When your child faces accusations of juvenile delinquency, you may have difficulty understanding the court process and the possible consequences. Further, you should understand how the juvenile justice system will treat the minor throughout the trial and the possible case outcomes.

More importantly, you must familiarize yourself with Senate Bill 439 and its effect on juvenile justice. Partnering with an experienced criminal defense attorney is advisable to make the process easier for you. Their experience in handling juvenile delinquency cases can be instrumental in guiding you through the process and advocating for a lenient case outcome for your child.

At Chula Vista Criminal Attorney, you will partner with some of the best criminal defense attorneys handling juvenile delinquency cases. The team is also conversant with the current implications of Senate Bill 439 and is prepared to guide you through the various juvenile court procedures.

You can also expect us to represent your child in court and present credible defenses that increase the chances of a favorable case outcome, making securing your child's future easier. If you or a loved one is facing juvenile delinquency accusations in Chula Vista, California, our legal team is ready to step in and assist.

Understanding What Senate Bill 439 Entails

Senate Bill 439, or SB 439, is a piece of legislation signed into law in 2018 in California to reduce the number of children under the age of twelve who are tried and sentenced in the juvenile justice system.

The Senate Bill has presented some reforms to protect minors and exclude them from the conventional adult justice system. The primary reason is that the adult criminal justice process focuses more on retribution than rehabilitation. In the long term, this method of reform is detrimental to a child, especially when they still have a chance to change their behavior and reform from criminal activity.

For example, Senate Bill 439 raises the minimum age for juvenile court jurisdiction to twelve years old, meaning children under 12 cannot be tried as delinquents in California. This is a significant change from the previous law, which allowed children as young as 10 to be prosecuted in the juvenile justice system. The law acknowledges that children under 12 are not fully developed and should be held to different accountability standards than older juveniles.

Secondly, under SB 439, children who commit non-serious offenses will be referred to community-based programs and services designed to address their needs and help them avoid further involvement in the justice system.

This approach is known as "diversion," and it effectively reduces juvenile recidivism rates. Rather than simply punishing children for their actions, the law encourages a more holistic approach that considers their social, emotional, and mental health needs.

Thirdly, the law allows children to receive the help they need to address the underlying issues that may have led to their involvement in delinquent behavior. This is an essential step toward addressing the root causes of juvenile delinquency and preventing future offenses.

Community-based programs and services can provide children with access to counseling, mental health services, and other forms of support that can help them overcome any challenges they may face.

While SB 439 has been hailed as a significant step towards reforming California's juvenile justice system, there are some concerns about its implementation. One of the main criticisms is that it may result in a lack of accountability for children who commit serious offenses. Some opponents of the law argue that there should be a minimum age for criminal responsibility and that children who commit violent crimes should be held accountable for their actions regardless of age.

Another concern is that the law may strain community-based programs and services. While these programs are effective in helping children address their needs and avoid further involvement in the justice system, they require adequate funding and resources. Some advocates worry that the demand for these programs will increase significantly under SB 439, and there may be insufficient resources to meet the need.

Despite these concerns, the overall impact of SB 439 is likely positive. By raising the minimum age for juvenile court jurisdiction, the law provides an opportunity for children to receive the support and guidance they need to overcome the challenges they may be facing. It also recognizes that children under 12 are not fully developed and should be held to different accountability standards than older juveniles.

In addition to SB 439, other juvenile justice reforms are being implemented in California and nationwide. One such reform is using risk assessments to determine the most effective interventions for juvenile involvement in the justice system.

Risk assessments consider a range of factors, such as the severity of the offense, the child's history of delinquent behavior, and their family circumstances, to determine the most appropriate intervention for each child.

Another critical reform is using restorative justice practices in the juvenile justice system. Restorative justice is a philosophy that emphasizes repairing harm and restoring relationships rather than punishing offenders. It involves bringing together the victim, the offender, and other affected parties to discuss the harm done and work toward a resolution that addresses everyone's needs.

Legal Rights of Juvenile Parties Under the Senate Bill 439

After Senate Bill 439, juvenile offenders in California still have legal rights that the juvenile justice system must uphold. These rights include:

The Right to An Attorney

As a juvenile offender, you have the right to an attorney if you cannot afford one. The court is responsible for appointing an attorney to ensure that you undergo a fair juvenile trial process as provided for in the constitution.

The attorney is responsible for representing your interests and ensuring your rights are protected throughout the legal process. They do this by learning the facts of your case, building strong defenses against the prosecutor's case, and representing you in juvenile court when the trial begins.

If you already have a lawyer, you can ask for their help directly or request your parent or guardian to meet the lawyer on your behalf. Since your parent has your best interests in your case, they will present you with the best strategy applicable to your case for a positive case outcome.

The Right to Due Process

 Juvenile offenders have the right to due process, meaning they must be informed of the charges against them and allowed to respond. They also have the right to a fair and impartial hearing. Based on this, inform your attorney immediately if you strongly believe the case against you is wrongfully filed or the investigation officers have presented false information against you.

After receiving the information, your attorney can directly engage the presiding juvenile delinquency judge or request a meeting with the prosecutor. The goal is to prioritize your interests, as advocated for in Senate Bill 439.

The Right to Remain Silent

You also have the right to remain silent, as anything you say can be used against you in court. You should be advised of this at the beginning of any interrogation as an extension of your rights. As a minor, you may be vulnerable to undue influence from the investigation officers to provide incriminating evidence. However, enforcing this right protects you from any unfair strategies during investigations.  

The Right to Confront Witnesses

 Juvenile offenders have the right to confront witnesses who testify against them. This means that they can question witnesses and challenge their testimony. If your defense attorney advises you to conduct a direct cross-examination, you must ensure your questions are relevant to your case.

Your defense lawyer should also advise you on the best questions to use during the court confrontation, especially if you intend to demonstrate the disingenuous nature of the witness's testimony. Despite the ability to confront a witness directly, your attorney is always ready to step in and help you ask questions more effectively.

The Right to a Speedy Trial

Juvenile offenders have the right to a speedy trial, meaning they cannot be detained for an extended period without a trial. This right ensures the juvenile justice system does not unnecessarily prolong the legal process.

The Right to Appeal

You can appeal a court's decision if you believe your rights have been violated or if there is a legal error, and it is important to note that the legal rights apply regardless of the severity of your offense. The juvenile justice system ensures that the right to appeal is protected and upheld and that you receive fair and just treatment throughout the legal process.

In addition to these legal rights, Senate Bill 439 has provided juvenile offenders with new opportunities for rehabilitation and support. Community-based programs and services can help juveniles address the underlying issues that may have led to their delinquent behavior and provide them with access to counseling, mental health services, and other forms of support.

Overall, the goal of the juvenile justice system is to hold juvenile offenders accountable for their actions while also providing them with the resources and support they need to turn their lives around. By upholding their legal rights and providing them with opportunities for rehabilitation, California can work towards a more just and effective juvenile justice system that serves the best interests of both the offender and the community.

Possible Outcomes of a Juvenile Hearing After Senate Bill 439

Since Senate Bill 439 has created reforms that reduce the harshness of penalties for minors facing juvenile delinquency accusations, it is important to understand the current case outcomes. They vary based on case circumstances, and you want to understand the elements that the judge considers before issuing an order. Some common case outcomes include:

Informal Probation Under the Welfare and Institutions Code

Sections 654 and 725 of the Welfare and Institutions Code (WIC) are California laws that allow for informal probation, also known as summary or unsupervised probation, for certain low-level offenses.

Under WIC 654, a judge may grant informal probation for a misdemeanor offense that is not punishable by imprisonment. Informal probation means that the offender does not have to report to a probation officer or comply with any specific conditions of probation. However, they must still obey all laws and not commit any further offenses.

Under Section 725, a judge may grant informal probation to a juvenile offender who has committed a misdemeanor offense that is not punishable by confinement in a juvenile detention facility. Like WIC 654 and Section 725, informal probation does not involve a probation officer or specific probation conditions. Still, the juvenile offender is required to comply with all laws and not commit any further offenses.

Informal probation provides a less burdensome and less expensive alternative to formal probation, which involves regular meetings with a probation officer and strict probationary conditions. Informal probation may be appropriate for low-level offenses that do not seriously threaten public safety and for offenders who are unlikely to re-offend.

If an offender violates the terms of informal probation, they may be subject to a hearing and could face additional consequences, such as fines or imprisonment. However, the consequences for violating informal probation are typically less severe than those for violating formal probation.

Therefore, informal probation under Sections 654 and 725 provides a way for low-level offenders. The provisions help to avoid the more burdensome requirements of formal probation while still holding them accountable for their actions and requiring them to obey the law.

Formal Probation

While informal probation is more likely to be a suitable outcome for many juvenile delinquency cases, the judge may decide to issue formal probation orders. Formal probation is a legal status that places a juvenile offender under the supervision of a probation officer for a specific period of time, during which the juvenile must comply with certain terms and conditions.

The terms and conditions of formal probation may vary depending on your case circumstances and the severity of the offense committed. Some common terms of formal probation may include:

  • Regular meetings with a probation officer
  • Curfew restrictions
  • Community service or restitution
  • Attending school or vocational training
  • Drug or alcohol treatment
  • Electronic monitoring
  • Stay-away orders from certain individuals or locations
  • Prohibition on possessing weapons or drugs

If you violate any of the terms of formal probation, you may face the consequences, such as additional probation terms, detention, or placement in a juvenile detention facility managed by the Juvenile Division of Justice (DJJ).

It is important to note that formal probation aims to rehabilitate you as a juvenile offender and prevent future delinquent behavior, rather than punish you. The probation officer works with the juvenile to create a personalized plan to address their specific needs and challenges and help them make positive life changes.

Commitment to a Juvenile Division of Justice Facility

Alternatively, the judge may order your commitment to a DJJ facility under specific circumstances. Usually, the court orders your detention if you have committed serious crimes listed under Section 707(b) of the Welfare and Institutions Code.

Usually, these crimes are serious, leading to the harm or endangerment of a victim and, in some cases, fatalities. Consequently, your confinement in the DJJ facility equates to a prison term in adult court but in a less harsh environment.

You will likely face a DJJ committal order if you committed any crime requiring registration as a sex offender. These include rape, committing sexual assault, forced oral copulation, and lewd conduct. Further, crimes involving serious bodily harm to the victim, like torture and robbery with violence, can also attract the penalty.

Trial Diversion Into Adult Court

Generally, Senate Bill 439 presents restructuring changes in how juveniles face trial and protects them from interacting with the adult criminal justice system. However, some instances may result in the need for a formal criminal trial in court.

However, not all cases warrant the diversion back to adult court, and the decision mostly applies to cases with serious case facts. The presiding juvenile judge assesses each case based on specific circumstances and determines whether the minor is better suited to face trial in adult court. Some considerations to make include the following:

  • The Minor's Age
  • The Minor's Maturity Level
  • The existence of a Criminal Record
  • The Nature of the Alleged Offense

Sealing Juvenile Records

In California, sealing juvenile criminal records is an essential step in providing a second chance to young individuals who have made mistakes in the past. Sealing these records can be complex and daunting, but ensuring that juveniles are not unfairly judged or held back by their past actions is essential.

Sealing juvenile records is an important part of the justice system, as it recognizes juveniles' unique circumstances and developmental differences compared to adult offenders. Young people still develop their sense of right and wrong and often lack adults' judgment and life experience. As such, they should be allowed to move past their mistakes and start anew.

In California, sealing juvenile records can be done in two ways: by operation of law or by petition. Sealing by operation of law is automatic and occurs when a juvenile turns eighteen or five years after the final disposition of their case, whichever comes first. This means that after the specified period, the juvenile's records are no longer accessible to the public, including employers, landlords, and schools. However, exceptions exist, such as if the juvenile committed a serious or violent felony.

The second way to seal juvenile records is by petition, which can be done earlier than automatic sealing by operation of law. This process involves requesting the court seal the records before the specified time has elapsed. To be eligible, the juvenile must have completed their probation or other court-ordered requirements and not have committed any subsequent offenses. The court will then review the case and determine whether to grant the request.

Sealing juvenile records has numerous benefits for young individuals looking to move past their mistakes. It can help them secure employment, obtain housing, and pursue education opportunities without being held back by their past actions. It also protects them from discrimination and stigmatization, which can negatively impact their mental health and well-being.

However, it is essential to note that sealing juvenile records does not entirely erase them from existence. Law enforcement agencies and the courts still have access to the records, and in some cases, the records may be unsealed if the individual commits another offense. Additionally, some employers, such as law enforcement agencies, may still be able to access sealed records.

In conclusion, sealing juvenile records in California is essential to providing a second chance to young individuals who have made mistakes. It recognizes juveniles' unique circumstances and developmental differences compared to adult offenders, allowing them to move past their mistakes and start anew.

While the process may be complex and daunting, the benefits of sealing juvenile records far outweigh the challenges. It is essential to ensure that juveniles are not unfairly judged or held back by their past actions.

Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

When you or your child faces arrest and detention in the juvenile system, you must follow up on their case process to ensure they face a fair juvenile procedure. Moreover, you want to understand how the law treats minors in violation of the law. While undertaking research by yourself is a good first step, you need to partner with an experienced attorney with experience handling similar matters. Their input, in your case, becomes invaluable and can save your child from facing life-altering outcomes.

At Chula Vista Criminal Attorney, we work hard to provide high-quality legal services to help you understand the juvenile court process in great detail. We are also equipped to guide you through the provisions of Senate Bill 439 and their impact on your child's case.

When the trial begins, you can count on us to represent your child in juvenile court and fight against any accusations the prosecutor makes to increase the chances of a favorable case outcome. Over the years, we have helped hundreds of clients in Chula Vista, California, undergo the juvenile justice process with positive case outcomes, making us your reliable partner. For more information on Senate Bill 439, call us today at 619-877-6894.