Learning about the arrest of a loved one is devastating, especially if the arrested person is a minor. Sadly, the police arrest children, too, when they engage in criminal acts. Regardless of the seriousness of their actions, children are subjected to a different criminal process. It is because the law protects minors, irrespective of their actions. But the juvenile justice system is very complicated. You need help, guidance, and support as a parent or guardian to follow the process your arrested minor will follow, protect their rights, and fight for a better outcome.

One of the issues you will need help with is what a sustained juvenile petition is and how you can protect your child if the judge sustains their petition. You also need help understanding what will happen after the court sustains your child’s petition. We have extensive experience handling cases in juvenile courts at California Criminal Lawyer Group. We can streamline the process, explain your options, and fight alongside you for the best possible outcome for your loved one’s case in Anaheim.

An Overview of the Juvenile Justice System

Like adults, children commit crimes in California. While most offenses they commit are infractions and simple misdemeanors, children sometimes face charges for far more severe felonies like murder, burglary, and rape. The law protects children, giving them second chances after committing an offense. That is why children go through a different justice system than adults. The criminal justice system for adults aims to punish offenders, while the juvenile justice system is more about treatment and rehabilitation. Once a juvenile offender is fully rehabilitated, they can enjoy a crime-free future as an adult.

The law considers parents and guardians to be the primary caregivers for their children. Providing for a child’s needs goes beyond ensuring they have all the necessities to survive. Parents and guardians must also protect their children and guide them correctly. This way, children can avoid a criminal life. But sometimes, protecting your child from crime becomes a challenge, especially when the crime rate increases daily. Children observe and copy what other adults in their neighborhood do. Other times, adults use children to commit acts of crime. The justice system is aware of all these possibilities. That is why it has set up a justice system primarily for juvenile offenders.

When a child commits a crime, the police can arrest them. Depending on the details of the offense and the offender’s history of delinquency, the arresting officer can book the child or release them back to their parents with a stern warning. If the crime is severe, the officer will share the case with the prosecutor, who decides what to do with the minor. The prosecutor can also drop the case, release the child, engage the probation department, and file a petition in juvenile court. If the case goes before a juvenile court judge, the judge decides its outcome based on the evidence gathered by the police and the child’s defense.

Prosecutors do not file criminal cases against juvenile offenders as they do with adult offenders. They file petitions when a minor is suspected of committing a crime. The child will appear before a judge, not a jury, as in criminal court. The judge hears the petition, studies the evidence, and hears the prosecutor’s and defense’s statements to rule over the matter. If the judge finds the minor guilty, they will sustain the juvenile petition instead of declaring the minor guilty of the charges. A sustained juvenile petition will be followed by a disposition, whereby the judge decides how the minor will receive the needed treatment and rehabilitation.

The Processes That Will Lead to a Sustained Juvenile Petition

Arresting a minor for committing a criminal act does not mean they are guilty. Remember that defendants are innocent until a jury finds them guilty after trial. If your child’s case is serious and the arresting officer forwards their case details to the prosecutor, they will go through a series of court processes before the judge makes the final decision. You can hire a criminal attorney for your child to protect their rights and ensure you know what to expect with each process. It also gives you peace of mind knowing that someone with the proper knowledge is looking out for your child’s best interests.

The Detention Hearing

Once the prosecutor files a petition against your child, they must appear before a juvenile court judge for a detention hearing within a few hours of their arrest. In this hearing, the judge decides whether to detail the child or release them back to their parents. If the child is a first-time offender and is only suspected of a minor offense, the judge can release them back to their parents. The parent must follow other court processes until the matter is resolved.

On the other hand, if the case is severe or the minor is a habitual offender, the judge can rule to have them detained in a juvenile hall until their issue is resolved. The judge can also detain the minor if they are a threat to the community, are unsafe in their home, or are likely to re-offend.

The Transfer Hearing

Your child will also go through a transfer hearing after a detention hearing. This hearing aims to determine whether the minor fits into the juvenile justice system. If not, the judge will transfer their case to an adult criminal court, where they will stand trial as adults.

Juvenile offenders who commit serious crimes at 16 or 17 can face trial as adults in criminal courts. In this case, serious crimes include serious or violence-related felonies like rape, murder, and vehicular manslaughter. If the judge concludes your child does not fit in the juvenile justice system, the prosecutor will file charges in criminal court. But if they are fit for the juvenile system, they can proceed to the next step in the juvenile justice process.

The Adjudication Hearing

Your child will go through this hearing if the judge rules that they are fit for the juvenile justice system in the previous hearing. The adjudication hearing is more like a trial conducted in adult criminal courts. The judge will mention the case, its implications, and the evidence gathered by the police during the crime investigation. They will then allow the prosecutor to table more evidence. The judge will then give the defense team (you, your child, and their defense attorney) a chance to present evidence and arguments to counter the prosecutor’s evidence. In the end, the judge will weigh the evidence from both parties to conclude the matter.

Note that only a judge presides over cases in juvenile court. Your child does not stand trial before a jury. The judge hears the case and considers other factors to make a final ruling. If the evidence is not sufficient, the judge will drop the case. But if there is adequate evidence that your child committed the offense, the judge will sustain the petition.

What a Sustained Juvenile Petition Means For Your Child

A sustained juvenile petition is like a guilty verdict in a criminal case. It means that there is sufficient evidence to show that the child committed the offense. It also means that the child must face consequences for their actions. But instead of punishing the offender, the juvenile justice system offers them a chance to change their behavior for a promising adult life. That is why the child will go through yet another hearing, the disposition hearing. In this hearing, the judge considers what the state has to offer the child based on the details of their case.

However, the judge considers several factors before sustaining a juvenile’s petition. First, they must consider the evidence against the child presented by the prosecutor. They must also consider the circumstances under which the child committed the offense. Your child has the right to legal representation during all these processes. The juvenile court will appoint a public defender for your child if you cannot afford a private one. The attorney’s role is to defend the child against the petition and fight the prosecutor’s evidence. If, even after a solid defense, the judge finds the evidence against the offender sufficient, they will sustain the petition.

During the adjudication hearing, your child will also have a chance to defend their actions. Understanding your child's rights is crucial to ensuring no one violates them, especially in the adjudication hearing. Here are some of these rights:

  • The right to a criminal defense attorney for legal guidance, representation, and defensel.
  • The right to call and cross-examine witnesses.
  • The right to testify or not testify (they also have the right to avoid incriminating themselves).
  • The right to challenge the prosecutor.

The judge must also hear the child’s case within fifteen court days after the detention hearing if the child is in detention. If not, the hearing dates can be extended to 30 days after the prosecutor files a petition against them.

What Follows a Sustained Juvenile Petition?

Since a sustained petition is like a guilty verdict by an adult criminal court, your child will face consequences for their actions. However, the consequences juvenile offenders receive are different from what an adult offender would receive under the same circumstances. This is because the juvenile justice system seeks to treat and rehabilitate minors with behavioral and emotional problems instead of punishing them for their criminal acts. In that case, expect a different consequence than paying a court fine, serving time in jail or prison, or serving probation for your loved one.

Sentencing for a minor whose petition the judge has sustained happens in a disposition hearing. In the hearing, the judge considers the case details, the minor’s history of delinquency, and their home situation to determine the best treatment or rehabilitation for them. Instead of punishing the juvenile for criminal behavior, the judge considers ways to rehabilitate and counsel them adequately. The kind of disposition your child will receive will also vary according to their age.

Note that your loved one must confess to their criminal acts and agree that they need help from the judge to select the proper disposition for them. They will be allowed to testify and give their opinion in this hearing to influence the judge’s decision.

Disposition hearings occur right after adjudication hearings. Your loved one’s disposition hearing could be held on the same day the judge sustained their petition or on a different day. It depends on the judge's information regarding the case and the disposition options at the time. Sometimes, juvenile court judges involve the probation department to ensure the court has adequate information to make the final ruling at the disposition hearing. The department will send a probation officer to investigate the minor’s needs and file a detailed report about their findings with the court. If that happens, the judge postpones the disposition hearing until the probation department finalizes its report.

The judge can also postpone the disposition hearing at the defense team's request. For example, if you (the parent/guardian) need time to gather relevant material to defend your child’s actions or influence the judge’s decision, the court will grant it. But the court must adhere to strict deadlines within which dispositions must happen. Thus, the judge cannot postpone the hearing more than they should. Before the hearing, the judge can order a mental evaluation of the minor to determine any mental issues they could have. All these are done to ensure that the judge’s decision is fair and that the court serves the child’s best interests.

By the end of the disposition hearing, the judge can make the following decisions:

  • Send your child home but on probation, with some conditions for the child to adhere to.
  • Send them on probation but to a probation camp.
  • Place them under the care of foster parents.
  • Commit them to a Division of Juvenile Justice.

If your loved one is sent on probation, they will be under the supervision of the probation department. The department will send an officer to ensure that your child is adhering to all the probation conditions given by the judge during the disposition hearing. If the child violates one or more conditions, the probation officer will write a report and file it with the juvenile court. The judge calls for another hearing to discuss the circumstances and consequences of the violation.

Committing a minor to the Division of Juvenile Justice is the severest disposition a juvenile can receive after committing an offense. DJJ facilities are similar to prisons, but they are designed to cater to the various needs of juvenile offenders. Your child will be sent to a facility away from home to attend school and receive adequate treatment and rehabilitation for their behavior. You can visit your child occasionally, but they cannot come home until they complete rehabilitation as ordered by the judge.

If the judge sentences your child to probation, the probation department must investigate the condition of your home to determine its suitability for the minor while on probation. If the home environment does not support the rehabilitation the juvenile requires, the probation department can suggest placing the child with a relative or in a group home.

Once the judge gives the final ruling, your child becomes a ward of the court. It means that the court will make all the decisions about your child. However, it does not mean you cannot give your opinion or interact with your child until they are fully rehabilitated. Your child’s defense attorney will explain your rights and ensure none are violated in all court processes.

Long-Term Consequences of Sustained Juvenile Petitions

A criminal record can impact a child's future. Once a child is arrested and the prosecutor files a petition against them with a juvenile court, they could have a damaging record that could impact their life in many ways. Sustained juvenile petitions have even more significant negative consequences for a juvenile’s adult life. For example, sustained juvenile petitions are strikes under the state’s Three Strikes Law. If your child committed a strike offense and the judge upheld their petition, they will have a strike record that will influence their future sentencing for strike offenses. If the child commits a second or third strike in the future, their sentence will be longer than the law provides for that particular offense.

Adult criminal courts can also access juvenile adjudication files before making a sentencing or probationary decision. In this case, a sustained petition can mitigate or aggravate future sentencing in a criminal case. Judges can use it to determine whether to give you a low, medium, or high prison sentence.

If your child commits a sex offense and the judge sustains their petition, they could be required to register on the sex offender registry. Judges make these decisions based on the gravity of the sex offense and the juvenile’s history of delinquency. Judges sometimes label sexual offenders as sexually violent predators based on their criminal history. If you have an account of severe sex offenses, you could be considered a sexually violent predator if you commit a serious sex offense as an adult.

Sealing Juvenile Criminal Records

A sustained juvenile petition creates lots of uncertainty for your child’s future. Their criminal past can haunt them for the rest of their lives, even after receiving much-needed treatment and rehabilitation. Everyone running a background check on your child will see their criminal past and treat them accordingly, regardless of their life changes. For example, employers who run background checks on potential employees can make a hiring decision based on what they find in your child’s criminal history.

Therefore, it is a good idea to consider sealing your child’s juvenile records and giving them a clean slate to start life on after serving their sentence. Sealing provides numerous benefits to young offenders who have abandoned the criminal life and embraced a new path in life. It hides your child’s records from public scrutiny and protects your child’s integrity. After sealing the records, anyone running a background check on them will not find any incriminating information that could influence their decision.

Note that a minor receives a criminal record when arrested for an offense. The record will remain even if the charges are dropped later in the legal process.

Note: A juvenile offender cannot seal all juvenile records. For example, if your child’s case involved serious charges like carjacking, murder, arson, robbery, and other severe or violence-related felonies, their records could be ineligible for sealing. A skilled criminal attorney can help them understand their options and guide them accordingly, depending on the situation.

If they are eligible for sealing, the juvenile must petition the juvenile court and await the judge’s decision. Ensure that they meet these criteria:

  • They must be adults aged 18 or older.
  • They must not have any criminal conviction records for felonies or misdemeanors.
  • They must convince the court that you are fully rehabilitated.
  • There should not be any civil litigation against them for their juvenile delinquent actions.

If the judge grants the juvenile’s petition, the court will seal their records and make them unavailable to the public. The juvenile offender is not required to disclose their criminal past to potential employers or landlords.

Find a Competent Anaheim Criminal Attorney Near Me

Has someone you love undergone an adjudication hearing in Anaheim, and the judge sustained their juvenile petition?

It helps to understand what a sustained petition means for them and you so that you can prepare for the legal processes ahead. A skilled criminal attorney can break it down to you, explain your options, and help you fight for the best outcome.

Our California Criminal Lawyer Group team has the skills and experience you need to navigate the juvenile justice system successfully. We can fight alongside you, protect your and your loved one’s rights, and compel the judge to give a ruling that serves your child’s interests. Call us at 714-766-0965 to learn more about us and what we can do for you.