Juvenile Disposition Hearings

When a minor faces arrest and trial in a juvenile court, the proceedings may yield positive or negative results, depending on the presented arguments. Therefore, the minor may lose the criminal trial against the District Attorney or prosecutor presiding over his/her case. Consequently, a scheduled disposition hearing where the juvenile court judge issues directives to the minor is declared a court ward.

Therefore, you want to help the minor in question prepare for the disposition hearing session by equipping him/her with the relevant information. Additionally, if the minor in question is your child or close relative, you can begin gathering pertinent details that you may present to the judge. The information you submit in the juvenile court will act as mitigating evidence to persuade the judge to issue lenient sentences.

While disposition hearings are often straightforward, we recommend seeking the services of a criminal defense attorney early enough to help you through the juvenile proceedings. Ideally, you should hire a criminal defense attorney after the minor's arrest as the minor awaits formal court proceedings to begin. A defense attorney’s legal services will help present defenses and counterclaims on behalf of the child. At The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney, you will receive juvenile defense services from some of the best criminal lawyers in Los Angeles, California. Our years of experience in the field of defense has equipped our team to handle the most complex criminal cases, including juvenile matters.

Defining a Juvenile Disposition Hearing

In regular courts, a defendant found guilty of the alleged offense will face a sentencing hearing upon the trial process’s conclusion. The sentencing hearing may be on the same day as when the trial concluded, especially if the judge has all the necessary information concerning the case. Alternatively, the sentencing hearing may be scheduled for a different date to provide enough preparation time.

Therefore, a juvenile disposition hearing is the sentencing hearing version available in the juvenile court. During the disposition, a minor will learn of his/her final case outcome as the juvenile court judge directs. Before the juvenile disposition hearing, a minor will have faced the adjudication hearing where the prosecutor builds a case based on the minor’s criminal charges.

Thus, the disposition will only occur after the adjudication stage is complete to ensure that all preliminary matters like the elements of crime undergo proper assessment. Moreover, the adjudication stage provides an excellent opportunity for the minor’s criminal defense lawyer to raise legal defenses that aim to discredit the prosecutor’s claims and advocate for the minor’s acquittal of charges.

When the legal defenses and counter-arguments fail at the adjudication hearing, the juvenile judge then schedules the juvenile disposition hearing within days after the conclusion of the minor’s trial proceedings. It is important to note that the judge should observe the ten days after concluding the juvenile adjudication hearing to schedule the disposition date.

Hence, a minor in juvenile authorities’ custody throughout the juvenile case adjudication should not remain in custody for more than ten days after the criminal trial’s conclusion before attending a disposition hearing. The reason for setting a ten-day limit is to prevent unnecessary delays on the minor’s freedom and ability to proceed with the judge’s directives.

Moreover, the entire juvenile adjudication and disposition process does not focus on punishing the minor in a retributive way. Instead, the guidelines advocate for correctional programs that steer the minor in the right direction and help him/her make better decisions in the future. Therefore, extending the waiting period of a minor in custody beyond the ten days will be punitive, as he/she will have to deal with the conditions in the holding facility for longer than required.

Circumstances for the Juvenile Judge Will Consider During the Disposition Hearing

Since the minor will have already undergone the long adjudication process, the juvenile judge will assess all the information brought forth by both parties before issuing a final determination during the disposition hearing. Some of the information that the judge receives during the adjudication stage includes evidence on the nature of the alleged offense, the crime victims, and the minor’s behavior when committing the crime.

Subsequently, the details play a significant role in guiding the judge as he/she relies on the case details to issue sentencing directives to the minor. The main factors for the judge to consider are:

The Minor’s Previous Delinquency Records

Usually, a juvenile judge will be more lenient on a first-time offender, especially if the minor’s lawyer successfully presents mitigating evidence during the adjudication process. On the other hand, if a child has a past juvenile record, he/she may have expected to receive stricter penalties and guidelines.

For example, suppose you, the minor, have faced a previous juvenile sentence where the judge declared you a court ward for severe offenses under section 707(b) of the Welfare and Institutions Code. In that case, they will be an important factor in the current juvenile disposition hearing.

However, if you managed to expunge the previous juvenile records, the judge may decide to overlook your history. Nevertheless, the judge’s discretion will guide him/her on the sentencing policies to apply before issuing the final verdict. Sometimes, the nature of past juvenile offenses may be so severe that the records work as aggravating factors in your present matter.

The Minor’s Age During the Disposition Hearing

While legally, a minor is any person below eighteen years, juvenile matters create further distinctions between the young offenders’ age groups, especially when deciding on a sentencing order. Therefore, your case may attract different outcomes depending on your age division as a minor.

For example, minors under sixteen may be eligible for informal probation for a juvenile offense, while a minor above sixteen may face stricter penalties that include formal probation. Also, younger juvenile offenders receive additional assistance throughout the proceedings to understand the course of events. Despite this, a younger minor declared a ward of the court is still subject to the judge’s orders, meaning that he/she will have to follow through with all requirements before resuming their everyday lives.

Circumstances Surrounding the Offense That the Minor Engaged In

Additionally, the judge will also deliberate on the nature of the offense that the minor committed. The circumstances include his/her behavior that led to the infliction of harm to the crime victim. Usually, most juvenile hearings include minors who engage in less severe offenses like petty theft, wet reckless driving offenses, and alcohol possession as an underage person.

However, some aggravated cases may involve the commission of crimes under section 707(b) of the Welfare and Institutions Code. The provision lists serious offenses that often lead to grievous bodily harm or irreversible damages to the crime victims involved. Examples of crimes under the section include:

  1. Robbery

The offense of robbery involves taking possession of another’s property unlawfully, intending to deprive the crime victim of the property permanently. Since most robbery cases also include breaking into the premises, the minor involved in the offense may receive additional scrutiny.

Additionally, the actions leading to committing robbery plays a role in guiding the judge towards issuing a sentence. For example, suppose you were part of a gang that is notorious for several criminal offenses in the region. In that case, you may have to name the unconvicted offenders as a deal to receive lower sentencing.

The judge will also analyze the type of weapons or tools you used to break into the robbed premises. If the investigating officers retrieved sophisticated tools that are not commonly available, you might receive a stricter penalty. The rationale for enhanced sentences lies in the possibility of previous theft to obtain the complex tools used in robbing.

  1. Murder or Attempted Murder

Doubtless, killing another person is a grave offense that attracts severe penalties under section 187 of the California Penal Code. Similarly, a minor who is involved in murder charges draws among the strictest juvenile sentences available. Suppose the adjudication proceedings reveal that you participated in the relevant elements of crime in a murder charge. In that case, your attorney will have a limited chance to negotiate lenient terms for the crime.

Additionally, attempted murder is also a serious offense, even for juvenile suspects. Section 664 of the California Penal Code also provides the consequences of engaging in attempted murder, as read with section 187. The penalties arise despite the failed efforts to take the crime victim’s life, as the primary element in consideration is the criminal intention.

While the penalties issued to adults are not the same as for minors in a juvenile matter, the juvenile adjudication and disposition process includes similar legal guidelines with the adult penal code provisions. Consequently, the results of your disposition hearing are likely to yield severe sentences that may last for long.

  1. Rape With Force

When you forcibly rape someone else as a minor, the judge will consider the facts as the prosecutor presents them to determine whether you formed the criminal intention independently or upon a third party’s orders. The offense of rape using force or violence is highly detrimental to the crime victim, meaning that the judge will be keen to issue a sentence proportional to the offense.

Nevertheless, some offenses like rape may attract consequences despite the minor acting on a third party’s orders. Subsequently, if you engage in forcible physical penetration of the victim’s genitals, you will receive multiple court orders to promote behavioral reforms and rehabilitation.

  1. The Person Use of a Firearm

Firearm owners in the state should obtain legal permits to possess and use them lawfully, primarily because of most firearms’ dangerous nature. Thus, when a minor faces arrest for a firearm’s personal use, the subsequent sentence may be higher than for other crimes.

Additionally, most firearms firearm use cases include inflicting grievous bodily harm to a third party by shooting at him or her. Therefore, the judge will carefully consider the course of action that the minor took with the firearm in possession.

Generally, suppose a minor is declared a ward of the court for offenses under section 707(b) of the welfare and Institutions Code. In that case, they bear harsher sentences than other juvenile crimes that a judge commonly handles.

As a result, you need a competent defense attorney who can help the minor navigate the various defenses and negotiations with the prosecutor to promote. In that case, suppose more lenient sentences.

Instances of Perjury In the Minor's Case

Section 118 PC includes the offense of perjury that provides for giving false testimony under oath. Cases of perjury are common in criminal cases, especially where a defendant tries to provide false evidence to paint him/her in a positive light.

When a minor provides false testimonies during the adjudication hearing, the prosecutor may raise the issue. Afterward, the prosecutor's team may provide evidence to prove that the minor's testimony on oath was false, meaning that he/she is guilty of perjury.

Usually, a party found guilty of perjury may receive separate charges for the offense. The judge may also issue additional penalties as punitive measures for perjury to deter future scenarios.

However, a juvenile delinquency court provides less severe outcomes for the minor found guilty of perjury. Therefore, instead of facing separate charges, you may lose an opportunity to present mitigating arguments that often come before the judge reads the disposition judgment.

The Period Available for Disposition Hearings

The juvenile court process follows specific procedures that allocate enough time for assessing and verifying the information presented in court. Upon facing arrest, the minor will first undergo a detention and arraignment hearing, mostly verifying assessing if he/she was in custody.

Afterward, the court will proceed with the adjudication or jurisdiction hearing whereby the prosecutor and your criminal defense attorney provide proof and build on their cases. Upon the conclusion of an adjudicator hearing, the matter may then proceed to the disposition hearing.

Sometimes, the judge will have all the necessary information required to issue a sentence upon your trial’s finalization. The details required include your identification documents and proof sources from both the prosecutor and your criminal lawyer.

In this case, the judge can choose to issue a sentence on the same day. As a result, you will receive your sentence and proceed to begin the court orders as soon as the hearing is complete.

However, most juvenile court judges prefer taking some time off to consolidate the different documents needed in the disposition hearing. Also, most forms may not be readily available on the trial conclusion date, meaning that the matter will undergo adjournment until further notice.

Despite the need for a breaking period, it is necessary to remember the mandatory ten-day court days period set aside for the judge to issue a sentence for minors in custody. Therefore, the relevant officials will ensure that all the requirements are ready within ten days.

Some of the details that the judge should receive are a report from a probation officer appointed to your case. After arrest, you will receive a juvenile probation officer who will conduct a timed study on your social relations, among other important factors.

Upon concluding the study, the probation officer should prepare a report that includes your general social behavior throughout the trial period. Moreover, the probation officer should conclude by suggesting a sentence outline for your case.

Since the probation officer will spend more time with you on the ground, the judge takes his/her final report seriously when determining the sentence to order. Hence, sometimes the hearing may delay until the judge has the probation report for reference.

Also, where the accused minor portrays signs of mental health disorders, the judge will withhold the sentencing until the child undergoes proper psychiatrist evaluation.

The findings may reveal several underlying conditions that prompted the minor to act unlawfully. Since the information could be pivotal to the entire case outcome, the disposition hearing will delay until the juvenile court judge assesses the test results.

Lastly, the disposition hearing may also delay giving parents or guardians related to the minor a chance to present information for the minor's benefit. For example, a parent may include details about the minor's effort to volunteer in community activities as a form of positive reinforcement.

If the minor has recently begun attending family therapy to address any underlying psychological issues, the details can significantly change the sentencing outcome.

Therefore, we encourage parents to make initial plans with the criminal lawyer handling the minor's case. The attorney will raise the issue in court to allow the parents to speak and give information in favor of the child.

Sentences Available in a Disposition Hearing

As mentioned, a juvenile delinquency court’s goal is not necessary to impose retribution on the minor but to steer him/her into making better decisions. To do this, the minor will receive directives upon attending rehabilitative programs under a court sentence.

Nevertheless, cases involving adverse circumstances that caused death or severe bodily harm to the crime victim will attract the minor’s disciplinary action. The following are the main sentences available in a disposition hearing:

Formal Probation Orders

When a juvenile judge orders formal probation to the minor, he/she will have to follow strict regulations during the probation term. For example, the directives may prohibit the minor from going to different locations unaccompanied by an adult.

Also, formal probation includes instructions to engage in community service and counseling sessions if necessary. The judge will also appoint a probation officer to follow up on the minor's progress and include any reports’ drawbacks.

Usually, the minor may receive orders to undertake formal probation at home or in a group home to receive additional scrutiny from the parents or guardians taking care of the minor. However, sometimes the formal probation may be in a county probation camp, where the minor will interact with others undertaking the same program.

Informal Probation

Alternatively, you may benefit from the informal probation program provided for under section 725  of the Welfare and Institutions Code.  The juvenile informal probation provisions are more lenient than adult guidelines, as the judge will dismiss your charges after you complete the program. Therefore,  you may enjoy better probation terms that do not compromise your freedom than formal probation. Regardless, you must follow the court directives to avoid future reference on unruly behavior that may create unfavorable circumstances for you.

Housing in the Division of Juvenile Justice (California Youth Authority-CYA)

Some sentences may include the minor’s mandatory housing in a CYA facility that provides rehabilitative and corrective programs to juvenile delinquents declared a ward of the court.  Most of the CYA facilities also provide educational services to the minors to help them stay on track with their academic lives. Hence, you do not have to worry about losing out on extensive school gap years.

Moreover, minors with confirmed mental health disorders will receive professional treatment from recovering from traumatic experiences that prompted criminal behavior.

Lastly, suppose the minor’s case involved grave crimes that require more severe sentences for the child. In that case, the judge will issue various sanctions based on the circumstances of the case. Common sanctions that serve as harsher penalties include:

  • Paying a restitution fee to the crime victim
  • Complying with a foster home system
  • Orders to join a juvenile ranch, hall, or camp.

Contact a Juvenile Attorney Near Me

When your child or you, as a minor, face criminal charges, you may experience conflicting concerns about the final disposition hearing. The adjudicator hearings may often uncover numerous details, primarily when the prosecutor presents explicit evidence on the minor's unlawful actions.

Therefore, a disposition hearing provides the juvenile judge an opportunity to issue the minor his/her a final case verdict. Preparing for the hearing is crucial, as it may be your last chance to persuade the judge to issue a lenient juvenile sentence. With a criminal defense attorney at your service, you will have access to a more comfortable preparation process. Your lawyer will be responsible for helping you as a parent or guardian present information that works to the minor's benefit.

At The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney, we dedicate ourselves to providing our clients in Los Angeles, CA, with the best legal services. With our wealth of experience, you can depend on us to help navigate your juvenile disposition hearing for a favorable outcome. Call us today at 310-564-2605 to speak with a juvenile crime lawyer.

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