California recognizes persons under 18 as juveniles. As such, individuals who commit crimes before their 18th birthday are subject to the California juvenile justice system. While this is a complex network intended to emphasize rehabilitation, guidance, treatment, and education over punishment, you are likely to feel overwhelmed and confused if your child is caught up on the wrong side of the law. Fortunately, you are not all powerless when the freedom and life of your child are at stake. You are entitled to certain parental rights and obligations during a juvenile delinquency case in Orange County, CA. Because it is not easy to navigate the justice system alone, we invite you to contact us at the Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm. Let us work together and protect your rights and those of your child.
It is perfectly normal to want to protect your child irrespective of the crime he/she is accused of committing. We can guide you on the best way to do this without harming your child’s case. Our skilled attorneys can also ensure that the matter at hand comes to the best possible conclusion.
Understanding What Is Juvenile Delinquency
California laws define juvenile delinquency as the act of engaging in unlawful behavior as a person below the statutory age of majority (18 years). The state tries such persons as juvenile offenders, although you may still be subject to a trial in the juvenile court if a crime you committed is discovered later before you turn 20 years old.
A juvenile offender can be tried as an adult for committing crimes under Welfare & Institution Code 707(b). They include crimes like murder, sodomy, oral copulation or rape with force, kidnapping, robbery, and discharging a firearm in an inhabited building, just to mention a few.
The Juvenile Court Process
The juvenile court process in California has 7 main steps. Like standard court procedures, the juvenile delinquency court process begins when a minor is accused of committing a criminal offense. This court is different from the adult criminal court, and it operates under a unique set of policies and procedures.
Step 1— The Minor Is Arrested
After being accused of a crime, the juvenile court case process officially begins with an arrest. However, a law enforcement officer may fail to make an arrest and instead issue a citation for the accused minor to appear in court in the company of his/her parents.
When dealing with more serious offenses, the defendant may be taken into custody and detained in the juvenile until the first court hearing. It is crucial to understand that with juvenile cases, posting bail is not an option.
Step 2 —The Juvenile Petition
The majority of District Attorney Offices have special departments that primarily handle juvenile matters. The DA’s Office or the Juvenile Probation Department can file one of two distinct petitions to initiate the court process. They include:
601 petition— This petition addresses conduct that is only deemed illegal because of the offender’s age. A minor may be considered a status offender for conduct like skipping school, fleeing from home, or violating curfew rules.
602 petition — This petition addresses criminal conduct that includes felony and misdemeanor offenses. A minor is considered delinquent for committing crimes like theft, nonviolent vandalism, or trespass, just to mention a few.
Step 3 —The Detention Hearing
This hearing is like an arraignment in that a minor will appear before a judge for the first time. The main difference is that the hearing is held in a juvenile court, and the judge decides whether the minor can go home while the case is underway or should remain in the juvenile hall.
There are strict conditions that must be respected if a defendant is released into the custody of their parents. The courts may impose strict curfew rules or even require the minor to wear a monitoring anklet.
Step 4 —The Fitness Hearing
Juvenile delinquency is taken seriously, especially when dealing with serious offenses. During the fitness heating, the courts decide whether a minor should be judged as a juvenile or transferred to an adult court. A judge may opt to transfer a case to an adult court based on aspects that include:
The delinquent history of a minor
The severity of the crime committed
The success rate of previous efforts to impose punishment through rehabilitation or treatment
Step 5—Motion/ Pretrial Hearings
The pretrial hearings are crucial because they help the judge to issue a legal ruling. It is essential to have a skilled criminal defense attorney working to defend your child’s rights and best interests.
Your lawyer and the District Attorney may exchange evidence during a discovery phase and discuss possible dispositions during the hearings. The judge will also consider any motions filed by either attorney before issuing a legal ruling.
Step 6 —Adjudication Hearing
An adjudication hearing is also known as a jurisdiction hearing. During this hearing, the DA has to table evidence and raise arguments that prove that a minor is delinquent or a status offender beyond a reasonable doubt. During this phase of the process, the same rules of evidence upheld in adult criminal courts apply.
Step 7—Disposition Hearing
The final step is the disposition hearing. This is when a judge determines whether a minor committed a crime and the punishment that should be imposed. There are different sentencing options (“dispositions”) that a judge may consider. They include:
W&I (Welfare & Institutions) Code Sec. 654 or Sec. 725 qualifies a minor for informal probation and diversion if the offense committed is not very serious.
For instance, a judge may impose informal probation for a non-violent offense like trespass or shoplifting. Upon successful completion of probation, these charges may be dismissed.
The probation officer will create an education and counseling plan that lasts for a maximum of six months. The program may include ensuring school attendance, obeying a curfew, or submitting unplanned drug tests.
Informal probation is meant to give a minor a second chance, and it only puts the formal petition on hold. The probation officer can still file a formal petition with the juvenile court if probation doesn’t seem to work.
Deferred Entry Of Judgment
W&I Code 790.15 allow deferred entry of judgment (DEJ). This is when a minor admits guilt of committing the offenses listed in a petition and, in return, has charges dismissed upon completion of a DEJ program. This program runs for 12—36 months and can be considered if a minor is a first-time felony offender for a crime that does not appear under Sec. 707(b) offenses.
Formal Probation At A Camp Or At Home
When a minor is declared a ward of the court, sentencing may involve formal probation at a camp or home. Depending on the specifics of a case, a judge may find it fit to assign “suitable placement” in a group home or even a relative’s home. Again, probation terms may include curfew restrictions, compulsory school attendance, counseling, and community service, just to mention a few.
If a minor is seen to require a greater level of structure, a judge may consider assigning probation camp for 3—12 months. California has about 70 probation camps that provide a dormitory-based environment with structured schedules that include treatment, rehabilitation, and education programs.
When dealing with serious charges such as committing offenses listed under 707(b) or violations that require sex offender registration, the courts may commit a minor to the California Youth Authority (CYA). This is by far the most severe penalty a juvenile can face.
The juvenile system differs from the adult court in trials and punishment for different offenses. The law considers a person under eighteen years incapable of making a sound decision. Therefore, a minor’s criminal conduct is not regarded as worthy of the punishment given to an adult who commits a similar crime.
As a parent, it is perfectly normal to feel distressed if your child is caught up in the juvenile system. The court process involved is likely to be devastating for both you and your minor. Understanding your rights as a parent can help you ensure that you give complete support to your loved one during the arrest, detainment, and trial process. We can guide you each step of the way.
Parental Rights During Juvenile Delinquency Cases
When a minor commits a delinquent act and is arrested, he/she is likely to feel traumatized and confused. Getting arrested as an adult is already traumatizing enough, and a child is expected to go through double the distress. As your little one is handcuffed, funneled through court proceedings, and detained for rehabilitation, you are not all powerless as a parent.
The laws give you power over the medical, educational, and welfare decisions of your child. You still have these rights, as long as you have the physical or legal custody of your minor. Unfortunately, some circumstances may terminate these rights. They include:
When a minor is put in legal guardianship for a crime triggered by the environment they live in
When a minor is freed for adoption because of the negligent acts of their parents
Moreover, your child also has rights even as they navigate the legal system. First, the arresting officer must read their Miranda rights. This gives them rights to the following:
A right to remain silent
Anything they say can be used against them in court
A right to legal counsel by an attorney
A right to have a court-appointed attorney if they cannot afford one
Juveniles also have a right to request the presence of their parents. After all, they are below the age of the majority and are still under the legal care and guardianship of their parents. Some of the rights you enjoy during a juvenile delinquency case include:
A Right to Be Notified of Your Child’s Arrest
If your child is accused of committing a crime, he/she will be arrested, taken into juvenile custody, and either released or detained, depending on the nature of a case. You have a right to be notified that your child will be taken before a probation officer or detained in juvenile hall.
Again, you a right to the legal and physical custody of your little one, meaning you have a right to know of their whereabouts. It is crucial to seek the expertise of a skilled juvenile attorney the instant you are notified that your loved one is in juvenile custody.
Parents are not allowed (have no right) to be present as their children are interrogated. However, you can still inform your child about his/her rights to remain silent and seek legal counsel. Because the police can use any form of evidence to build a case, make sure your child also knows about their right not to self-incriminate. This means they should avoid accepting guilt or confessing through apology letters unless advised to do so by their lawyer.
A Right to Visit a Minor in Custody
Another parental right you have is the right to visit your little one in custody. It remains imperative to understand that your visits will not be confidential. Merely because police officers exit the room doesn’t mean that you have privacy. Interrogation rooms often have cameras that take videos and record conversations. To be on the safe side, have a lawyer involved before you visit your child.
A Right to be informed of your Child’s Constitutional Rights
Irrespective of the alleged crime, your child has rights that must be respected from the arrest process to the sentencing. You have a right to know about your child’s rights to provide your full support.
Children, more so those between the age of seven and twelve, hardly know about their rights. Even as they are subjected to the juvenile system, most of them cannot comprehend the weight of their offense. Being arrested, detained, and interrogated is often a traumatizing experience, and they may end up making self-incriminating statements.
Having a proper understanding of your child’s rights allows you to provide the appropriate advice. It also enables you to protect your little one, just in case his/her rights are trampled upon by the authorities. Your child has the following rights:
The Right Not To Be Searched or Arrested Without Probable Cause
In case of an illegal search or seizure, your lawyer can protest against this and ensure that evidence gathered is not used in court.
A Right To One Phone
If a minor is taken into custody, they have a right to one phone call. This allows them to inform their parents or attorney about their situation. If this phone call is not granted or their Miranda rights are not read during an arrest, any evidence gathered cannot be used in court.
A Right to Know About the Charges Imposed
It is illegal for the police just to pick up your child and make an arrest. Your child has a right to know why he/she is arrested and the charges imposed. This allows them to relay the same information to you once they are given their phone call.
A Right to Seek Legal Counsel
The juvenile court process is complex and intimidating. Fortunately, your child has a right to an attorney that can provide the much-needed legal counsel and representation. Be sure to make use of this right and hire the best criminal defense attorney who can fight for the rights and best interests of your little one.
A Right To Grill Witnesses
Even though juvenile cases are not perceived to be as serious as cases that go through the adult criminal trial process, they can put the future of your loved one in jeopardy. That said, your child has the constitutional right to cross-examine witnesses testifying against them.
The Right To A Free And Fair Trial
During juvenile court proceedings, the DA must ensure a free and fair trial by proving the imposed charges beyond a reasonable doubt. The state bears the burden of proof before it can deem your child delinquent.
A Right to Ensure Your Child’s Hearings Is Kept Confidential
If you are charged as an adult, this may impact various areas of your life, including your employment opportunities, your social life, and even your reputation. A child may also face the same repercussions for going through the juvenile court system.
The good news is that you have a right to ensure that the case and hearings remain confidential. This will ensure that:
You protect the reputation of a minor to prevent social stigma
Your child is not subjected to societal judgment that can limit social, educational, or employment opportunities
You protect your family from the potential social stigma that arises from delicate information being leaked during juvenile court proceedings
A Right to Be Present during Your Child’s Court Hearings
The juvenile court process has several hearings that start with the detention hearing and end with the disposition hearing. As a parent, you have a right to appear during all these court sessions until your little one is either released or punished.
A Right to Access Your Child’s Court Files & Probation Reports
The juvenile court seeks to protect minors’ reputations, which means that proceedings often remain confidential and closed to the public. Even so, you can access the court files of your child and go through the probation reports. Other people who can access these records include:
Law enforcement agencies
Child protection agencies
City, state, and federal attorneys
Your child’s lawyer
A Right to Have Your Child Released Into Your Custody Before a Case Is Determined
As a parent, you have the right to have your kid released into your custody before his/her case is determined. During the detention hearing, the courts are likely to listen to the alleged charges and allow your kid to go home. However, it is also possible for a minor to remain in juvenile custody under the following circumstances:
A history of escaping from CYA commitment
A history of violating juvenile court orders
When a minor is considered a flight risk
When a minor requires protection from a home environment that triggers criminal conduct
When a minor could pose a safety risk to other people
Parental Responsibilities/ Obligations during Juvenile Delinquency Cases
When dealing with a juvenile delinquency court case, you have both parental rights and responsibilities. While you cannot be charged for the crimes committed by your little one, you are responsible for settling damage claims. Any costs allied with your kid’s juvenile delinquency case are also your responsibility.
You are obligated to pay for:
Costs allied with the expenses incurred by the county to provide food, clothing, and healthcare for your child while in detention.
Cost of legal services if you choose to hire a private attorney.
Electronic surveillance expenses.
Restitution , when a case involves a victim who is injured, or his/her property is damaged.
Is It Necessary To Hire An Attorney?
A skilled criminal defense attorney will ensure that you fully understand your parental rights and responsibilities. One of the key reasons you must not overlook the need for reliable legal representation is that juvenile adjudication can affect your child’s future.
Depending on the charges your child is facing, a conviction could be deemed a “sustained petition.” This means that it is counted as a strike under California’s Three Strike Law. If your child commits a crime as an adult, the courts will retrieve the juvenile adjudication records and consider them when making their sentencing or probation decisions.
With proper legal representation, you have better chances of avoiding juvenile adjudications. Even when dealing with serious criminal allegations, an experienced attorney can use various strategies to have charges reduced. This can improve the chances of a conviction being sealed once your child completes his/her sentence.
Find an Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm Near Me
Even though juvenile laws in Orange County, CA, are child-centered, this doesn’t mean that the police are your child’s friend. During an arrest or even during interrogations, the police will not hesitate to gather any evidence they can obtain to help them build a case against your little one. It is at this moment that your child needs you the most. We invite you to reach out to the Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm immediately after your loved one is arrested. We can evaluate their case, inform them of their rights and defend them to ensure the best possible outcome. Our skilled attorneys will also educate you about your parental rights, responsibilities, and obligations to ensure your kid receives total support. Call us now at 714-831-1858.