If you are the parent of a child who finds themselves in legal trouble, it can be extremely a stressful and gut wrenching period. You only want the best for your child and the possibility of them being sent away or being labeled a “criminal” can be very difficult. Knowing how the California juvenile system works can give you a sense of power as you go through this trying time.
My Child Was Arrested!
When the police suspect your child of a crime, he or she can be arrested like any adult. However, unlike adults, the police have a lot more discretion with juveniles.
If your child was arrested, the police can do any of the following:
- Record the arrest and send your child home.
- Cite your child back to the police station.
- Give you and the child a Notice to Appear (either in court or to the probation department).
- Detain your child in juvenile hall.
- Send your child to an agency that will house and counsel your child (often used in cases where the home is unsuitable).
What is the Notice to Appear?
A notice to appear can be issued telling your child (and you) to report either to the probation department or to court. In most cases, even if the case is later referred to the court, it begins in the probation department.
Read the notice to appear and follow the instructions.
What will the probation officer do?
Just like the police officer, the probation officer has a lot of discretion in juvenile cases. There are three basic options that the officer will have with your child’s case:
- Discuss the circumstances with your child and send them home with a warning.
- Instruct your child to complete a probationary period, or court alternative. This could include community service, curfews, or counseling.
- Refer the case to the district attorney for the filing of a petition, or to potentially begin the court process.
What’s a “Petition’?
Both the probation office and the district attorney’s office work together to determine if the case needs to go to court. If they determine court is the appropriate way to handle the case, they will file a “petition”.
There are two types of petitions, 601 petitions and 602 petitions. The difference between these two petitions is very important.
601 Petition: Filed by the probation officer and states that your child committed a status offense. Status offenses are those that are only unlawful because of the child’s age. They include truancy, curfew violations, or runaways.
602 Petition: Filed by the district attorney, a 602 petition refers to a crime having been committed. These are offenses which are considered crimes no matter what age the accused is.
With both petitions, your child will have to appear in court.
When your child is arrested it is completely natural to feel scared, angry, and confused. Your kid may have messed up and made some mistakes and now his punishment is in the hands of the state of California rather than you.
And your child may be innocent. There are many scenarios that unfold every day where a child is wrongfully accused. There could be a case of mistaken identity, it could be some other child is trying to shift the blame on your child, or it could be a situation that your child was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, or with the wrong crowd.
We can sort out all of your legal defense options. Remember, an accusation is not the same a conviction.
Consulting with a California Juvenile Defense Attorney can begin put your mind at ease about the entire situation. You want to proceed with a full knowledge of what to expect when your child goes to court. And the stakes can be high. If adjudicated (found guilty), this could stay with them for a very long time.
Please contact us for a free legal consultation for any California Juvenile criminal legal problem.
Are there juvenile Offenders who are actually adults?
In the past, many San Francisco juvenile felony offenders (17 out of 58, nearly 30%) had been adults, authorities have determined. Classification as juvenile offenders allows undocumented immigrants to avoid deportation under the law.
Critics charge that this is a clear abuse of San Francisco’s sanctuary policies about undocumented individuals. And a costly one at that, since San Francisco’s Juvenile Probation Department pays expenses for these offenders to live in group homes. Many of the 58 individuals, legal and illegal, in the juvenile program were charged and convicted of dealing drugs.
Supporters of San Francisco’s sanctuary status believe the benefits of the policy far outweigh the downsides of those who may be gaming the system.
Under the same set of circumstances surrounding a felony charge, adults are turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and are nearly always deported if found to be illegal immigrants.
More on California Juvenile Justice.