Most minors arrested in Riverside, CA, for committing crimes are confused and don’t know where to begin. When a juvenile commits an offense, it's considered delinquent behavior. In California, the juvenile justice system aims at rehabilitating rather than punishing juvenile offenders. It means the child will not face hefty fines or remain behind bars. However, if the minor commits a severe crime, the judge may decide to hold a transfer hearing and face trial in an adult criminal court. 

Juvenile courts have unique terms and different processes compared to adult courts. It’s recommended you work with a criminal attorney conversant with the California juvenile system. The attorney will help your child skip severe charges. At Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, our attorneys are ready to provide you with the best legal services to achieve better outcomes for your case.

The Legal Meaning of Juvenile Delinquency

Juvenile delinquency involves a minor engaging in illegal action (a person below the age of 18 years). A suspect aged 18 years or below are tried in the juvenile courts as a minor in California. Also, if the juvenile commits an offense noticed when they are above 18 years, they may still face trial at the juvenile court. If a minor commits a crime, the act is a delinquent act, while juvenile delinquency is a minor committing the delinquent acts.

Examples of Common Juvenile Delinquency

In several instances of delinquency cases, the offense falls under misdemeanor crimes. The potential delinquent acts committed by juveniles are:

  • Vandalism
  • Fighting
  • Petty theft
  • Trespassing

Note, under certain situations, the minor is transferred to the criminal court through a transfer hearing. For example, the minor may face a transfer hearing depending on:

  • The severity of the alleged crime.
  • The juvenile's past delinquent behaviors.
  • Whether the previous punishment was successful.

California Juvenile Courts

California delinquency courts handle both misdemeanor and felony offenses committed by juvenile offenders. The courts work differently when compared to criminal courts. Also, they have unique terms and dispositions.

Cases Handled by the Delinquency Courts

The juvenile courts handle cases committed by minors. The courts deal with three main types of juvenile cases as discussed below:

  • Juvenile Delinquency Cases

Juvenile delinquency cases cover all the crimes committed by minors. If an adult commits the offense, they will face trial under the criminal adult courts. The juvenile courts handle the cases differently when compared to criminal courts.

  • Juvenile Dependency Cases

The cases involve crimes whereby a guardian or parent neglects or abuses the minor. The California delinquency courts handle these cases. During the dependency case, the juvenile judge decides whether the juvenile offender will be removed from that problematic environment.

  • Status Offenses

The courts also deal with status crimes like truancy, running away, underage drinking, and curfew violations. Under the law, the courts consider status offenses criminal behaviors when committed by a juvenile offender.

The Special Terms Used at the California Juvenile Courts

The juvenile judges use unique language at the juvenile court rather than at the criminal courts. For example, juvenile judges don’t mention terms like “innocent” or “guilty.” Instead, they use “sustaining petition filed by California district attorney.” Adult courts mention terms like “sentence” while the juvenile court uses “disposition.” Juvenile delinquency faces informal probation as the lowest method of disposition. The court drops the minor’s charges after completing their program. The juvenile court requires the juvenile offenders to commit themselves to the DJJ within the department of rehabilitation and correction.

What is “Ward of The Court?”

During your child’s disposition, the court may often mention the term “ward of the court.” When the juvenile court makes the juvenile award, it assumes their responsibility and treatment. But, it won’t prohibit the juvenile offender from committing to their probation. The juvenile court may decide to place the juvenile offender in a foster care, camp, or group home.

The Main Goal of Juvenile Offender Rehabilitation

The juvenile system focuses on rehabilitating juveniles instead of punishing them. So, the court will ensure the juvenile offenders receive education and treatment and make them become better citizens. Although the juvenile system focuses on rehabilitating juveniles, it doesn’t mean that they will not punish the child when they commit an offense. The court may sanction juvenile offenders for their behaviors. The sanctions aim at instilling discipline in the minors. The sanctions may include:

  • Community service
  • Parole
  • Placing the minor in a foster care
  • Paying fine and restitution
  • Committing the juvenile offender to CYA

Transfer Hearing

Remember, not every crime committed by a minor will be tried at the juvenile court. Sometimes the juvenile judge may push for a transfer hearing where the minor will face trial at the criminal court as an adult. The process is called transfer hearing. The court holds a particular proceeding, and the judge decides if they will push the crime to criminal courts. After the judge declares the minor unfit to face trial at the juvenile system, the judge transfers the case to criminal courts.

However, in most cases, juvenile offenders face their trial in the juvenile courts. But, if their crimes are severe, the adult courts sentence the minor as a grown-up. The process begins with the district attorney requesting the juvenile court to hold a transfer hearing after listening to the case of the minor.

If the juvenile judge makes a final ruling to sentence the juvenile offender at the criminal courts, they will remain behind bars for an extended period. So, that’s why the juvenile judges hold transfer hearings when the minors commit severe crimes. As a parent, if your child is facing a crime in California, you want to work with a skilled attorney. The attorney may help your child stop the transfer hearing, thus avoiding facing heavy penalties. But, for the court to hold the transfer hearing, the juvenile judge will consider various factors like:

  • The minor’s age and social background.
  • Nature and facts surrounding the case.
  • The juvenile offender’s current intellectual development and psychological maturity.
  • The minor’s previous delinquency history.
  • The available rehabilitation programs to treat the juvenile offender.
  • How the minor responded to the past rehabilitation treatments and programs.

Can You Appeal Against the Court Ruling?

If the minor faces trial at the criminal courts, they will face severe penalties. However, through the help of your attorney, you may file an appeal to fight the juvenile court's decision. Remember, the transfer hearing aims to determine whether your child is eligible to face trial at the criminal court. If your child loses the hearing, they will be subject to a trial at the grown-up’s courts. As a parent, through filing an appeal, you will convince the juvenile judge that your child will benefit from the juvenile delinquency system.

Remember, you have three weeks after the arraignment to file an appeal against the court ruling. So, you will have a limited time to seek the services of a competent attorney. Find an attorney familiar with the California juvenile system and laws. The attorney will develop proof to convince the judge your child will benefit from the rehabilitation programs.

Crimes Committed by Minor Which Qualify for Trial at the Grown-up’s Courts

California Welfare & Institution code 707 outlines a list of crimes that might subject the juvenile offender to a transfer hearing. The California district attorney will initiate the hearing if the alleged crime is listed under the law. The minors aged below 15 years will not face the transfer hearing unless they arrest them for the crime while they are adults. The crimes include:

  • Torture
  • Murder
  • Attempted murder
  • Robbery
  • Arson of inhabited building resulting to significant physical injury
  • Attempt murder
  • Forceful rare
  • Sodomy using violence or using force
  • Kidnapping with a purpose to engage in robbery
  • Sexual penetration by force
  • Oral copulation
  • Discharging firearms on an inhabited structure
  • Committing lewd actions towards a child aged below 14 years by using force, threats, or significant bodily harm.
  • An assault by violence to cause great bodily injury
  • Voluntary manslaughter
  • Aggravated mayhem
  • Carjacking
  • Manufacturing, processing, compounding, or selling controlled substances outlined under HSC 11O55.
  • Sexual penetration using force
  • Assault using a firearm or deadly weapon
  • Offenses outlined under California CP 1203.9
  • Offenses outlined under PC 12022.5

Juvenile Court Process in California

The juvenile offenders face trial at the juvenile courts. As mentioned above, the juvenile court process is different from the process in criminal adult courts. The juvenile process begins with the minor’s arrest for a crime. If the case is less severe, the law enforcement officers may warn and release them. Also, the officers may issue the juvenile offenders with a police citation to show up at the court. If the minor faces a severe crime, the law officers may take them to a detention center and interrogate them.

The Minor’s Warnings and Rights During Police Interrogation

Before beginning interrogating the minors, the police must read their Miranda rights. The rights include:

  • Right to consult/speak/hire an attorney.
  • Minors' right to remain silent.
  • Juvenile offenders should be provided with an attorney when they are unable to afford one.
  • What the minor says during the interrogation may be used against them before the court.

Sometimes, the police may not read the Miranda rights during the arrest. However, as per the California supreme court, the police must read Miranda rights to the juvenile offender before their arrest. After reading the rights, the law enforcement officer will request the juvenile if they understand the Miranda rights.

The police should stop asking the questions if the minor decides to stay silent. But, if the juvenile offender decides to talk, the police should waive their right to stay silent. So, anything the minor says, the prosecution team may use against them at the court.

Juvenile offenders may waive their rights when they agree to waive. Note that a kid below 15 is not allowed to waive the rights unless directed by their attorney. The juvenile judge will investigate the facts surrounding your case to know whether the admission was voluntary. So, the judge may consider the following factors:

  • If the law enforcement officer threatened the juvenile offender.
  • Whether the law officer’s interrogation was unrelenting.
  • If the police denied the child to consult their attorney.
  • Whether the law enforcement officer threatened to imprison the minor’s family member.
  • If the police denied the basic juvenile needs like water or food.

It’s important to note that law enforcement officers usually don’t question the juveniles with the knowledge of their guardians/parents. But, it doesn’t mean the law officers should deny the minor right for their guardian’s to show up during the police interrogation. When the guardian or parent was present during the police interrogation, the juvenile judge may decide the minor’s commitment was involuntary and then drop the case.

What Should the Minor Do During the Arrest?

Your child should know what to do during a police arrest. It will help them protect themselves from criminal allegations. The minor should not fear. They should not resist the police arrest. After the arrest, the child should be polite and:

  • The minor should Know the law enforcement officer isn’t their friend.
  • Ask to consult an attorney.
  • Ask for their parent/guardian's presence.
  • Avoid confessing or writing an apology in any situation.
  • State they intend to cancel the warning to be silent.

The Potential Disposition After the Juvenile Court Process

In California, a minor will face various sentencing options known as dispositions. The penalties vary from facing probation to CYA commitment. The following are the potential disposition options your child may face in California:

Informal Probation

When your child faces a less serious crime, they may face informal probation per the W&I Code 654. Once the juvenile offender is granted informal probation, the juvenile court will agree on various terms of the probation. In several cases, the juvenile offender and their guardians or parents agree to participate in counselling, parenting, education programs, and providing care to the juveniles addicted to using controlled substances.

If the juvenile offender doesn’t commit to these probation programs, a petition will be filed. Also, the probation department may file a petition when the minor poorly performs the probation within 60 or 90 days after their probation. Under informal probation, the juvenile offender is put under supervision under the department of probation for:

  • Six months
  • The child and their parents engage in education or counselling programs.
  • The minor is mandatory to attend school.
  • The minors observe curfew rules between 10:00 pm and 6:00 am unless their parents accompany them.

Sometimes, the juvenile offender might be subject to drug testing or make restitution to the alleged victim. The court may require the parent or guardian to pay a restitution fee when the offender cannot pay. The sentencing option is mainly made for non-violent offenses like trespass and vandalism charges. After undergoing the probation period and meeting all the probation terms, the court will dismiss the charges.

Formal Probation at Home or in a Camp

After the court declares the minor award, the judges may sentence them into a formal probation term. In most cases, the minor will complete the probation at home. Alternatively, the juvenile court may place the minor in a relative or group home. The formal probation term has several conditions, including:

  • Restitution
  • Curfew restriction
  • Avoiding certain people
  • Graffiti removal
  • Counselling on substance abuse
  • Community service
  • Compulsory school attendance

If your child needs a special rehabilitation structure, the probation department will send them into a three-month probation camp. California has around 70 camps. The structures are dormitory-like. The structures have a schedule for treatment and education programs. California also has other probation camps, including wilderness or fire camps, military-like camps, and boot camps.

Diversion – Welfare & Institution Code 654

Under W&I code 654, the court diverts the minor cases into probation before filing a petition. It’s applicable for low-level crimes like shoplifting. The probation department may formulate a plan including both the juvenile offender and the parents/guardian to participate in an education or treatment program for six months. The minor’s parents will attend a separate program in the community.

The probation departments place the minor under diversion program in a facility within the community for a period not exceeding 90 days. After the kid completes the diversion program, the court won’t file a petition, and the charges will be dismissed. If the juvenile offender fails to follow the diversion obligations, the probation department will file a petition within 90 days after the period expires.

Deferred Entry of Judgement (DEJ)

The California DEJ requires the minor to confess the allegation filed in the petition. But, the DEJ allows the court to dismiss the charges once the minor completes the court programs. The DEJ programs will only work for low-level crimes and not violent felonies like sexual assaults, gang-related crimes, or any crime outlined in W&I section 707(b).

  • Who Qualifies for a Deferred Entry of Judgement?

The first-time offender or juvenile with a truancy record and currently arrested for drug sale or possession qualify for DEJ. The court cannot dismiss the minor’s charges before 12 months or 36 months after entry to the program. While still under the program, the juvenile offender is subject to searches of their property or residence. The department of probation will impose compulsory school attendance alongside curfew. Also, the court may require restitution, among other probation terms. However, the court may decide to impose or not impose alcohol or drug testing.

Commitment to the California Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ)

The Division of Juvenile Justice was formerly referred to as the California youth authority. The disposition applies to the juvenile offenders committing severe crimes outlined under W&I 707(b), or crimes that require registration as a sex offender. If the minor is above the age of 14 years, the prosecution team may file the charges under the criminal court, where they face conviction once found guilty for the alleged crime.

Sealing of Juvenile Criminal Records

Your child may seal their criminal records. The process is referred to as expungement. The main benefit of sealing the criminal records is, the former minor offender won’t report their records to employers, landlords, or any other party in their professional records. So, your child will overcome the stigma associated with juvenile criminal records.

However, you must meet the requirements for the court to seal the criminal records. You want to work with a criminal defense attorney during this process. The requirements include the type of offense, the age of the petitioner, and the time element. To seal your juvenile criminal records, you must be an adult aged above 18 years. Specific time must have passed after the crime. In a few cases, only specific crimes will be sealed. The court may not allow the juvenile offender to seal serious offenses.

The Process of Sealing Juvenile Criminal Records

For the court to seal your juvenile criminal record, you must file and complete a petition at the court where your juvenile proceedings or conviction occurred. The process of sealing the records takes around ten months. After you file the petition, the juvenile court will schedule the hearing. The judge may either deny or grant the motion.

You don’t need to avail yourself during the motion unless the juvenile judge has questions about your rehabilitation or offense. The department of probation will provide evidence to show you completed the probation term. If the court grants the petition, it will issue an order to the various agencies retaining your records and instructing them to seal the records and destroy them. In case the court denies the petition, you may petition again.

The Lasting Consequences of Juvenile Offender’s Adjudication?

Unfortunately, your child’s judgment may affect their future. The juvenile convictions count apart under the three strikes law in California. Under the state’s laws, the criminal court may examine your juvenile judgment while making sentencing and probation decisions. Juvenile judgment may attract registration as a sex offender in California. But, you may also qualify to seal the criminal records.

Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

You may find yourself confused after learning your child will face charges for committing a criminal offense in Riverside, CA. The conviction may significantly affect your child’s life in the future when seeking employment. Therefore, you want to work with a criminal defense attorney to protect the child's rights and prevent the child from facing conviction in the adults’ courts. At Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, our attorneys are experienced in handling California juvenile delinquency cases. Call us today at 951-946-6366, schedule an appointment and let our attorneys provide legal services right away.