Juvenile Court

Juvenile Court

Paladin Legal Defenders: Experienced Juvenile Crimes Attorneys in Southern California

Who Is a Juvenile for Purposes of the California Court System ?

A juvenile in California is anyone under the age of 18. California has a special court system that deals exclusively with juvenile offenders. Juvenile court can retain jurisdiction over minors all the way up until they are 24 years old. It should be noted, however, that any new offenses occurring after their 18th birthday will be charged in adult court. The attorneys at Paladin Legal Defenders have many years of experience representing juvenile offenders and we work hard to insure our clients get the best possible outcome in resolving their case in juvenile court. If your child has been arrested and charged with a crime, call Paladin Legal Defenders at 714-536-9988 and schedule a free consultation.

What Crimes Can a Juvenile Be Charged with ?

Juvenile offenses range from possession of cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana or other drugs, truancy, graffiti, assault and battery, vehicle offenses, theft, sex offenses, robbery, gang related offenses, and all other crimes up to and including murder.

Why Are Juvenile Crime Accusations So Serious ?

Getting arrested and charged with a crime may have long term effects on future opportunities such as school, work, and relationships. It affects the juvenile and it affects their family and friends. Even though the juvenile may be a good kid who has never been in trouble, one mistake can change the course of their future. Juvenile court recognizes that young offenders often make mistakes, and is designed primarily to rehabilitate the minors and give them an opportunity to learn from their mistakes and make better choices in the future. With more serious crimes, however, there is the possibility of being sentenced to Juvenile Hall for a period of time and in the most serious cases, minors can be sent to juvenile prison, known as CYA. (California Youth Authority)

What Is the Process in Juvenile Court Once a Minor Is Charged with a Crime?

Being charged with a crime as a juvenile triggers a series of court appearances designed ultimately to resolve the matter. It should be noted that juveniles are NOT entitled to a jury trial. Instead, the matter is heard by a judge who makes the final decision as to whether the prosecution has proved their case beyond a reasonable doubt. Juvenile court does not use the typical guilty/not guilty determination in resolving juvenile matters. Instead, the allegations in the charging document will be sustained or not sustained. It is a subtle but important distinction in that the result if the judge finds the allegations to be true is not considered a conviction, but a sustained petition.

  • The process usually begins with an arrest or investigation by police. The police make the initial decision as to whether the situation warrants seeking the filing of criminal charges or possible referral to Probation for non-court intervention. They can issue the minors a warning and release them, they can hold the minors until a parent or guardian come to get them, or they can arrest them and refer the matter to a juvenile court officer who will determine whether the matter is suitable to be handled informally or whether it should proceed to juvenile court.
  • If the matter is found to be unsuitable for informal resolution, reports are then submitted to the District Attorney’s Office at juvenile court where they are reviewed by the District Attorney’s Office to determine what charges, if any, should be filed against the minor. If they do decide to file charges, they submit a Petition to the court setting forth the date of the incident and the crimes alleged. The juvenile and the parents or guardians will also be notified and a parent or guardian must attend all court hearings with the minor.
  • The first hearing is called the Detention Hearing. This is the minor’s first appearance in court where the minor and the parents are formally advised of the charges. After hearing arguments from the prosecution and the defense, the court then makes the determination of whether the minor will be released to the custody of the parents or placed in juvenile hall pending resolution of the case. There is no bail in juvenile cases, so if sent to Juvenile Hall, the minor will remain there until the case is resolved.
  • The next hearing is called a Fitness Hearing and occurs only in the most serious cases. This hearing is held to determine whether, based on the seriousness of the charges alleged, the minor is eligible to remain in juvenile court or whether the case will be transferred to adult court where the minor will be treated as an adult. This only happens in the most serious cases and most juveniles charged with a crime will not be subject to a Fitness Hearing and will remain in juvenile court.
  • Next comes the Adjudication Hearing. There will usually be a series of pre-trials leading up to the Adjudication Hearing in which the District Attorney, the defense attorney, and the court try to resolve the matter without having a trial, commonly known as a plea bargain. If, despite everyone’s best efforts, a resolution cannot be reached, the matter will then proceed to trial. Both sides present evidence and arguments and the judge makes the final determination whether or not to sustain the petition. As in adult court, the burden of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt and that burden rests with the prosecution. If the petition is sustained, then the next hearing is set.
  • The final hearing is called the Disposition Hearing. The Probation Department prepares a report for the court to assist the court in making a determination as to what the appropriate punishment should be. The court also hears argument from the prosecution and defense and considers any statements made by the victims and the minor and the minor’s family in regard to an appropriate sentence before finally ruling as to what punishment will be imposed.

What Are the Possible Penalties of a Sustained Petition in Juvenile Court ?

The court has tremendous leeway in fashioning an appropriate sentence for juvenile offenders. The goal is rehabilitation, insuring the minor will not continue to commit crimes, but that goal often includes punishment as well. Some of the options available to the court are:

  • Probation Supervision for a period of time determined by the court
  • Community service
  • Fines
  • Restitution
  • Counseling (drug, alcohol, mental health, family, etc.)
  • Mandatory school attendance and maintaining good grades
  • Curfew
  • Restriction of friends and associates
  • Placement in a group home or foster care
  • Custody time in Juvenile Hall juvenile camp
  • Custody time at CYA Ouvenile prison)

The court will usually schedule progress hearings in which the minor and the parents appear in court and the judge reviews the minor’s progress in complying with whatever terms the judge imposed at the Disposition Hearing. Failure of the minor to obey the terms and conditions imposed by the court could result in additional sanctions as listed above.

Sealing the Juvenile Record

Once a juvenile reaches the age of 18, is no longer on probation or under the supervision of the juvenile court, the minor can and should petition the juvenile court to seal or destroy the juvenile criminal record. This is an important step towards obtaining a clean criminal record. Juvenile records generally are not available to the public but law enforcement has access to the records and the minor may be required to disclose those records in future employment applications or to obtain government licensing.
Sealing or destroying a juvenile record is not a right, nor is there any guarantee a petition to seal or destroy those records will be granted. There are many factors the courts considers, including the seriousness of the offense, the number of juvenile offenses resulting in sustained petitions, the minor’s performance while under juvenile court supervision, and how long it has been since the juvenile left the jurisdiction of the juvenile court. The experienced lawyers at Paladin Legal Defenders can review your case and help prepare and argue your petition to seal your records.

The Experienced Lawyers at Paladin Legal Defenders Can Help You With Your Juvenile Court Matters

Finding the right representation for your child is essential to obtaining the best possible outcome in Juvenile Court. The experienced attorneys at Paladin Legal Defenders can review your case and fight for the best possible outcome, whether that is a plea bargain or a trial. We will spend time getting to know you and your child so that we can present the court with the strongest possible arguments in resolving the case. The attorneys at Paladin Legal Defenders have been successfully representing juveniles for over 25 years and we are here for you when you need us. Our many years of experience representing juvenile offenders and our dedication to work hard to insure our clients get the best possible outcome in resolving their case in juvenile court makes us your best choice to represent your son or daughter in Juvenile Court. If your child has been arrested and charged with a crime, call Paladin Legal Defenders at 714-536-9988 and schedule a free consultation.

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