Juvenile Court System
Juvenile Justice System
If your child is accused of a crime in California, the juvenile court is the system where a judge or commissioner hears the evidence and decides on whether or not to release the child under probation – or, to send the child to the juvenile system.
Following the arrest of a child, if the offender is placed in juvenile hall, the county probation department and/or the district attorney can choose to file a “petition” with the juvenile court, which is similar to filing charges in adult court. If the crime is serious enough, the district attorney may request that the juvenile be “remanded” to adult court because the juvenile is “unfit” to be adjudicated as a juvenile – and will be tried as an adult, but those cases are rare.
Most of the time, a petition is filed by the probation department with the court alleging certain crimes by minors who have engaged in delinquent behavior. The case is brought before a juvenile court judge who hears the evidence, considers the testimony and decides if the allegations are true. Trial or negotiation is a very important aspect of representing a minor child. If the court finds some or all of the allegations in a petition to be true, then (in some cases) moves to the disposition of a minor child.
This is when the court decides what sentence is appropriate for the child. Returning the child home is always a potential outcome, which is what we strive for at the Law Offices of Johnson and Johnson. We know that your child should be home where he or she can have the best support and direction possible. Getting to know your child and your family is important. Educating the court on what your family is about is relevant, and is a key factor for the court to hear when a decision is made about your child.
Juveniles do not have the same rights as adults. The two most significant differences between juvenile and adult courts are:
- Children arrested for a crime under the age of 18 cannot be “released” on bail, and,
- Juvenile court hearings are heard by a judge or commissioner; children have no right to a jury trial.
Helping a minor who is charged with a crime requires specialized experience in order to protect that person from the overwhelming power of the government.
In Juvenile Court, children are not convicted of a crime, they are “adjudicated”, since the purpose is to rehabilitate (change the behavior) — not incarcerate (punish the offender). When a child is adjudicated of a crime, that child’s future is in serious jeopardy. Most children do not fully understand the consequences of their actions and seldom deserve tough sentences. However, many Juvenile court judges take a “tough on crime” stance, and order the child taken away until age 18, and occasionally, for much longer. It is not unusual for sentencing to include group counseling, detention in a juvenile facility such as a boot camp/ranch, juvenile hall, or California Youth Authority (CYA) facility. These frightening outcomes, in addition to the complex laws involved with juvenile offenses, require having an experienced juvenile attorney fight for your child — and attempt to have those allegations dropped or reduced.
The costs of having your child go through the juvenile justice system are enormous, and can affect your entire family including:
- parents and juvenile offenders are liable for court costs and fines
- parents and juvenile offenders are liable for victim restitution
- parents will be served with a civil notice by the district attorney’s office for child support, if the child is sent to juevnile hall or a CYA ranch
If your child has been charged with a felony or a misdemeanor, it is STRONGLY RECOMMENDED THAT YOU HIRE an experienced juvenile defense attorney.
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