Being arrested is nerve-racking and has consequences for the detained individual. When charged and convicted for the crimes committed, the offender may feel uncertain of the future, even as they serve their sentence. For minors facing trial in a California Juvenile delinquency court, the process is slightly different. You will hear the statement "sustained juvenile petition" used in court.
As a parent or guardian of the minor facing charges, it is vital that you fully understand this and other crucial court processes that precede sustained juvenile petitions. Suppose your child finds themselves arrested for a felony or misdemeanor crime in California. In that case, you must talk to a qualified criminal defense attorney to help you navigate the legal court processes. At The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney, we would be happy to assist you in understanding sustained juvenile petitions. It will help you adequately support your child.
How does the Court Process Begin?
Before a sustained juvenile petition is arrived at, it is vital to understand the process that leads to this and what it means. Some initial court processes happen before the judge determines this crucial part. The court processes begin with an arrest if your child is afoul of the law. During the arrest, the police will assess the situation, and if they determine that the offense is not severe, they will issue a stern warning before letting the child go.
If they deem that the matter requires further interrogation, they will cite the child to later appear in court but will, in the meantime, let them go home. In case they assess and find reasons to believe that the offense committed is severe, they will instruct the child to accompany them to a juvenile hall. The police will fully observe the child's rights at this stage. They will immediately inform you of the arrest and where they are holding your child.
What Happens at the Juvenile Hall?
They will hand your child to probation officers at the juvenile hall, who, just like the police, have options that they will weigh. Some of the choices they have at their disposal include:
- Releasing the child and citing him/her to appear in court later.
- Hand your child a probation program and release them. The program might not necessarily require the child to appear in court.
- They will hold your child at the juvenile hall until such a time when a court judge can handle the case.
For this article's purposes, we shall discuss the after-process in-depth if your child is released and cited to appear in court or is held in custody awaiting a court trial. In that respect, your child may attend varying court hearings that will be crucial for determining the case leveled against them.
Court Hearings Leading to a Sustained Juvenile Petition
There are several court hearings that the court may subject your child to as the case proceeds. They are listed as follows:
- A Detention Hearing- Specifically to determine if the child should be released or stays in the juvenile hall as they await a resolution of their case
- A Transfer Hearing- Here, proceedings will determine if the child should be tried in a juvenile delinquency court or tried in an adult court.
- The Adjudication- This is what constitutes “the trial.” Note that the prosecution can only try the child before a judge and not a jury.
- The Disposition Hearing- During the disposition hearing, the judge will determine the case against your child, and "sentencing" carried out. Sentencing is only arrived at if the charges leveled against the child are sustained.
Detention Hearing in Juvenile Delinquency Cases
The detention hearing is the initial hearing that determines whether your child will be detained at the juvenile hall or released pending trial. It is crucial that you find qualified legal representation at this stage, as it is an essential part of the case. While in adult court, the defendant can apply for bail pending trial, juvenile cases have no right to bail. At this stage, your criminal defense attorney needs to convince the judge that it is unnecessary to detain the child.
The judge will decide based on several factors; for the judge to agree with the prosecution that the child has to remain in custody, a prima facie case by the prosecutor must directly pin the child to the offense. Further, it has to be determined:
- The minor violated a juvenile court order.
- The minor is an escapee from the juvenile court; thus is a possible flight risk.
- The minor must urgently receive protection by being detained.
- It is necessary and reasonable to protect another person or property by detaining the minor.
The judge will consider input from the other court players such as the district attorney, the minor, the probation officer, the minor's parents or guardians, and the minor's counsel. Further, whether in or not in custody, the minor will face arraignment during this hearing. The court will formally inform them of the case and charges leveled against them, their constitutional rights, and enter a plea.
The detention hearing must take place at least 48 hours after the child's arrest if the case is non-serious, non-violent, and of a misdemeanor nature. The minor's case will be heard within 72 hours if the offense's nature is violent and a felony. As the parent or guardian, the court will inform the place and time of the hearing. If you do not get notified promptly, you can apply for the hearing to be carried out within 24 hours so that you can be present. If the court decides that detention is the best option for your child, they will remain in custody until the next court date.
Transfer Hearing in Juvenile Delinquency Cases
At this stage, the judge will decide whether your child will face the juvenile case at the juvenile court or transferred to an adult court. It is also referred to as a fitness hearing and seeks to weigh how “fit” it is to try the minor in adult court.
For the minor to face a transfer, the prosecutor will initiate the hearing if the child is 16 years and above and is accused of committing a felony. The court may also enter the transfer if the minor was either 14 or 15 years when they committed the offense and were arrested at 18 years.
The judge will determine if the transfer should be done by considering:
- The sophistication of the crime committed by the minor
- If rehabilitation can be opted for
- Any previous history of delinquency
- Success attempts of the juvenile court to rehabilitate the minor
- The gravity and circumstances of the crimes committed by the minor.
A minor may be transferred if they committed offenses listed under the California Welfare and Institutions Code in section 707 (b) and include; murder, arson, robbery, forceful and violent rape or sodomy, lewd acts with a child below 14 years, attempted murder, among others. If the minor's offenses do not constitute provisions for a transfer, an adjudication hearing is entered at the juvenile court.
Adjudication Hearing in Juvenile Delinquency Cases to Determine a Sustained Petition
The adjudication hearing is what is known as a "trial" in adult court cases. It is also known as a jurisdiction hearing. When an adult offender is taken to court and on trial, they may be found guilty or not guilty by the court. Likewise, in juvenile delinquency cases, the minor has an adjudication in which the court judge determines whether the minor violated the law. After the hearing, the judge will decide, and if the judge decides that the minor broke the law, the court will sustain the petition.
Sustained Juvenile Petition in Juvenile Delinquency Cases in California
The juvenile court only sustains a petition if the judge agrees with the prosecution on the charges leveled against your child. Remember, your child has a right to be represented by an attorney in court during the trial. The court can appoint the attorney, or you can engage the services of a criminal defense attorney of your choice. If the evidence presented by the prosecution is not enough to warrant a sustained petition, the judge will dismiss the charges against the minor.
During adjudication, the critical thing to note is that your child has an opportunity to fight off the case against them in court. It is a crucial part of the juvenile court process, as the child is given a chance to plead their case. The minor can have:
- Legal representation
- Call witnesses
- Testify or not as they possess a right against self-incrimination
- An opportunity to challenge the prosecution, as the prosecutor must prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt
The law allows the child to be heard in an adjudication hearing within 15 days from the date the court ordered their detention. Weekends and holidays are not included these days. If the minor is not in custody, then the duration is elongated to 30 days from the date the petition was filed at the court by the prosecution. If there is probable cause, the timeframe could be waived.
Consequences of a Sustained Juvenile Petition
As it is similar to a guilty verdict in an adult court, a sustained juvenile petition carries consequences for the minor. However, the sustained petition might only hold if the minor's case is proven beyond a reasonable doubt by the prosecutor. In most cases, this verdict is arrived at if the minor committed a California felony crime or engaged in a misdemeanor crime. Once the court sustains the child’s crimes, the sentencing is done during the disposition.
A disposition is basically for the judge to decide what disciplinary measures to be taken, hereto referred to as the consequences of the crimes committed. The court's goal here is not to punish the child but to have them adequately rehabilitated and counseled to become productive citizens. In coming up with a sentence, the judge will look at the child's age, the gravity and circumstances of the crimes committed, and the child’s delinquent history.
Remember, your child cannot receive punishment if they refuse to confess or plead guilty for the offense. Your child, however, has a right to testify during this dispositional hearing before a judge.
The sentencing can be done immediately after the trial if the judge has all the information required for the same. At times, the probation officer might still have to bring a social study about the minor, in which case the disposition stands postponed. Additionally, as the parent or guardian, you may request the court to give you time to submit relevant material that would portray your child in a better light. If granted, the disposition will be postponed to a later date to facilitate this. Note that the court cannot continue things indefinitely; sentencing must arrive within a reasonable timeframe.
The judge might order a psychological evaluation if the child suffers from any mental health issue before the disposition. It is vital as it ensures fairness and advises the court before sentencing is crafted.
The judge may decide to send the child on probation at home, probation at a probation camp, placement in a foster home, or commit the minor to the Division of Juvenile Justice. The Division of Juvenile Justice is what was formerly known as the California Youth Authority (CYA). It is currently housed within the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Other sentences may include placement on probation at a relative’s home, dismissal as per the Welfare and Institutions Code section 782, or probation and rehabilitation at a group home.
When the minor receives sentencing and is sent to probation, they are referred to as a court ward. The probationary terms can include the child going through mandatory school attendance, counseling for substance abuse, prohibiting hanging out with certain people, or even curfew restrictions. Those sent to a probation camp are those requiring an enhanced level of structure.
As compared to the adult system, rehabilitation of minors is not meant to punish them. The goal here is to enable the minor access to proper education and material that will allow them to put the crime behind them and become productive citizens. However, remember, as a consequence of a sustained juvenile petition, your child can face sanctions. Sanctions may include; payment of restitution or a fine, commitment to community service, commitment to a juvenile hall, or attendance of victim impact classes.
Lasting Consequences of a Sustained Juvenile Petition
Sometimes, there might be lasting consequences for a sustained juvenile petition. For purposes of California's Three Strikes Law, sustained petitions count as strikes. The California Rules of Court further authorizes adult courts to peruse through juvenile adjudication before making probationary and sentencing decisions. Here the sustained juvenile petition may be cited in determining aggravation or mitigation while sentencing. It will advise the court on selecting the low, medium, or high term in determining the period that one serves in prison.
Further, the defendant can be registered as a sex offender if the case is sustained. They can additionally be confined as a sexually violent predator (SVP) in the state of California. Under the Sexually Violent Predator Act, an adult can be committed if there exist prior sexual offenses.
A juvenile adjudication could qualify under this act if the youth were 16 years or older when committing a sexual violation. It would further apply if the crimes were enumerated as a sexually violent offense that resulted in the minor being sent to the Division of Juvenile Justice. However, your child can seal their juvenile delinquency record and remain crime-free after a certain period.
Sealing Juvenile Records after a Sustained Petition
As a parent to a minor convicted for juvenile delinquency, you may become uncertain about the child’s future. Employers and other opportunities that the child would access would do a background check on the applicant. However, juvenile records can be sealed. It implies that the minor's criminal records can be hidden from public records and scrutiny before 18 years. It will prevent employers from doing a background check, and the applicant can deny the existence of any criminal history on them.
Even if the child was arrested and not charged, such a record could as well be sealed. However, it is vital to understand that not all crimes are sealable if the charge was sustained against your child. Ineligible sealing circumstances include juvenile cases that comprise murder, robbery, arson, carjacking, most sex offenses, and other violent felonies.
For juvenile criminal records to be sealed, the juvenile will be required to file a petition at the juvenile court and meet the following criteria:
- Have attained the age of 18 years or older
- Have no criminal convictions for misdemeanor or felony offenses
- Put up a convincing case to the court that they have received full rehabilitation.
- Possess no existing civil litigation resulting from juvenile delinquent acts
What the Prosecutor Needs to Prove for a Juvenile Case to be Sustained
As it is with all court processes, for the judge to hand over sentencing to the offender, the offender's charges must be sustained. For the judge to uphold the crimes, the prosecution has the burden of convincing the court that the offender committed the said crimes, and a conviction is the best solution. In juvenile cases, your child will not stand trial before a jury. They will plead the case before a judge, who will grant both the prosecution and the defendant an opportunity to plead their case.
The prosecution will rely on witness testimonies and evidence that places the minor at the crime scene. The prosecution must prove that your child committed the crimes, whether felony or misdemeanor offenses. The trial will enter witness testimonies in firming up the case against your child.
As earlier noted, the minor will have an opportunity to defend themselves against all the prosecution charges. It is imperative to note that you can have the case heard in confidence and the presence of selected interested parties.
Can a Criminal Defense Attorney Help?
A criminal defense attorney can assist in many ways to help you and your child go through the legal headwinds that accompany sustained juvenile petitions. Typically, as a parent, you imagine the best scenario for your child when they stand trial for a felony or misdemeanor offense. Your first best decision will revolve around finding a great criminal defense lawyer to assist you with the case from the start.
As noted, the prosecution will lay the case facts for the court to peruse, and your defense team will counter the charges leveled against your child. The attorney's goal here is to help your child navigate the process, assist you in understanding the terminology, and grant you the best representation that would lead to an acquittal. However, if the evidence is enormous, and the charges are sustained, the attorney will still help the child understand and follow the convictions' terms.
The goal here is to facilitate a process that will enable sealing of the charges later on so that your child can have a crime-free record, among other reasons. The attorney will help negotiate fair terms for the sustained juvenile petition.
Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
Juvenile delinquency cases can have long-lasting and severe consequences for your child. Odds may be stacked against your child if they face trial, and the charges leveled against them sustained. A sustained juvenile petition has immediate and long-term effects that might be traumatic and overwhelming for your child. If your child is facing juvenile delinquency cases at whatever stage, you should contact an attorney to defend your child in court and avoid aggravated consequences.
At the Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney, we have many years of experience representing minors in California Juvenile courts. We will expertly represent your child and help you understand the court processes, and walk with you in the juvenile case against the child. Contact us at 310-564-2605 to discuss your case's details.