When law enforcement officers arrest a minor for a delinquent or unlawful act, they may release him/her shortly after the arrest or not, depending on the sophistication of his/her offense. If you receive a police message that your kid is in custody for engaging or participating in a delinquent act, you should consult a delinquency defense attorney because your kid's freedom and future are at risk.

Those moments after your kid's arrest for an alleged delinquent act can be confusing and traumatizing as a parent, but you don't have to worry if you have a reliable attorney by your kid's side. At Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, we understand the importance of juvenile detention hearings when fighting for a minor’s legal rights and freedom following an arrest for a delinquent act.

Keep reading this article to know how juvenile detention hearings can affect your kid's future if he/she is under arrest or in police custody for an alleged delinquent act.

Juvenile Detention Hearings Overview

When police arrest a minor for a non-violent or less severe delinquent act like skipping school or underage drinking, they may give him/her a stern warning and release him/her shortly. In other delinquent act cases, the arresting officer may release the minor to unite with his/her family, but he/she has to appear in court later for a detention hearing. 

If releasing the minor might put the community at risk, the arresting officer may detain the minor until his/her first court appearance or detention hearing. A detention hearing in juvenile delinquency cases is a legal proceeding that lets the judge determine if the minor should continue staying in the juvenile detention hall before his/her case trial or adjudication hearing.

When your kid is in juvenile detention hall for an alleged non-violent misdemeanor delinquent act, the court must hold a detention hearing within less than 48 hours, excluding holidays and the weekends. 

On the other hand, if he/she is in custody for a misdemeanor or a felony delinquent act involving violence, the court will hold a juvenile detention hearing within 72 hours following his/her arrest.  

The detention hearing must be immediate to reduce the amount of time the minor will stay in custody before the juvenile court resolves his/her delinquent act case. Your kid needs to have legal representation during a detention hearing because if the outcome of the proceeding doesn't turn out in his/her favor, he/she will have to remain in the juvenile detention hall until the next juvenile court hearing.

What You Should Expect in a Juvenile Detention Hearing for Your Kid

As a parent, if your kid is under arrest or in custody for allegedly committing a delinquent act, you can accompany him/her and his/her attorney in a detention hearing. If you are to attend this initial juvenile court proceeding for your kid who is in trouble with the law, the court will notify you of the exact date, venue, and time of the hearing through a call or message. 

Suppose the court does not send you an actual notice of your kid's detention hearing. In that case, you should consider filing a petition with the juvenile court to hold another detention hearing within twenty-four hours.

When an adult commits an unlawful act, whether he/she will remain in custody after the arrest will depend on whether he/she can afford to post bail or not. If his/her bail hearing is successful, the court will order his/her release before his/her case's final verdict or trial. However, in the juvenile justice system, a minor has no right to post bail after an arrest for a delinquent act.

When the probation officer decides to keep your kid in the detention hall, the only opportunity you have left to fight for his/her release from custody is at the juvenile detention hearing. Most juvenile legal processes are not open to the public, meaning the only people present in court are:

  • The minor and his/her legal counsel or attorney
  • Probation officer
  • Judge
  • Parents/guardians of the kid
  • Any other relevant juvenile court authority

However, if a minor is facing a severe delinquent act charge like a drug crime or an offense involving the use of a firearm, he/she might be subject to a trial like an adult. The juvenile court decision on whether he/she should undergo a trial as an adult depends on the outcome of his/her transfer hearing. 

The purpose of a transfer hearing in a juvenile court process is to determine if the minor is the right candidate for a trial as an adult or should remain in the juvenile justice system. Typically, apart from deciding whether or not a minor should remain in custody, during the juvenile detention hearing, the court will also inform the minor of the following:

  • The nature of the alleged delinquent act charges against him/her
  • His/her rights to enter a plea
  • His/her constitutional rights, which includes:
    • Right to an attorney
    • Right to avoid self-incrimination
    • Right to call an eyewitness(s)
    • Right to present his/her evidence
    • Right to interview eyewitnesses

If the minor agrees to enter a plea, he/she will not do it as an adult does in an adult court where a defendant pleads "not guilty" or "guilty" of the alleged charges. Instead, a minor will do any of the following:

  • Deny the alleged delinquent act charges, which is the same as pleading "not guilty" in an adult court
  • Agree to the alleged delinquent act charges, which is the same as pleading "guilty" in an adult court
  • Not contest the delinquent act allegations, which is the same as pleading "no contest" in adult court
  • Deny the allegation based on a reason of insanity, which is a valid legal defense

To increase the chances of your kid winning a detention hearing to stay out of custody as his/her case proceeds, you should take your time to find a reliable juvenile delinquency attorney. 

Having an attorney during a juvenile detention hearing is crucial to fight for the minor's release from custody. Further, it also gives an attorney the chance to find a weakness in the prosecutor's case against your kid.

Even if the minor loses the detention hearing, his/her attorney will have the relevant evidence and information he/she needs to prepare for the subsequent juvenile legal proceeding, which will determine your kid's freedom and future.

A reliable and well-informed attorney can present a strong legal defense to counter delinquent act charges against your kid so that you can unite with him/her before his/her case's final verdict.

A Judge Considerations in the Juvenile Detention Hearings

In determining whether your kid should remain in the juvenile detention hall as his/her case continues, the juvenile court judge will listen to the prosecutor's evidence and the attorney's legal defense arguments.

To prove that your kid is the right candidate to remain in a juvenile detention hall awaiting his/her case final verdict, the prosecutor must make a prima facie case showing that:

  • The minor is accountable for the alleged delinquent act charge
  • The minor is liable for violating a juvenile court order
  • The minor has a history of escaping from commitment orders of a juvenile court
  • There is an issue of an urgent or immediate need to detain the minor to protect him/her
  • There is a reasonable need to detain the minor to protect another person, property, or an asset
  • The minor's likelihood of flight

To help the judge make the right disposition decision for a minor, he/she will request some input from the district attorney, probation officer or intake officer, minor's parent, and attorney. A skilled and experienced attorney can use this chance to convince the juvenile court judge that your kid is not a risk to himself/herself or the society, meaning he/she is not the right candidate to stay in the detention hall.

Possible Outcomes of a Juvenile Detention Hearing

After careful consideration of several factors mentioned above, including recommendations from the probation officer and the kid's attorney, the judge may conclude the case, and below are possible outcomes of a detention hearing:

  • The court may order the minor to remain in the juvenile detention hall if going home will not be in his/her best interests. After that order, the juvenile court will appoint an intake or probation officer to prepare the detention hall to ensure it's in favorable conditions
  • The court may order the kid to return home and wait for his/her adjudication hearing if it would be best not to keep him/her in custody. If the minor needs special services to safely arrive home, the juvenile court will appoint a probation officer to ensure he/she receives those services
  • The court may order in-home custody or supervision of the kid. If the judge finds it's necessary to keep the minor under watch but not in the detention hall, he/she may order in-home custody or supervision of the minor.

If the kid loses this initial hearing, meaning he/she will stay in custody, his/her attorney can request the court for a second detention hearing, also known as the "Dennis H Hearing." Your kid's juvenile defense attorney could request a re-hearing if the judge's decision on the first hearing had questionable information or evidence.

During this re-hearing, the attorney will cross-examine the prosecutor's evidence and eyewitnesses' statements to ensure everything is accurate and also to find loopholes of countering delinquent act charges against your kid.

Parents or Guardians Role During Juvenile Detention Hearings

A minor's guardians or parent's presence in the detention hearing is also important as his/her juvenile delinquency attorney. During a juvenile detention hearing, the judge will require you to testify on your kid's behavior and performance in school to determine whether it would be best to release or detain him/her.

Your contribution or testimony about your kid is significant at this stage of the juvenile court process. Therefore, even if you are mad or angry at your kid, you should never tell the judge to "teach him/her a lesson" by keeping him/her in the juvenile detention hall because it makes the prosecutor's case against your kid stronger.

Confinement in a detention hall can also impact your kid's future morally because he/she will interact with other delinquents in custody who might be mature or facing severe delinquent act charges. 

Beware whatever information you decide to give the judge about your kid will play a critical role when deciding whether to detain or release him/her. If the court requires you to testify during the detention hearing, you should consult with your kid's attorney to know what you should say ahead of time.

Probation Officer's Role During a Minor’s Detention Hearing/Proceeding

When someone accuses your kid of committing a delinquent act, the juvenile court will appoint a probation or intake officer to investigate the case. During the investigation, the officer will consider the minor's social issues, criminal history, and conduct to prepare a report about him/her. 

Before the hearing, the probation or intake officer must present this report to the juvenile court judge to help him/her make the best decision on the minor's case. A probation officer's report contains details of the alleged delinquent act your kid faces and a recommendation on whether to detain or release him/her.

If the alleged delinquent act is severe, the officer might recommend keeping the minor in custody as he/she waits for the outcome of his/her case. However, suppose the minor's case is not severe, and he/she doesn't have a criminal record. In that case, the officer might recommend his/her release from custody as his/her case continues.

Typically, during the detention hearing, the judge will presume the investigation and report from the probation officer to be a legal representation of the truth about your kid's alleged delinquent act case. 

However, with legal guidance from a well-informed and skilled juvenile defense attorney, the minor can disregard negative evidence or information from the probation officer's report to stay out of the juvenile detention hall. 

Juvenile Court Proceedings to Expect After a Detention Hearing

When the juvenile court judge finds it reasonable to proceed with a minor's case for the alleged delinquent act after a detention hearing, his/her attorney should help him/her prepare for the subsequent court hearings or proceedings, which includes:

Transfer Hearing

In most cases, minors’ adjudication or trial for an alleged delinquent act usually happens in the juvenile delinquency system. However, if your kid is 14 years or older and is in custody for an alleged serious delinquent act, he/she might be subject to a trial in an adult court.

When the prosecutor decides to charge your kid as an adult, whether his/her adjudication (trial) can remain in the juvenile delinquency court depends on the judge's decision during his/her transfer or fitness hearing.

A minor's trial in an adult court is something you would not wish for your kid because he/she could be subject to a lengthy prison sentence where he/she will spend time with other adult offenders. You will rely on the kid's attorney to do what he/she does best to convince the judge that your kid is fit for adjudication in a juvenile court.

During your kid's transfer hearing, his/her attorney should use a preponderance of evidence to prove to the judge beyond a reasonable doubt that the minor belongs in the juvenile delinquency system. 

According to Welfare and Institution Code Section (WIC) 707, the prosecutor can file your kid's case in an adult court if his/her alleged delinquent act falls under WIC (b) offenses. Some examples of these WIC (b) offenses include (but not limited to):

  • Rape
  • Murder
  • Forcible sex offenses
  • Robbery
  • Arson
  • Kidnapping
  • Assault with a firearm
  • Torture

If the minor loses the transfer hearing, he/she will be subject to a trial by a jury in an adult court according to every legal rule applicable to adults facing similar charges. Other instances when your kid could be subject to a trial in an adult court include when he/she is 16 years or older, and he/she has a history of delinquent acts.

Adjudication/Jurisdiction Hearing

An adjudication or jurisdiction hearing in the juvenile delinquency system is the same as a "trial" in an adult court. During an adjudication hearing in a juvenile court, there is no jury like in an adult court, but there is a judge.

If your kid is still in the juvenile detention hall, an adjudication hearing must occur within fifteen days following the detention hearing. On the other hand, if he/she is not in custody, an adjudication hearing must happen within 30 days following his/her detention hearing.

Your kid's adjudication hearing is vital because this legal proceeding is an opportunity for him/her to defend himself or herself against the alleged delinquent act charges with the legal help of his/her attorney. 

During this juvenile court hearing, the prosecutor must demonstrate his/her evidence against your kid beyond a reasonable doubt to convince the judge the allegations against him/her are true. That means your kid's delinquency defense attorney has a chance to raise several defense arguments to counter delinquent act allegations against your kid for the best possible outcome. 

When the judge decides to sustain the prosecutor's delinquency petition against your kid, meaning allegations against him/her are true, he/she might be subject to a variety of dispositions (sentences). On the other hand, if the prosecutor's evidence is insufficient, the judge will not sustain his/her delinquency petition against your kid, meaning allegations against him/her are untrue.

Disposition Hearing

When the court finds allegations against your kid to be true according to the prosecutor's evidence and sustains the petition, meaning your kid is guilty of the alleged delinquent act, he/she will be subject to a disposition hearing. A disposition hearing in the juvenile delinquency system is equivalent to a sentencing hearing in adult court.

During a disposition hearing, the juvenile court judge considers numerous factors when deciding the right disposition or sentence to discipline and rehabilitate the minor. Particularly, he/she will consider the following factors:

  • The minor's age
  • The minor's delinquency record or history
  • Gravity or sophistication of the minor's delinquent act

The juvenile court judge cannot penalize your kid for failing to plead guilty or confess during the adjudication hearing. Since a juvenile delinquency system's goal is to rehabilitate a minor and make him/her a productive citizen, a judge has several disposition options. 

Depending on the specific facts and sophistication of your kid's delinquent act case, the judge may consider the following disposition or sentence options:

  • Information probation under WIC 725
  • Deferred Entry of Judgment (DEJ)
  • Dismissal under WIC section 782
  • Commitment to the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), previously known as California Youth Authority (CYA)
  • Formal probation at:
    • Home
    • Relative's home
    • County probation camp
    • Group home

Among all the above disposition options, commitment to the DJJ is the most severe disposition your kid could be subject to for violating a criminal law. Apart from that, a minor could also be subject to long-lasting sex offender legal registration obligations if the judge sustains a petition against him/her during an adjudication hearing for the commission of a sex offense.

Find a Juvenile Delinquency Attorney Near Me

Juvenile detention hearings can be more complicated than you think. You will require a qualified and aggressive attorney who understands juvenile court ins and outs to show the judge why your kid should be out of the juvenile detention hall as his/her case proceeds. We invite you to contact Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm at 714-740-7848 for a confidential and friendly legal representation on your kid's delinquent act case.

Our attorneys have significant experience with children and the juvenile court system and will fight for your kid's best interest throughout the juvenile court process.