California Juvenile Courts
So your child has received a petition and must appear before the judge. No doubt both of you are frightened about what this could mean for both the short and long term futures. Juvenile courts aren’t happy kiddie-courts, they are designed to identify and punish delinquent behavior.
If the district attorney or probation officer elected to “file a petition” with the juvenile courts, your child could be facing status offenses or criminal charges. First, let’s talk about status offenses.
Juvenile Status Offenses
Status offenses are those that are only considered violations of law because of your child’s age. This means that they aren’t crimes that adults can be accused of. Some examples include skipping school, disobeying parents, running away, or breaking curfews.
If your child is accused of a status offense and the probation officer wants a judge to hear the case, a “601 petition” has to be filed. If the judge determines your child violated a status offense, he will be labeled a “status offender” and may face penalties.
Juvenile Criminal Charges
If your child is accused of any criminal charge, whether it is a misdemeanor or felony, the District Attorney’s office can elect to bring it before the court with a “602 Petition”. If the judge determines your child did what he or she is accused of, he will be labeled a “delinquent” and face penalties.
Depending on the nature of the crime, the District Attorney can also move to have your child tried as an adult. The Attorney makes a case in a Fitness or Waiver hearing, asking the judge to move the case. If this happens, your child’s case will be heard in the California criminal courts alongside adult cases.
How is Juvenile Court Different?
There are major differences between juvenile court proceedings in California and adult cases. First, your child does not have a right to trial by jury. Ensuring your child is represented by an experienced California juvenile defense attorney is a smart way to ensure you understand all of the differences in the case, and protect your child’s rights in court.
How Will We Know When to Go to Court?
Depending on the type of court appearance, you and your child will receive notice to appear ahead of time. In most cases you will receive notice at least 10 days before the court appearance. If your child is being held at Juvenile Hall the notice may only come 5 days prior.
What Happens in Juvenile Court?
There are several different types of hearings in the juvenile court system. In each of the hearings, the district attorney typically tries to show the judge that your child committed a criminal or status offense while the defense attorney represents your child.
A probation officer is also a common feature in these cases as they can act as a witness and give information to the court about your child’s prior criminal involvement, their general behavior, academic progress, and home situation.
Detention hearings only occur if your child is being held in Juvenile Hall. These hearings are held within 3 days of the child’s arrest and are designed to determine if they can go home. A child does not have to post bail but is simply released on the promise to return.
It is here that your child may first plead guilty or not guilty to the charges before them. This is why it is a good idea to have a defense attorney for your child early on in the case.
The jurisdictional hearing is the juvenile court’s version of a trial. Here is where the prosecution attempt to prove to the judge that you are guilty, beyond a reasonable doubt.
Your child’s defense attorney will work hard at this stage of the court process to ensure your child’s rights are looked after and their side of the story is heard. An aggressive defense attorney won’t allow the prosecution to paint your child in a negative light and will work relentlessly towards the best possible outcome.
If the judge believes your child is guilty, he will be “adjudicated” and, in criminal cases, be labeled “delinquent”.
The dispositional hearing is where the judge will determine the best sentence for your child. In juvenile criminal matters, it is important to note that all of the potential sentences are the same as in adult court.
For instance, here are some common offenses and their potential penalties:
Possession of marijuana, greater than 1 ounce: Up to 6 months in Juvenile Hall and fines
Disturbing the Peace: Up to 90 days in Juvenile Hall and fines
Petty theft: Up to 6 months in Juvenile Hall and fines.
Vandalism: Up to 1 year in Juvenile Hall and fines.
If your child is facing any other criminal charges you may find their potential sentences on my criminal charges pages listed at the left.
Knowing your child could spend months locked up is no easy thing to imagine. Having an experience juvenile defense attorney looking out for your child’s best interest can make a tremendous difference in the outcome in court.
Please contact us for a consultation.