimes in California
The following are some of the significant juvenile offenses in California:
- Larceny/Theft — the Stealing from lockers and backpacks, shoplifting, or stealing a bicycle.
- Vandalism — Graffiti and tagging, cutting auto tires and keying a car, or drawing on public toilets’ walls.
- Alcohol offenses — Underage possession or purchase, giving underage person alcohol, alcohol consumption by underage, or If the minor is found with an open alcohol container in public places.
- Disorderly conduct — Cursing a teacher or fighting in public, or Indecent exposure, Mooning, and flashing.
- Battery or simple assaults — A physical disagreement of a child/parent, shoving a person, or bullying causing an assault.
- Possession of Marijuana — Smoking marijuana in public places or having a small marijuana amount.
- Tobacco Offenses — Purchasing tobacco illegally, supplying youth with tobacco, or smoking it at school.
- Traffic Violations — Over speeding, failing to wear a seat belt properly, or riding at the back of a truck.
Although, in most cases, the system of California juvenile allows for rehabilitation instead of imprisonment as noted above, for some cases, the issue is different. Some judges seek harsh and strict penalties for the offenders. The contributing factor to this decision is your child’s history case and their age. As stated above, a minor’s case has no jury trial. The judge makes all the decisions once the prosecutor has to prove all the crime’s elements. Most judges decisions are based on:
- The nature of the crime committed
- The criminal history of the offender
- The flight risk
After the detention hearing, the case proceeds to a fitness hearing in the juvenile court.
You need to get in touch with a juvenile criminal defense attorney if your child has been arrested.
What is Fitness Hearing?
Depending on the nature of your child’s case, the prosecutor can petition for a fitness hearing. During this hearing, the judge decides whether the juvenile court system fits the offender or is tried as adults. The judge will look into various factors, including:
- The seriousness of the offense
- The minors current age
If the judge ascertains that the juvenile court’s rehabilitation is not likely to benefit the minor, your child is transferred to an adult court.
The Explanation of 602 Proceeding
According to The California Welfare and Institution Code Unit 602, any minor below 18 years of age is arrested for a crime; they should go to juvenile court. These are mainly termed as “the 602 proceedings”. Again, in California Juvenile, there are no guilty or guilty decisions. If the judge concludes that you committed the crime based on the evidence provided, he/she will go through with the petition from the district attorney. If the court makes an award for your child, it means that they have taken full responsibility for your kid’s treatment and control.
In Senate Bill 439, the juvenile court system can rule in a minor under 12 years of age. However, it is only applicable in a case where the minor has:
- Committed murder
- He/she was involved in sodomy by menace, force, duress, violence, or fear—rape by violence, force, duress, or fear of injury.
- He/she was involved in oral copulation by violence, fear, duress, or fear.
- If the minor acted in Sexual penetration by either violence, force, menace, duress, or fear of injury.
The Difference between a Juvenile Court and an Adult Criminal Court
There are a few differences between the juvenile court systems and the adult criminal courts. According to the Juvenile court system, juveniles are not the same as adults who have committed a crime. They believe that youths who have committed crimes should be treated differently from adults who have committed crimes. Some of the differences include:
- A judge is presented with the cases and prosecutors who provide evidence to be ruled. There is the defense attorney who defends the juveniles in both courts, but there is no jury in juvenile court. The presiding judge is in charge of deciding whether the minor committed the crime or not.
- In the juvenile court, the judge does not decide whether the minor is guilty or not. If he/she discovers that the minor committed the crime, the judge supports the petition, which is filled by the district attorney. Instead of sentencing the child, the judge suggests dispositions such as welfare and institution code 654, code 725formal, and formal home probation.
Juvenile Crimes that are Tried the Same as Adult cases
According to California law, some cases automatically lead your child to an adult court. Such crimes are listed in the California Welfare and institutions code under section 707(b). They include:
- Forceful rapping
- Forceful Lascivious and Lewd acts on children under 14 years
- Forceful Oral or sodomy copulation
- Arson leading to significant injury
- Attempted murder
- Assault using a fire
- Voluntary manslaughter
- The Disposing of a firearm into an occupied apartment can also lead a minor to an adult court.
Prosecutors can decide to appeal for a fitness hearing and let the judge decide or file offenses in the adult court directly since they know how to handle violations under 707(b).
Penalties of Juvenile Crimes in California
The juvenile criminal law is used In California for juveniles between 12 to 17 years who commit crimes. In some cases, adults between 18 to 22 years could also be charged with these laws.
What happens to Offenders Under 12 years
Minors under 12 years are not prosecuted. In case a minor below 12 commits a crime, the authority talks to the parents and urges them to speak with them or be sent to the youth care office for counseling. In case the minor does not change his/her ways, the court appoints a family member as the child's supervisor.
The "HALT juvenile crime prevention program" is a program that is meant for juveniles who commit minor offenses. This program allows them to rectify their ways and be better people. If they succeed in their HALT program and, for instance, pay for the damages they caused and apologize to the victims, their criminal records will be cleared.
Their case risks being forwarded to the public prosecutor if the minor refuses to attend the HALT program or refuses to finish it. The case may later lead to a prosecution.
It consists of unpaid work/community services, a training program, or both orders combined. In the alternative sanctions, juveniles are supervised by the Child Protection Board.
The Detention of Youths
Youth detention takes place in a young offender's institution. Juveniles between 12 to 15 years sentenced to youth detention are convicted for a maximum of 1 year, while those between 16 to 17 are sentenced for two years.
Juveniles still attend school and extra life lessons while even in youth detention.
Youth Custody Order and Protection
Juveniles who suffer from behavioral disorders need intensive counseling and treatment to prevent them from falling back to their old ways. In these cases, a "PPIJorder," is imposed, and the juvenile is placed in a youth protection and custody institution.
A PIJ order is usually three years long, but it can be pushed up to 7 years in some cases. Juveniles can have the conditional lifting of the order during their final year while being monitored by your probation service.
It is a kind of provisional detention. Juveniles are allowed to attend school during school hours and are detained at night or have no classes in a young offender institution. It gives the minor a chance to attend school and work.
Behavioral Program Order
If a suspended sentence is recreative and a custodial sentence is too harsh, the juvenile can be put on the behavioral program (GBM). It usually consists of treatment sessions and training, such as courses on abstaining from alcohol and drugs. Thus the order is monitored by the youth probation services.
The Non-punitive and Other Penalties for Juveniles
More non-punitive orders and possible penalties in juvenile law include:
- Fines and payment of damages caused.
- There could also be a confiscation of goods and properties that were illegally acquired.
- Blended sentence - minors are sentenced in a juvenile facility up to 18 years, after which they are transferred to an adult jail.
- Adult jail — in serious crimes, your child may be detained in an adult state prison or county jail.
Depending on their case, your child might be directed to informal probation according to the “California Welfare and Institutions code 654”. In case your child is put on informal probation, they do not acknowledge the wrongdoing. If your child completes the probation program, their charges are ultimately dismissed. Your child can also have a specific ward in court but still be eligible to undergo probation from home. The informal probation terms that are set by the judge include:
- Mandatory school attendance
- Community service
- Counseling for substance abuse
- Graffiti removal
- Restitution to the victim
- Restrictions on who they are allowed to hang around.
You can also call our law firm if you want to understand the terms better.
Constitutional Rights for Juveniles Accused of Crimes
In California, juveniles are eligible for various constitutional rights even though juvenile cases are held in civil courts rather than criminal courts. It means that youths share almost the same rights as adults in the criminal justice system. Some of these rights are:
Probable cause to arrest a minor — When charging a juvenile who is suspected of committing certain crimes, the police must have a possible reason. However, officials like school tutors with a "quasi-parental relationship" with the child can detain the minor with only a reasonable suspicion rather than probable cause.
- Right to notice charges — The juvenile has the right to be informed of the expenses they are being tried.
- In California, the enable but right to counsel — If the minor or his/her parents are unable to pay an attorney, the state should appoint an attorney for him/her.
- The right to make a phone call — A minor has the right to make a call if he/she has been in custody and is likely to be held for some more time. They call their caregivers or parents who, on their behalf, contact a defense attorney. If possible, the juvenile can also contact the attorney for themselves.
- The right to cross-examine and confront the witnesses — Through their attorney, the juvenile can challenge witnesses who are providing testimonies. He/she is only allowed to ask them questions related to the case/ incident.
- Self-incrimination privilege — In juvenile proceedings, minors cannot testify against themselves involuntarily.
- No Right to seek Bail — Although most juveniles are released before their arraignment in court, they have no right to seek bail.
- There is no right to jury trials — In California, jury trials are not allowed in juvenile delinquency cases. However, there are a few cases that will enable jury trials.
- The right to have their charges fully proved — According to the U.S supreme court, if a minor is charged with adjudication or incarceration, the state is supposed to prove these charges "beyond a reasonable doubt." But if the juvenile faces other costs apart from this, the government needs to only prove by "preponderance evidence."
The Juvenile Court Process
The juvenile court process starts with the arrest of the minor offender. In some cases, the offender may be released after a few hours as the police decide to use a simple reprimand. While in other cases, the law can take the offender to the county probation department, which may lead to filling a petition against the offender and the detention of the minor at the Juvenile hall. The various hearings that take place in California Juvenile Court include:
- Detention hearing — The judge decides whether the juvenile should stay in custody until the case is resolved or if the minor should be released. This type of hearing happens if the child has been detained for more than two days.
- Adjudication Hearing — The judge determines if the minor committed the crime by looking at the district attorney's evidence and the probation officer's report.
- Disposition hearing — If the minor is found to have committed the crime, a disposition hearing is arranged, which is the sentencing.
- Arraignment also happens for minors in custody.
- Transfer hearing which mostly involves cases of offenses of the 707(b)
The California law gives the timeline and procedures involved in each of the above hearings. There is a chance for the prosecutor and defense attorney to reach a conclusion and head straight to disposition at each stage. If at any stage errors are made, one or more re-hearings are set.
As a parent, you are eligible to attend all court hearings for your child.
The Registration of “Three Strikes” Sentencing Law and Sex Offender
Apart from the penalties associated with juvenile crimes, juvenile crime cases have severe consequences on your child's future. When making sentencing and probation recommendations, adult courts should consider juvenile adjudications. For instance, juvenile adjudications can be termed as strikes for the aim of California's "Three Strikes" that inflicts prison sentences that are harsh on offenders charged with various violent felonies. Some certain sexual offenses can also require sex offender registration.
The Sealing of Juvenile Records
After your child has successfully served their juvenile crimes sentence and has reached 18 years, they have the right to file for a petition with the court to destroy their conviction or sentencing records. For the court to grant your petition, they have to look at the specific crime you had committed and the time you have spent since your sentencing. It is crucial to have your child's juvenile crime records destroyed for the sake of their future opportunities.
Problems with the California Juvenile Justice System
Despite having noble intentions, the California Juvenile system continues to receive criticisms
for some of its failures. Some of the cases that the methods have been used in the past include:
- Failure to provide children with proper mental and medical health services.
- Using excessive force, for instance, the use of mace on children when restrained.
- Having children confined in cells for more than 23hours
- The authority Trying to Maintain a culture filter with extreme as a control method.
- Forcing kids to attend “school” in locked cages
- Using a psychotropic drug to reduce violence
There is, however, a ray of hope as the counties are trying to maintain a safe place for juvenile offenders.
The Juvenile Crime Defense in Los Angeles
In California, minors are expected to get the treatment and education they deserve to move past their crimes and be better community members without falling back into the criminal life. Despite its good intentions, the juvenile justice system faces problems. Minors who have been in the juvenile system are termed as "juvenile delinquents" due to their case in Juvenile court. Our Los Angeles Criminal defense attorney can help your child's claim to be turned into probation and have the case dismissed after completing the probation programs.
There are legal defenses that a skilled attorney can use to completely dismiss your child's case and evade consequences that may affect them in the future.
Find a Juvenile Attorney Near Me
Receiving a call about your child's detention can be heartbreaking. It affects your child's present life, but it could also adversely impact his/her future. As stated above, there ways in which an experienced juvenile attorney can help your child's case be dismissed and their criminal records erased. The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney has qualified and determined attorneys who are experienced juvenile delinquencies. Reach out to us at 310-564-2605, and we will help you fight for your child's freedom.