Some children pass through naughty phases as they grow up that sometimes can cross the legal line and become unlawful conduct with some legal consequences. Although the juvenile delinquency system is not strict and harsh like the adult criminal justice system, an offense conviction can lead to negative lasting implications on a child's or minor's future.

When law enforcement officers arrest or detain your child following delinquent act allegations against him/her, you should beware that the possible outcome of a sustained juvenile petition against him/her can impact his/her life and future. For that matter, you should consider contacting a reliable delinquency attorney for legal guidance on what to do and how to protect his/her interests and legal rights as his/her case proceeds.

At Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, we would be happy to offer you and your child legal assistance that he/she needs during these nerve-racking and stressful moments to achieve the best possible results.

What You Need to Understand About Sustained Juvenile Petitions in Delinquency Cases

Before the court sustains a juvenile petition against your child for committing a delinquent act, it is vital to understand how the judge arrives at this decision. The juvenile delinquency court system shares many similarities with an adult court, but the jargon a juvenile delinquency court uses differs. If it is your first time in a juvenile delinquency court, it isn’t uncommon to hear terms like:

  • "Sustained juvenile petition," which is similar to "guilty verdict."
  • "Delinquent act," which is similar to "crime."
  • "Jurisdiction or adjudication hearing," which is similar to "trial."
  • "Disposition," which is similar to "sentence."
  • "Delinquent," which is similar to "an offender or wrongdoer."

If the juvenile court judge finds delinquency allegations against your child to be untrue, he/she will not sustain the prosecutor's petition against him/her. A sustained delinquency petition against your child is the worst thing that can happen to him/her following an arrest for violating any law.

While the juvenile justice system's main goal or purpose is not punishing your child for his/her wrongdoing, a sustained petition against him/her for particular delinquent acts can come with severe commitments, for example, rape or murder.

Since the juvenile court process starts with an arrest or detention of your child, it is vital to seek a defense attorney's services as soon as possible. A knowledgeable juvenile delinquency attorney who understands how judges handle the type of delinquent act your child is facing can help you and him/her maneuver this confusing and complex juvenile justice process for the possible outcome.

Courts Hearings Your Child Will Attend Before the Judge Decides to Sustain a Juvenile Petition Against Him or Her

As mentioned above, the juvenile delinquency court process or procedures begin when law enforcement officers arrest or detain your child for an alleged delinquent act. Typically, law enforcement officers will arrest and detain your child if there is probable cause or reasonable suspicion of him/her engaging or participating in an unlawful act.

When police detain your child for questioning and interrogation after allegations of him/her engaging or participating in a delinquent act, his/her constitutional rights remain intact. That means the arresting officers must inform or advise the minor of his/her Miranda rights or warnings to avoid self-incrimination according to the Fifth Amendment of the constitution.

During police questioning and interrogation, you should remind your child that he/she has the following constitutional rights:

  • Right to remain or stay silent
  • Any information that he/she gives the officers can and will be applicable against him/her in the court.
  • Right to request an attorney's legal representation
  • Right to a public defender if he/she cannot afford a private defense attorney

However, the minor has the right to waive his/her Miranda rights, but under the following conditions:

  • The waiver is intentional or voluntary
  • The minor has legal representation if he/she is 15 years or under

Beware, law enforcement officers can question and interrogate your child with or without your presence. Law enforcement officers will question and interrogate your child after an arrest to determine if he/she should remain at the detention hall before his/her first court appearance or should be in your custody. Depending on the sophistication or severity of his/her delinquent act, they may choose to detain the child or not.

Whether they decide to release him/her to your custody or place him/her in the detention hall, you should expect the following court hearings/proceedings before the judge decides to sustain the prosecutor's petition against him/her:

Detention Hearing

The first juvenile court hearing your child will attend when the prosecutor or the District Attorney (DA) files a delinquency petition against him/her is known as the detention hearing.

The detention hearing or proceeding aim is to determine whether the child should continue staying in the juvenile detention hall if he/she is not in your custody before the final judgment of his/her case.

Even if the child is in your custody, he/she might have to attend this initial hearing, which is similar to an arraignment in the adult criminal justice system. During this hearing, the juvenile court judge will also inform the child of the charges he/she is facing. Unlike in the adult criminal justice system, during the detention/arraignment hearing, the minor has no right to post bail to stay out of police custody.

At this stage of the juvenile delinquency court process, your child's defense attorney should be ready to convince the judge that it is unnecessary to keep the minor in the detention hall as he/she waits for his/her case's final verdict.

Therefore, you should seek the services of an attorney once you receive a call or message that your son or daughter is in custody for violating a statute to prepare defense strategies for this initial hearing.

Sometimes your child's presence might not be necessary during this hearing if he/she has an attorney to represent him/her. At the end of the detention hearing, the judge may decide to:

  • Warn the minor and dismiss the delinquency petition against him/her if it is appropriate in non-violent cases
  • Refer the minor for a voluntary counseling session
  • Order placement of the minor on informal parole or probation "diversion" if it is for the best interest of the public/community and the minor
  • Schedule formal hearing of the delinquency case against him/her, also known as the adjudication hearing

Transfer Hearing

If your child's delinquency case involves factors or circumstances that make him/her eligible for trial in adult court, the judge will schedule a transfer hearing. During this juvenile court proceeding or hearing, the judge will analyze your child's delinquent act case and circumstances surrounding the offense to determine if the minor is fit for trial under the adult criminal justice system.

Often, the juvenile court judge will consider the following factors before transferring the minor's delinquency case to the adult criminal justice system for trial:

  • The severity and sophistication of the child's delinquent act case
  • The child's delinquency history
  • The success of past attempts of the juvenile court to rehabilitate and make the minor a productive and law-abiding citizen

Typically, the juvenile court judge will initiate this hearing if your child's offense falls under section 707(b) of the Welfare and Institution Code, which includes:

  • Robbery
  • Murder
  • Kidnapping
  • Carjacking
  • Rape
  • Forceful sodomy

Suppose the judge finds the child's alleged delinquent act is ineligible or unfit for trial in the adult criminal justice system according to his/her attorney's arguments. In that case, he/she should schedule an adjudication hearing.

Adjudication Hearing

In the juvenile justice system, adjudication or jurisdiction hearing is similar to a trial in adult court. Most of the rules that apply in an adult court are also applicable in juvenile court. For instance, the prosecutor carries the burden of proving to the judge beyond a reasonable doubt that the delinquency allegations against your child are true.

To prove the delinquency allegations against the child are true, the prosecutor might present evidence like police reports, fingerprints, or surveillance videos. During this hearing, the judge will give your child a chance to admit whether allegations or accusations against him/her are true. The judge must be keen to ensure the child understands his/her constitutional rights before he/she makes this decision.

Like in the adult criminal justice system, your child has the legal right to remain silent. When he/she chooses to remain silent, the judge will consider his/her attorney's legal defense arguments and the prosecutor's evidence to determine if the allegations against him/her are factual and true. During the adjudication hearing, the judge can sustain the delinquency petition against the child or dismiss it.

If the prosecutor's pieces of evidence are viable and the delinquency allegations against your child are true, the juvenile judge will sustain the petition against him/her, meaning he/she is "guilty." The law allows the judge to make a disposition decision during this hearing if he/she has every valuable information for crafting the right disposition/sentence for the child, for example, the probation officer's report.

Suppose the judge needs the probation officer's report, which contains the child's social study, to craft an appropriate disposition that will discipline and rehabilitate him/her. In that case, the judge will have to push the disposition hearing to a later date.

Disposition Hearing

Once the judge sustains a petition against the child, his/her delinquency attorney has an opportunity to mitigate the severity or the gravity of the possible disposition the judge might choose during the disposing hearing/proceeding.

The juvenile court's goal is not to punish your child as you would expect in the criminal justice system. Instead, the court's goal or aim is to discipline, rehabilitate, counsel, and make the child a law-abiding citizen to prevent the delinquent act's recurrence in the future.

In coming up with an appropriate disposition, the juvenile court judge will take into account the factors below:

  • The gravity and sophistication of the delinquency case
  • The child's age
  • The child's delinquency record/history
  • The best interest of the child
  • Community protection and safety

Sometimes the judge can choose to dismiss the case at the end of the disposition hearing in the interest of justice according to section 782 of the Welfare and Institution Code. Unfortunately, if the minor's delinquent case is severe to warrant a disposition, the judge will make the child a ward of the court. When your child becomes a ward of the court, it means the juvenile court will be responsible for his/her treatment and control, and not you.

Disposition Options or Choices for Sustained Juvenile Petitions

Depending on the circumstances of the delinquent act and several factors mentioned above, at the end of the disposition hearing, your child might be subject to any of the following disposition/sentence:

Informal/Formal Probation

If the juvenile court judge orders formal probation, your child will have to comply with strict regulations and rules, which are part of the probation condition. For instance, the child must:

  • Abide by a specific curfew
  • Attend school.

Furthermore, during formal probation, the child is under strict scrutiny or inspection to ensure he/she complies with the probation's conditions. When the minor complies with the probation conditions, the judge with jurisdiction over his/her delinquency case will close it.

On the other hand, when the judge orders informal probation, your child will be subject to less strict rules and regulations.

Suitable Placement

In a juvenile court, the judge has the authority to make any reasonable disposition order for the minor's custody, conduct, medical treatment, and even supervision. That means the juvenile court judge can order the minor's removal from his/her parents’ custody and order a suitable placement where he/she will stay.

Below are some of the reasons that can make the judge order placement of your child in a foster home or suitable placement:

  • He/she is a persistent truant
  • You are incapable of catering for his/her proper treatment, training, guidance, and counseling needs as the parent.
  • The minor's welfare and wellness require his/her removal away from your physical custody.

Note, when a child is taken away from your custody as a parent, they are placed in a secure environment that is least restrictive, family-like, and meets the child’s rehabilitative needs to grow up as a law-abiding and industrious individual.      

Deferred Entry of Judgment

According to section 790 of the Welfare and Institution Code (WIC), a minor can opt to take a deferred entry of judgment (DEJ). However, he/she has to admit liability of the delinquent act charges against him/her. In exchange, the court will dismiss the delinquent act case against the child once he/she completes this probation successfully.

If the child violates DEJ probation conditions or commits new delinquent acts, the judge will terminate or lift the probation, and he/she might face even harsher discipline.

Placement/Confinement in a Division of Juvenile Justice Facility (DJJ)

In the juvenile delinquency system, placement in a DJJ detention center is the most severe disposition your child could face after a disposition hearing. DJJ facilities or detention centers are locked institutions designated for delinquents who are liable for engaging or participating in severe delinquents acts.

Some of the delinquents acts that can make the judge order placement of your child in a DJJ facility include:

  • Section (b) of WIC 707 offenses, for example, rape, murder, robbery, forcible sodomy, or carjacking.
  • Any recent PC 290.008(c) violation (sex offense)

Confinement in a DJJ detention center comes with severe commitments that your child has to follow, for example, full-time school attendance. While spending time in a DJJ detention center is the last thing you would wish for your child, some minors still qualify for paying jobs in their facility or detention center, for example:

  • Landscaping
  • Janitorial work
  • Food preparation

When the judge sustains a juvenile delinquency petition against a child, his/her disposition or sentence doesn’t have to result in placement in a DJJ detention center or facility. A knowledgeable and reliable juvenile defense attorney can aggressively fight for an alternative, less severe disposition or dismissal of the delinquent act charges.

Negative Impacts of Having a Sustained Juvenile Petition on a Minor's Criminal Record

Once the juvenile court sustains a delinquency petition against a child, it means that the offense will reflect on his/her criminal record. Often most people assume that a juvenile criminal record has no negative impact on a person's life, but it is untrue. Having a criminal record can affect many aspects of your child's life, even when he/she turns eighteen years.

Therefore, it is wise to have a reliable defense attorney by your child's side through every stage of the juvenile court process to fight for the best possible outcome to avoid a sustained delinquency petition against him/her.

Below are crucial aspects or sides of life a criminal record will affect when the judge sustains a delinquency petition against your child:

Job/Employment Search

Having a criminal record can affect your child's ability to find a job because most employers will check prospective employees' background history to determine if they have a past criminal record, including sustained juvenile petitions.

Most employers look forward to hiring employees with credible conduct, meaning your child can lose an excellent job opportunity for having a juvenile criminal record.

Enhanced Penalties/Sentences in Future

When an adult runs afoul with a statute, and he/she has a juvenile criminal record, the judge might consider his/her past delinquency history to enhance his/her penalty or sentence for the current offense conviction. That means a person is likely to be subject to heftier penalties or more time behind bars if he/she has a past criminal record.

Therefore, when your son or daughter faces the possibility of a sustained juvenile petition against him/her for an alleged delinquent act, you should do everything you can to fight the charge against him/her to avoid a criminal record if possible.

Military Job Applications

A juvenile criminal or delinquency record can affect your child's eligibility to join the military. There are strict rules for applicants who wish to be part of the military, and one of them requires applicants to be crime-free.

If he/she has dreams of joining the military forces in the near future, the only solution is to challenge delinquent act charges against him/her with legal assistance from a reliable criminal defense attorney.

Sealing a Criminal Record for a Sustained Juvenile Petition

When the juvenile court judge sustains the prosecutor's delinquency petition against your child, it means he/she will have a criminal record. However, the law may allow him/her to seal his/her juvenile criminal record under particular conditions to avoid the above consequences of having a criminal record, for example:

  • The child must complete his/her probation successfully
  • Must have no current or ongoing criminal charges
  • The child is now 18 years or older

Contrary to what most people believe, the juvenile court will not automatically seal your criminal record once you turn 18 years old. With the legal help of a delinquency attorney, your child can petition the court to seal and destroy his/her juvenile criminal record if he/she meets the above conditions under WIC 781.

Sealing and destroying a juvenile criminal record under WIC 781 comes with several advantages, for example:

  • It prevents prospective landlords, employers, and even school officials from discriminating against your child for his/her past unlawful mistakes.
  • It gives your child the personal satisfaction of knowing he/she has a chance for a fresh start in life without criminal records.

Find a Juvenile Delinquency Attorney Near Me

A sustained juvenile petition against your child means delinquent act allegations against him/her are true, and he/she is guilty. Possible consequences of a sustained juvenile petition can significantly impact your child's future in various aspects of his/her life, as mentioned above. However, with the legal assistance of a skilled and experienced delinquency attorney, your child might be able to avoid this.

If your child is in police custody for any alleged delinquent act, reputable and profound attorneys at Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm are here for you. We can help him/her influence the judge's decisions in every court hearing for the best favorable results. Call us now at 714-740-7848 to schedule an obligation-free consultation with our understanding and caring defense attorneys.