When your child faces arrest and charges, it can be a trying time for you and your child. You will be concerned for your child since the experience may expose them to trauma and leave long-lasting effects on their lives. This is especially true when your child is facing felony charges which the juvenile court could transfer to adult court.

Regardless of the nature of charges against your child, you should engage an experienced attorney to represent your child. Look for an attorney who has a clear understanding of the juvenile justice court process in California. You will need to have an attorney who will diligently work hard to ensure that your child receives the best outcome in their case, with rehabilitation as the end goal.

Procuring the services of an attorney who understands your concern for your child’s future and understands your child’s fear and rights will be the first step towards securing your child’s future. Our experienced attorneys will work hard at Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm to ensure your child receives the best representation in court. Our main plan is to ensure that your child receives the best rehabilitative measures and that their youthful mistakes do not determine their future.

What is the California Juvenile Judicial Court System?

When the law enforcement officers apprehend a minor for breaking the law in California, the officer can let the minor off the hook with a strict warning or take the minor to a judicial hall. The law views a minor breaking the law as a juvenile delinquent act and not as a criminal one. The main objective of judicial courts in California is to ensure that your child receives rehabilitation and follows the laid down laws.

Though the main goal of the juvenile justice system is to rehabilitate the minor, it does not mean the minor go scot-free for their lawbreaking. The court has laid down procedures that ensure that your child is punished for their offenses to discipline the minor. Most of the cases adjudicated in a juvenile court include truancy violations, status violations, curfew violations, misdemeanor, and felony charges.

What Happens After the Police Arrest a Minor?

In California, the juvenile justice court process begins with the arrest of the minor. The arresting officer will determine the seriousness of the incident leading to the arrest and decide on it. The arresting officer may let the minor go free with a warning not to repeat the offense. They can also decide to let the minor go to a juvenile hall under the care of a probation officer.

You do not have to worry if the arresting officer takes your child to a juvenile hall; this does not necessarily mean that your child will spend their time there. Juvenile halls are under the care of a probation officer who will interview your child and then decide based on the interview. A probation officer may decide to issue your child with a citation to appear in court at a later date and then let the child go home. The probation officer can also offer your child a probation program that your child will have to follow to avoid going to court, or they may commit your child to stay at the juvenile hall until a judge takes a look at their case.

Juvenile Court Hearings

If the probation officer doesn’t release your young one to you and has them at the juvenile hall, your child must appear for arraignment within 48 hours before the juvenile court judge. The arraignment period does not take place during the weekends. A juvenile court judge may decide to release your child during the arraignment, but the judge will only do this under the very strict rule to the guardian, and the minor has to follow the terms of the letter. These terms include a curfew, drug testing, and attending school. Failure to observe these terms will have severe consequences for the minor.

Several hearings take place in juvenile courts, they are:

Detention Hearing in California

When law enforcement officers arrest your child in California, they are taken into custody in a juvenile hall. The first hearing that your child will face is a detention hearing which aims at determining if your child should stay in a juvenile hall while they await the outcome of their case or if they should be released to their guardians. Detention hearing occurs even when the minor is at home under your supervision since the child is considered to be under custody.

You should note that while your child is at juvenile hall, they have no right to post bail like in adult courts. The only way you can ensure your child is out of the juvenile hall is to convince a juvenile judge to let them go during the detention hearing. It is important to hire a criminal defense attorney who is well versed with the California juvenile justice system to help you during this hearing.

What Happens During Detention Hearing in Juvenile Court?

When your child appears before a juvenile judge after spending some time in detention at the juvenile hall, they will appear before a judge for a detention hearing. If the young one is not in custody and the issue of detention doesn’t appear to be a case, then their first court appearance before a judge is known as an arraignment.

A minor will appear before a judge during arraignment or a detention hearing where the judge will:

  • Have their charges read to them

  • The court will ensure they know their constitutional rights, and

  • Have an opportunity to make their plea.

After this, the juvenile court judge will ensure that your child is aware of the following facts:

  • The charges they are facing.

  • Their legal representation.

  • They have the right to cross-examine any witnesses.

  • They can provide evidence in court in their defense.

  • They know their constitutional rights.

During the detention hearing, the judge will listen to the input of the prosecutor, the probation officer, the guardian, or the child’s parents and refer to the W&I 635 to determine if they will detain your child in custody.

For a judge to decide whether to have your child in custody, they will need to:

  • Listen to the case the prosecution raises against your child,

  • Check whether there is any juvenile court order violation by your child,

  • Determine if your child possess any flight risk,

  • If your child has ever escaped from a commitment to the juvenile court system.

  • If it is crucial to detain your child to protect other people or property.

  • The child must be detained for their safety.

Adjudication Hearing

In this hearing, the judge decides if your child has violated the law. According to the law, if your child is in custody, they should have their adjudication hearing within15 court days after the start of their detention. You should note that court days do not include holidays and weekends. If your minor is not in detention, their court days may be longer, but their trial should be within 30 days after the petition is filed.

Unlike in adult courts where the defendant goes on trial and finds them guilty of their offenses or not, in a juvenile court, if the judge finds that the minor violates the law, they sustain the prosecution’s petition. If the judge finds that the evidence against your child is inefficient to support that the minor violates the law, they will not sustain the prosecutor’s petition. The most important point to note during the adjudication hearing is that it provides your child with an opportunity to defend themselves against their charges.

Disposition Hearing

A disposition hearing is similar to adult court sentencing. In a juvenile court, when the judge finds the minor to violate the law, they take several disciplinary measures on the minor. The most important point to note is that the goal of these measures is to ensure that the minor receives rehabilitation and receives a second chance at a brighter future. Some of the measures or sentencing options that a judge can pass during a disposition hearing include:

  • Sending your child to a probation camp.

  • Putting your child on home probation.

  • Placing the minor under a foster home.

  • Commitment to DJJ or CYA.

  • Restitution.

  • Observing curfew.

  • Community services.

  • Mandatory school attendance.

  • Attending classes to learn the impact their activities have on the victim.

  • Paying fines.

  • Attending counseling sessions, among others.

Unfortunately, some juvenile convictions can negatively affect your child’s future as some of them may count as a strike against their records. It is important to be with your child while they are undergoing the arrest and the court hearings, which will positively impact their lives. Let your child not be alone and that they have your full support.

Transfer Hearing

A transfer hearing takes place between detention and adjudication hearing. Sometimes, depending on the severity of the offense that a minor has committed, the prosecution can request the court to transfer the case to a criminal court. Only a juvenile court judge can determine if a minor is fit to face their charges in a juvenile court or if they should face their charges in an adult court. When your child is taken to adult court, they will face trial like an adult, and if the court finds them guilty, they will be sentenced as adult offenders. Your child will serve jail time with other adult offenders, a situation that is not ideal for a young one. Transfer hearing is carried out for the most severe offenses in California due to the harsh penalty that the minor will incur.

During this hearing, the judge decides if the minor is fit to face their charges in a juvenile court. When the court tries your child in a juvenile justice court, the child faces a commitment in the DJJ (Division of Juvenile Justice) until they turn 25 years. It is crucial to hire an attorney who will work hard to ensure that your child faces trial in a juvenile court.

Grounds for Prosecution to Request a Transfer Hearing

The prosecution will have ground to request for fitness or transfer hearing against your child when:

  • Your child is aged 16 years and above and has committed a crime listed as a felony in Welfare and Institutions Code (W&I) 707(b),

  • Your child committed an offense listed in W&I 707(b) when they were aged 14 or 15 years but never faced charges until they turned 18 years.

Offenses listed in W&I 707(b)

The prosecution can start a transfer hearing if your young one is facing a charge that is listed in the California W&I 707(b). The offenses listed under Welfare and Institutions code 707(b) include:

  • Rape

  • Murder

  • Attempted murder

  • Arson that leads to severe bodily harm or that is carried out on an inhabited house or boat.

  • Sodomy, where the use of force, violence, intimidation, or threat is applied.

  • Robbery

  • Lewd acts against a minor aged 14 years

  • Oral copulation where the use of force, threat, coercion, or intimidation is applied

  • Kidnapping for ransom or robbery

  • Assault using a destructive device or a firearm

  • Assault where force is used to achieve severe bodily injury

  • An offense listed under PC section 1203.09 against an older person who is disabled or aged above 60.

  • Kidnapping that leads to great bodily injury

  • Discharging a destructive device in an inhabited structure

  • Bribing a witness under Penal Code 137.

  • Committing a Penal Code 136.1 where the minor dissuades a witness from witnessing.

  • Compounding, manufacturing, or selling more than half an ounce of controlled substances outlined under Health & safety 11055(e).

  • Committing a felony described under Penal Code 120022.5, which is the personal use of firearms.

  • Committing a violent crime that could lead to the minor receiving an enhancement ruling on their street gang sentence.

  • Carjacking.

  • Manslaughter.

  • Aggravated mayhem.

  • If the little escapes from the juvenile hall, ranch, home, or forestry camp by applying force, threat, or violence, and causes severe bodily injury to the employees of the said facilities.

  • Kidnapping to sexually assault someone.

  • Voluntary manslaughter

  • Using destructive devices to commit murder.

The Criteria a Juvenile Judge uses to determine if to Transfer the Minor to an Adult Court

When the prosecutor brings a transfer request before a juvenile judge, it is upon the judge to evaluate several factors before determining where the minor will face trial. These factors include:

  • The judge will evaluate the degree of sophistication exhibited by the minor while committing the offense.

  • The judge will determine if the minor can be rehabilitated before the jurisdiction of a juvenile court expires.

  • If the minor has adelinquent history.

  • If the juvenile justice system has had any success in rehabilitating the minor in their previous attempts.

  • The nature and circumstances of the crime the minor is facing charges for.

  • The minor’s intellectual development and psychological maturity.

  • The programs available to treat the minor’s psychological problems

Can you Appeal against the Juvenile Court Ruling?

When our child faces charges against offenses listed under W&I 707(b), the charges carry harsh sentences since they are serious offenses. If your child faces trial in a juvenile court, they have a chance of receiving a less severe sentence as compared to what they would receive in a criminal court. This is why it is crucial to ensure that your child faces trial in a juvenile court. Juvenile court will give your child an opportunity to receive a sentence that befits the gravity of their crime and at the same time offer them an opportunity to rehabilitate and hopefully join society later in life and lead a relatively everyday life.

When the fitness hearing occurs, it determines if the minor is fit to stand trial in juvenile courts. If the court finds the minor unfit to stand trial in the juvenile court, the court automatically transfers the case to an adult court. Your family can hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to appeal against this decision. An appeal will offer you an opportunity to convince the juvenile judge why your child would benefit from having their case in a juvenile court. Your attorney should convince the juvenile judge that your child will benefit significantly from the services they will receive at the juvenile court system.

You will have 21 days to file an appeal to the juvenile court’s decision against your young one from the time of the first court arraignment in the court by filing a writ petition. It is crucial to ensure you hire an attorney who understands the California Juvenile judicial system to increase your chances during this appeal. Your attorney will have to come up with proof that shows how your child will benefit from the services offered by the juvenile system.

What Will Happen if your Child Loses the Transfer Hearing Appeal?

There is a high possibility that your child may lose an appeal against a transfer hearing, especially where they face charges against a severe offense or have a prior criminal record. Losing an appeal in a juvenile court means that your child will face trial in a criminal court, where they will face severe penalties.

You do not have to despair when your child is sent to an adult criminal court for trial as it doesn’t mean the end for their future. In an adult court, your child will have the benefits of facing a fair trial where there will be a jury to listen to all sides of the story and to try your child. The jury will listen to the case before coming up with a verdict. Your child may receive a not guilty verdict in this court despite the evidence against them in the court. All you need is to work hard with your defense team to prepare a formidable defense for your child in this court.

You should note that most jurors are sympathetic to minors and will evaluate more of the case than just mere evidence against your child when determining the fate of your young one. The jury may not pass a very harsh punishment even where they find your child guilty of the offense they are accused of. The criminal court may pass a lighter punishment to your child if the jails are overcrowded. In this instance, the jury may impose a sentence that will favor your child and ensure they receive rehabilitation where applicable.

One of the main reasons most attorneys want a minor to face trial in a juvenile court is that a juvenile judge has several options while adjudicating a case. In a criminal court, the options for a serious offense are limited, and your child will face their sentence as an adult. Most sentences in criminal courts consist of imprisonment, payment of fines, and in some instances, both apply.

Juvenile penalties are less severe than a criminal court sentence, and the judge has several options available to them. A juvenile judge will pass judgment that they feel will have a positive impact on your child. But even if your little one faces trial in a criminal adult court and receives a harsh penalty, they will never face imprisonment to a life sentence without parole or receive a death sentence.

Contact an Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

When your child lands themselves in trouble by breaking the law and the prosecution request for a fitness hearing, you need a criminal defense attorney’s help. Your lawyer will help convince the judge to let your child face charges in juvenile court. In juvenile court, your child has an opportunity for a lighter sentence and receives a second chance in life. At the Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, we have experienced, and competent attorneys who understand the juvenile justice system in California and will ensure your child achieves the best outcome in their case. Contact us at 714-740-7848 for a free consultation with our team.