When a person under eighteen commits a crime in California, they are charged and tried in a juvenile court under the juvenile justice system. Although trials for minors may be similar to adults’, the juvenile justice system is more lenient. The main goal of the juvenile justice system is to rehabilitate delinquent minors instead of punishment, as is the case in adult court. When your child faces an arrest and is battling criminal charges, it may devastate the child and your family.

Facing a juvenile conviction is not only traumatizing but can significantly affect your child’s future. Therefore, seeking competent legal guidance for your child as soon as you learn of their arrest is crucial. Your child’s attorney will guide them on conducting themselves and enlighten you on your rights during the juvenile court process. At Chula Vista Criminal Attorney, we offer legal guidance and representation for all our clients facing juvenile delinquency cases in Chula Vista, CA. 

Overview of Juvenile Delinquency in California

Minors often undergo traumatic experiences when they face an arrest for criminal activity in California. When a child between twelve and seventeen years commits a crime, it is referred to as an act of juvenile delinquency and handled by the juvenile justice system. The juvenile justice system is not as strict as the criminal justice, and its main aim is rehabilitating the minor offenders and preparing them to be decent citizens.

If a child commits a crime and does not face an arrest until they are twenty years old, they could still face charges in juvenile court. The juvenile court deals with both misdemeanor and felony offenses committed by juveniles. Also, they handle situations such as curfew violations, a behavior that is only considered an offense for minors.

Sometimes, minors facing charges in juvenile court may be transferred to adult court depending on the nature of their crimes and the case’s complexity. Unfortunately, a transfer to adult court may be one of the most devastating outcomes in your child’s delinquency case. This is because the minor will be charged and convicted as an adult.

Factors Influencing a Judge’s Decision to Try a Minor in Adult Court

Transfer hearing is the term used to describe the process of moving a juvenile case to adult court. During the transfer hearing, the judge will consider the following factors to determine if it is right to transfer it to an adult court:

1)  The Offense Committed by the Juvenile

Minors face arrests for less serious curfew, petty theft, and other non-violent crimes for normal expectations. However, some juveniles find themselves facing charges for serious crimes. When a child commits a violent crime, the judge may decide to transfer them to adult court. Under California Welfare and Institutions Code, some of the offenses could cause the court to move a minor to adult court:

  • Murder is a capital offense, and minors involved in this crime will be charged the same as adult offenders.
  • Kidnapping for ransom. If a minor takes another person hostage and demands a ransom, the judge may order their case to adult court.
  • If an individual below eighteen years is involved in a rape crime accompanied by threats or violence, the juvenile court may be reluctant to handle the case.

2)  A Minors Delinquency History

In addition to the type of crime for which a minor is charged, a child’s delinquency history is considered when deciding to transfer a juvenile case to adult court. If a juvenile is a repeat offender, they are more likely to be transferred to adult court.

3)  The success of Previous Attempts to Rehabilitate the Minor

The juvenile justice system aims at rehabilitating juvenile offenders and helping them make better decisions in the future. Therefore, the judge may consider the success of past rehabilitation attempts before deciding the course of a juvenile case. If a minor violated court directions in the past or failed to complete their sentence, the court may be reluctant to try their case in juvenile court.

4)  Degree of Sophistication Exhibited by the Child

When investigations towards a juvenile case indicate that a minor exhibited a high degree of sophistication in committing the crime, the case cannot proceed in juvenile court. Also, when there is suspicion that a child is related to a criminal gang or committed the crime to enhance gang activity, being charged as an adult is possible.

Juvenile Delinquency Court Process

The system provides procedures for the trial and apprehension of juvenile offenders. When the rules are followed, children facing criminal charges can undergo a fair trial, and rehabilitation is achieved. A juvenile delinquency case begins when a minor is arrested for engaging in illegal activity. During the arrest, the police officer should inform the child of the reasons for their arrest. 

When a minor faces an arrest, they may be placed in police custody until further directives. Alternatively, the arresting officer can present the child before the probation department, where relevant authorities will determine the course of action. Once your child is in custody, the prosecutor files a court petition which indicates the child’s offenses and the charges they will be answering.

If the prosecutor’s petition meets all the requirements, the matter can then move forward to hearing. When a plea is sustained, the court will notify the juvenile. The juvenile court holds several hearings between the arrest and conclusion of the case, including:

Detention Hearing

The detention hearing is the first court appearance that a juvenile makes when arrested for committing a crime. If your child was arrested and detained, the juvenile court holds a detention hearing to determine if the minor can go home or remain in custody with a pending case. Even at this initial stage of the juvenile delinquency case, your child will require legal guidance and representation.

If a minor does not have an attorney, the court will appoint one for them. At the detention hearing, a juvenile can contest the reasons for their arrest with the help of a criminal attorney. Before the case proceeds from this point, the court must believe your child’s involvement in committing the alleged crime. Under normal circumstances, a minor is released after the detention hearing to go home and move on with their lives while the juvenile case is pending.

Circumstances that could prompt the juvenile court to order the detention of a minor with a pending case include:

  1. The child has a history of violating court orders. Minors are not entitled to bail. Therefore, when the child is released with a pending delinquency case, there is no monetary commitment. The court expects the minor to return to juvenile court as required. Some minors are repeat offenders. Therefore, if your child failed to follow a court order in previous cases, they may be held in juvenile hall.
  2. Flight risk. Like in adult court, where offenders with a high flight risk are denied bail, a juvenile offender who is considered a flight risk may face detention.
  3. Protection of the minor and other people is vital. A child’s living environment could significantly contribute to their criminal conduct. The judge may attempt to protect the juvenile by holding them in custody. Also, minors who have committed violent crimes against other people may not be allowed to go home to safeguard the alleged victims and other members of society.
  4. The juvenile has a history of escaping a court commitment. Most juvenile punishments do not involve detention. Therefore, it is easy for a minor to escape obligations such as curfew and probation. If your child has failed to adhere to juvenile commitments in the past, they may be held in the juvenile hall while their delinquency case continues.

Jurisdiction Hearing

If a minor court does not release a juvenile offender after the detention hearing, they will hold a jurisdiction hearing within fifteen days after the detention hearing. However, for minors who are allowed to go home, the earing may occur within thirty days.

At the jurisdiction hearing, the judge will read the petition and explain the charges to the minor. The judge will elaborate on the possible outcomes and inform the parents of their responsibility to pay the fines if they have committed the alleged crime. The juvenile must enter a plea for their charges at the jurisdiction hearing. If the kid decides to fight the charges, their attorney can take the following actions:

  • Object to the evidence presented by the prosecutor. Before the juvenile court concludes that the minor committed the crime they are charged with, the prosecutor must prove their involvement without a reasonable doubt. Attacking the prosecutor’s evidence is one of the most effective approaches for fighting a juvenile delinquency case.
  • Cross-examine the witnesses. The main aim of cross-examining the witnesses in a juvenile delinquency case is to try and challenge their testimony. Since the arresting officer will be one of the witnesses to the criminal violation of a minor’s rights or police misconduct during the arrest may help in challenging their account of the events.
  • Present evidence and witnesses. A minor’s attorney can present evidence and introduce witnesses who can attest to your account of events.

In a juvenile delinquency case, there is no jury, and the judge will decide if the petition is valid and the action to take against the offender.

Disposition Hearing

A disposition hearing is scheduled within ten days of the jurisdiction hearing. At this hearing, the judge decides the course of action for the delinquency case and the punishment. However, before the judge decides, the probation department must give their insight into your situation. Some of the information that could help determine a minor’s fate in a juvenile delinquency case include:

  • School and family history
  • A statement from the victims in the alleged crime was violent
  • Recommendations from the probation department

Also, the judge must consider minors and other people’s safety before deciding the best outcome for the case.

Rights of Parents and Guardians in a Juvenile Case

After an arrest, minor offenders are placed in juvenile detention until the outcome of their case is determined. Since minors do not have a right to bail, your child may remain in detention until after the detention hearing. Even when your child is under juvenile custody, your rights as a parent are maintained. If you have physical or legal custody of the minor, you have a right to be involved in the critical decisions in their lives.

However, under the following circumstances, the court could terminate your parental rights for a juvenile delinquent:

  • Your child is put up for adoption. Parents are considered to be significant contributors to a minor’s conduct. Therefore, if the juvenile court finds you neglectful of the minor, the judge may free the child for adoption, and you lose your parental rights.
  • The minor is placed in legal guardianship. If a minor commits a crime triggered by the environment, the court may put them in legal custody to protect them.

In California, you do not have the right to be present when your child is arrested or interrogated by the police. However, the child can decide to remain silent until an attorney or parent is present. In addition, when your child faces a delinquency case, you have the following rights:

A Right to Be Notified of the Minors Arrest

As a parent or guardian, you have a right to know when your child faces an arrest. Facing an arrest can be traumatizing for a minor, and they may not understand the right way to proceed. In addition, not knowing your child’s whereabouts may be very scary. Therefore, your right to be notified of their arrest is fundamental. Learning of your child’s arrest helps you offer the guidance and support they need to face the charges.

Even throughout you do not have the right to be present during interrogations, you can advise your child to remain silent until their attorney arrives. Also, you can guide them on how to react and avoid making self-incriminating statements.

A Right for Confidentiality in Your Childs Court Proceedings

Juvenile delinquency can significantly affect your child’s life. The social stigma associated with juvenile detention may not only affect the minor’s life but the family as a whole. Fortunately, the juvenile system keeps these proceedings secret. Some of the reasons why confidentiality is critical for juvenile cases include:

  • Promotes a child’s reputation and integrity. When the public access details about a minor’s criminal record, they may put the child through unnecessary stigma.
  • Sensitivity of family court issues. The juvenile justice system considers a minor’s conduct as the result of their environment and interactions. Therefore, the court reveals different aspects of your family life during the delinquency case. In addition, keeping the information confidential prevents the public from using the information against the child’s family.
  • Your child’s future. An individual under eighteen years may not be capable of making fully informed decisions. When a juvenile conviction is public, the minor’s chances of acceptance in a good school or securing meaningful employment could be minimal.

A Right to Be Present For the Court Proceedings

Between the time of arrest and the conclusion of a juvenile delinquency case, several hearings are held. The court determines if you can take your child home or be detained in juvenile hall at the first hearing. Sometimes, your testimony may be crucial in convincing the judge to let your child go home. After the detention hearing, there will be jurisdiction and a disposition hearing, all leading to the determination of whether your child committed the alleged crime or not. Your right to attend these hearings allows you to offer the support your child needs at this time.

The Right to Know your Childs Legal Rights

Even when a minor commits a crime and faces the juvenile justice system, they have legal rights to be respected during the arrest and court proceedings. When your child is battling a juvenile delinquency case, you have the right to be notified of the minor’s rights. Understanding your child’s rights helps you advise them accordingly.

A minor has the following rights when they face an arrest and charges in juvenile court:

  1. When facing an arrest, the arrest must have probable cause to do so. A probable cause is a reasonable belief that the minor was involved in committing the alleged crime.
  2. When a juvenile is detained after the arrest, they have a right to a phone call. Failure to allow at least one phone call for the child is a violation of the Miranda rights.
  3. Right to legal representation. When you are informed of your child’s arrest, you must seek legal counsel for the minor. The attorney will guide your child on the right code of conduct when speaking to the officers and handling the case.
  4. Before a minor is considered a delinquent, they have a right to prove their charges beyond a reasonable doubt at the jurisdiction hearing. When the prosecutor presents evidence in a juvenile delinquency case, they must prove your child’s involvement in the alleged criminal offense.
  5. Your child has the right to be informed of the charges they are facing immediately after the arrest.

A right to take your Child Home before the court Concludes the Case

In most cases, minors are arrested for offenses that may not be considered criminal when committed by an adult. Therefore, the juvenile justice system treats juvenile offenders leniently. Sometimes, parents or guardians of juvenile delinquents have a right to take the child home while the case is pending. However, the probation officer and the district attorney must give must offer their recommendation. Whether or not you exercise your right to take your child home depends on their criminal history and the outcome of previous rehabilitation attempts. 

The goal of rehabilitation in the Juvenile Justice System

There are several sentencing options available in the juvenile court process, and they are all aimed at rehabilitation. Some of these dispositions include:

Informal probation

If the delinquency case is not severe, your child may be eligible for informal probation. When the court sends a minor to probation, several conditions of probation will apply for the juvenile. As a parent of the juvenile offender, you must agree to participate in counseling, parenting, and counseling for the child.

Formal Probation

If a juvenile is declared a ward of the court, they could sentence them to formal probation. Sometimes, formal probation may be completed at home, placement in another home, or a camp. The terms of formal probation include:

  • Curfew restrictions
  • Mandatory school attendance
  • Community service
  • Victim restitution
  • Drug abuse counseling

Differed Entry of Judgment

Differed entry of judgment is a disposition that requires a minor to admit guilt for the allegations they face in exchange for dismissal of their charges after completing the program. Mostly, this disposition lasts up to three years and is used for first-time felonies.

WIC 654 Diversion

Sometimes, a juvenile delinquency case can be diverted to probation before the prosecutor files a petition. For minor offenses such as shoplifting, attorneys attempt to obtain the WIC diversion to help avoid the hassle of battling the charges. The probation department will develop a plan that lasts up to six months, after which the court will dismiss their charges.

Find a Chula Vista Criminal Attorney

In California, society is reluctant to hold minors solely accountable for their actions. When individuals under the age of eighteen commit a crime, they are charged and dealt with by the juvenile justice system. Therefore, an offense committed by a child is not considered worthy of the harsh punishment given to an adult facing similar charges. Unless a minor commits a serious crime such as murder, rape, or other violent felonies, they face charges in juvenile court whose main aim is rehabilitation.

Although the juvenile justice system is lenient when dealing with offenders, the consequences of a juvenile conviction may affect several aspects of your child’s life. Usually, minors are under their parents or guardians. Therefore, your child’s arrest may significantly impact you.

If your child faces an arrest and is battling the juvenile justice system, it is crucial to consult a knowledgeable Chula Vista Criminal Attorney. We offer the much-needed guidance and legal representation to all our clients throughout Chula Vista, CA, to ensure the best outcome in your case. Call us today at 619-877-6894.