California juvenile courts follow different procedures from the adult courts. Under the juvenile court structure, when a minor engages in criminal activity, the conduct is known as delinquency. The main goal of this system is to rehabilitate and not punish children for these delinquent acts.

However, if the court sustains the petition, your minor might end up on probation and a confinement sentence. Even though the juvenile justice arrangement might not appear to be harsh on delinquents, a criminal record can affect the minor’s future. Therefore, you should hire an experienced criminal attorney for the case.

At California Criminal Lawyer Group, we are here to keep your minor out of detention, ensure they are not tried in adult court, and that a criminal record does not ruin their life. Our competent attorneys have discussed the general view of juvenile delinquency, the types of proceedings available, your rights, and those of the child.

The General View of Juvenile Delinquency

As mentioned above, delinquency is the illegal conduct of a minor engaging in the commission of criminal activity. Therefore, if your child commits a delinquent act, the matter is adjudicated in juvenile court. These courts handle misdemeanor crimes, felony offenses, and other criminal violations committed by minors.

Many juveniles end up with sustained petitions because you, as the parent, don’t know what to do in these situations to provide guidance. Therefore, it’s advisable to understand the action you must take after your juvenile has been arrested for delinquency.

Again, you need to be educated on what is required of you and the minor after the arrest. One essential aspect about an arrest that your child must understand is that the arresting officer is not their friend. If in any way the officer wants to interrogate them, they should ask for your presence or that of a criminal attorney. Additionally, the minor should avoid written or verbal confessions because this information will be self-incriminating in court.

If your minor is arrested for delinquency, it will be a difficult time for you both. However, if you hire an attorney for the case, they will relieve you of the stress because you know someone competent is protecting your child’s future by preventing a criminal record.

Note that the juvenile court doesn’t prosecute some delinquent acts. Instead, the cases are transferred to the adult criminal justice system in a transfer hearing. The court will consider having your child transferred to a criminal court if the following is true:

  • If your minor has previous records of juvenile delinquency, engaging in the commission of another serious offense could mean they are prosecuted as adults in a criminal court.
  • When your minor has been arrested for a severe offense, they will face the adult criminal justice system whose conviction attracts harsh and life-altering consequences.
  • Also, the minor will be transferred to the adult court if previous rehabilitation attempts in the juvenile justice system have proved futile. Remember, the objective of the system is to rehabilitate minors and turn them into responsible adults. And if this has failed on your child several times, it means the system doesn’t work for them, and they must be tried as adults and face adult penalties.

Delinquents below the age of sixteen cannot be transferred to the adult court, but the minor will be deemed an adult if they commit the following criminal acts:

  • Aggravated assault
  • Armed robbery
  • Rape resulting in severe physical harm
  • Homicide or attempted murder
  • Kidnapping to commit robbery
  • Carjacking and many other offenses outlined under WIC 707b

The handling of offenders in a juvenile court is not the same as in an adult court. If the adult court finds your minor guilty of the offense, they will face jail or prison incarceration and part with hefty monetary court fines. Further, they miss out on the privileges available in the juvenile court system, which is the least of your wishes.

Juvenile Delinquency Court

The felony or misdemeanor offenses your juvenile has been accused of committing are handled in the delinquency court. In addition, the court hears petitions for status offenses that are deemed criminal activities only when commissioned by minors. Both juvenile delinquency and informal juvenile courts are by the Juvenile Division of the Orange County Superior Court.

Instead of filing charges against the minor, these courts divert delinquents into community services and programs in an attempt to rehabilitate them. These juvenile courts mainly handle individuals aged from 12 to 17 years.

Explanation of the 602 Hearing

A minor under 18 years who commits a crime must be apprehended and presented before a juvenile court under WIC 602. The proceeding is otherwise known as the 602 proceedings.

When the court is determining your case, they don’t give a guilty or not guilty verdict. Instead, they sustain the DA’s petition.

In these proceedings, you will find a judge, prosecuting team, and the defense team, but you won’t find a jury. But, again, these proceedings are confidential and often not open to the public.

Before the passage of SB 439, minors under 12 were not charged in the juvenile courts. However, after the enactment of this bill in September 2018, these courts have the authority to handle cases involving minors younger than twelve years if they charge the juvenile with the following offenses:

  • Oral copulation through force, coercion, or violence
  • Sexual penetration or rape through the use of physical power or threatening force
  • Sodomy involving duress or fear

Juvenile Court Lingo

As stated above, the delinquency court doesn’t find your minor innocent or guilty. But instead, it sustains the petition filed, after which they face various dispositions available in these courts.

The minimum disposition is the imposition of probation. The delinquent doesn’t confess to the accusations, but the petition is dropped after the conclusion of the probation.

Alternatively, the minor could be committed in a Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), previously called the California Youth Authority (CYA).

The Rehabilitation Goal

Theoretically speaking, juvenile court systems are intended to rehabilitate delinquents. Therefore, when a minor ends up with a sustained petition, they are on probation, a community program, or a DJJ for rehabilitation.

Under the system, minors enjoy various privileges like education, counseling, treatment, and other programs to become more responsible adults, avoid crime, and unite with their loved ones.

Unlike the adult criminal system, which punishes offenders with hefty fines or jail sentences, juvenile courts place sanctions on young offenders. Although these sanctions are intended to rehabilitate, it doesn’t mean the violation of the law by your juvenile will go unpunished. They can face sanctions for various wrongful acts, although it aims to discipline and not payback. The sanctions that the court could impose on the minor are:

  • Victim restitution or monetary court fine payment
  • Probation conditions
  • Mandatory victim impact lessons
  • Foster care placement
  • Commitment to the DJJ
  • Community labor

Issues with the Juvenile Justice System

You expect the juvenile court to be perfect despite its outstanding objectives. But, unfortunately, the court system has a share of its failures which have attracted massive criticism. The deplorable conditions in camps include:

  • Application of excessive force, for instance, by using a mace on already restrained minors
  • Forcing minors to attend classes when locked up in cages
  • Holding juveniles in cells for up to twenty-three hours a day
  • Failure to provide children with sufficient access to mental and physical health care
  • Preserving a culture that features the use of extreme or gang-related violence

Juvenile Court System Realignment

The court system that deals with crimes committed by juveniles have witnessed massive changes because of litigations, expenses, and penalizing preferences. Today, the Orange County probation departments treat, protect, and rehabilitate minors who have committed severe and violent offenses.

Before the passage of SB 81 in 2007, the state incurred huge expenses on the confinement of juveniles. This, coupled with the system failures, is why SB 81 realigned juvenile courts from the state to county levels.

County probation departments can now handle these cases after changes in the law to correct the failures of the system and funding initiatives. As a result, only a few delinquents end up committed in the DJJ. 

What Happens After Your Minor has Been Arrested?

Usually, when a minor is arrested, they are placed in a detention facility awaiting a detention hearing. The hearing should happen within 72 hours whether the youth is in detention or has been released. After this hearing, you should file another request for a proceeding to challenge the petition filed against your minor. The time limit for making this request is seventy-two hours.

Depending on the severity of the delinquency act in question, additional proceedings may occur in the case. The reasons for the hearings is to:

  • Analyze the evidence
  • Establish the time the juvenile will spend in detention
  • Establish whether the youth will be detained
  • Consider the issue of jurisdiction

The court has the discretion to do the following at the end of the case:

  • Guide legal supervision to the delinquent
  • Place the delinquent on an adoption plan
  • Invalidate your rights as the minors blood parent or caregiver

Juvenile Detention Proceedings

Contingent to the kind of accusations against your child, your minor will undergo multiple hearings intended to handle the petition in court. The court’s decision in any of these procedures depends on the case’s facts and how you argue your case. Therefore, you must hire a profound criminal attorney to represent the delinquent in these cases and ensure the best outcome. Discussed below is the overview of various proceedings your child will undergo in the juvenile justice system:

  1. Detention Proceeding

If your juvenile is in police supervision after an arrest for a crime, the first proceedings they will undergo in this court system is the detention hearing. Even if the minor is allowed to come home after the arrest, they will still be deemed a ward of the court because the court has the primary role over their control and treatment. The probation officer decides if the minor is right to go home or be detained based on the facts of the case. This is unlike the adult court system, where the offender can be released on bail pending trial. Therefore, your child will have no option but to remain in detention if the supervising officer decides so unless you request a detention hearing.

The judge reads the petition, informs the minor of their rights, and allows them to take a plea. Here, your juvenile will have the option to plead guilty, refute the accusations, or plead not guilty. 

The minor will continue to be detained in a juvenile hall or facility if:

  • The court deems them as a flight risk and may skip town and miss court hearings. Again, an attorney will come in handy in this stage because they can convince the court that the minor isn’t likely to flee Anaheim or the state.
  • The juvenile is a danger to their wellbeing and the safety of the community
  • The youth has a record of skipping court hearings

If you are lucky enough to win this proceeding, you will take your child home. However, if the case is lost, the juvenile will have no other option but to remain in custody until the issue is determined. Your last wish is to have your child stay in a detention hall for long, and your best hope to prevent detention is hiring an attorney on time to work on fleeing the juvenile from custody.

  1. Pretrial Proceeding

The defense team must understand the evidence the District Attorney has against your minor before the petition continues. After a thorough evaluation of the evidence, the court determines if the case should proceed or be resolved out of court. Therefore, after a detention hearing, the claim must undergo a pretrial hearing. The proceeding happens within 15 days if the minor is held in a juvenile hall or thirty days if the child is out of detention.

Based on the evidence presented, your juvenile’s case might necessitate over one pretrial proceeding to allow adequate time for the judge to inform you on the case’s progress and learn more about the minor’s behavior from the supervision officer in charge of the case. If your child admits to the accusations against them, the prosecutor will endorse a disposition or sentence. The court might decide to place the minor under supervised probation.

  1. Jurisdiction Proceeding 

A jurisdiction hearing is like a trial in the adult court, and this is where the court establishes whether your juvenile is guilty of the charges filed by the prosecutor. The prosecuting team presents evidence touching the minor while your child’s attorney mounts various defenses in this proceeding. The defense attorney can take the following actions in these cases:

  • Contest the facts of the petition filed against the delinquent
  • Interrogating witnesses
  • Present their eyewitnesses and evidence demonstrating the juvenile’s innocence
  • Contend the petition in the juvenile delinquency court

The hearing begins with the judge reading out the charges, and it ends with them reading the outcome. You will be informed of the court’s decision by your attorney of the monetary court fines you must pay when the court sustains the petition. However, if there is insufficient evidence to convince the judge the minor didn’t commit the offense, the judge will throw out the case.

  1. Fitness or Transfer Proceeding 

The District Attorney handling your case has the discretion to initiate a fitness hearing where a judge determines if the minor is fit to stand trial as an adult. Based on the characteristics of the crime committed, the court might decide the juvenile stand adjudication in a juvenile court. If this is the case, the matter will proceed to the disposition hearing. However, if the youth is fit to be tried as an adult, the court will transfer them to the criminal court.

  1. Dispositional Proceeding

Ten days past the jurisdiction proceeding, the dispositional proceeding takes place. Here, the judge determines the best discipline and fashion of rehabilitation of the juvenile. However, before the decision, they must read the probation officer’s report about the minor, including their family record, criminal history, and the suggestions by the Orange County probation department.

The probation officer’s report is what determines the disposition be handed out.

It’s worth noting that after the disposition, there are several actions you can take. First, if you are unhappy with the court’s decision, you can request your child’s attorney to file an appeal, which should happen within 60 days after the disposition proceeding.

Similarly, you could request the court to set aside their ruling if your minor’s circumstances have changed or new evidence.

Also, the court could hand out a harsher sentence if the juvenile doesn’t comply with rules imposed in the dispositional proceeding.

Remember, a sustained petition results in a criminal record that significantly alters your minor’s course of life. So, there is a need to clear the criminal history if the minor is eligible. For example, you can file for an expunction if sixty months have lapsed and the delinquent makes check-ins with their supervisor. By sealing the record, you ensure your minor’s childhood mistakes don’t haunt them in their adult life, thus giving them a brighter future, free of crime.

Your Minor’s Right in Juvenile Delinquency Cases

Delinquents have many rights under the juvenile court arrangement. These rights include:

  • The arresting officer needs probable cause the minor has committed a crime before placing them in custody.
  • The minor has a right to a phone call after an arrest to request for your presence as the parent or caregiver or that of a legal representative.
  • The juvenile must distinguish the crime or reason for their arrest and the characteristics of the offense.
  • The minor has a right to retain the services of a criminal attorney to provide legal guidance and representation in the various stages of these cases.
  • Although an adjudication proceeding is different from a trial, your juvenile has a right to interrogate or challenge witnesses with the help of their defense attorney.
  • The state should demonstrate that the minor committed a crime beyond reasonable certainty before the disposition hearing.
  • The minor has no bail right and can only be released pending case determination if an attorney requests a detention proceeding.

Your Rights as a Parent in Delinquency Cases

Your minor’s apprehension for a crime can have devastating consequences on you, and all you want is for them to be out of detention as soon as possible. However, even if the delinquent is in a juvenile hall, you still have legal custodian or caregiver rights.

Firstly, you have a right to be informed of the minor’s apprehension and detention to ensure that you find legal representation for the delinquent earliest possible to protect their rights. Sometimes, the arresting officer interrogates the minor even without your presence. Therefore, there is a need for the juvenile to understand their rights.

Most delinquents end up with sustained petitions not because they are guilty but because you, as the parent, don’t understand the rights of the minor. Therefore, the court must notify you of the juvenile’s rights once a petition is filed to ensure proper guidance and avoid self-incriminating statements.

Your child has a right to legal counsel. And because they can’t hire one by themselves, you have the responsibility to hire an attorney on their behalf. Again, you must notify them they have a right to observe silence until their legal counsel is present.

The integrity of your minor is vital in their future as it affects their reputation and college admission. And because these individuals are mentally incapacitated to make informed decisions, you have a right to handle the case confidentially.

Lastly, despite these cases remaining confidential, you can request the minor’s juvenile report and be present in all court proceedings.

Find an Experienced Juvenile Defense Attorney Near Me

The worst nightmare a parent can face is learning of their minor’s arrest for engaging in juvenile delinquency. It will be even worse if the petition against the juvenile is sustained because a criminal record will have devastating consequences on their future.

So, if your child faces a petition in juvenile court, the best way to help them is to retain the guidance of a criminal attorney. At California Criminal Lawyer Group, we can help your family through this challenging situation. Contact us today at 714-766-0965 for a zero-obligation consultation.