When a minor is arrested for violating laws in California, they may face a variety of penalties. In the course of the trial, the prosecutor and the defense counsel representing your child present their cases in court, and the presiding judge renders a ruling depending on the evidence presented. In a juvenile court, a disposition hearing is when the judge delivers their verdict or sentence in the case. This is comparable to how adults are sentenced in adult criminal courts.

Once the judge is confident that the child executed the crime, he or she must determine the most appropriate disciplinary measures. Based on the specific violation, a range of sentencing alternatives may be available.

You want to enhance your chances of getting the best possible result for your child by hiring a juvenile court attorney. At the Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, we recognize the importance of successfully rehabilitating your child. We'll engage with you and your child to file a court petition for a positive outcome.

Understanding Juvenile Disposition Hearing

A juvenile's trial in California juvenile delinquency court is known as an adjudication hearing. If the juvenile loses at trial, he or she will proceed to the sentencing stage of the procedure. The hearing is known as the disposition hearing. When deciding on a punishment for a minor, the judge examines the following factors:

  • The child's age
  • The facts and degree of the crime
  • The child's past delinquent record

The juvenile cannot be punished by the court for declining to confess or plead guilty. However, the judge can consider whether the juvenile violated the law under Penal Code 118 pc by giving false testimony during the adjudication hearing.

A juvenile court disposition hearing is akin to an adult court sentence hearing. The court determines what disciplinary measures will be enforced once the juvenile is proven to have perpetrated a criminal offense or a probation violation. In juvenile court, a broad array of sentencing alternatives are available. The judge tailors a sentence to a specific delinquent minor designed to help the juvenile is being rehabilitated.

The judge has the following choices during a disposition (sentencing):

  • Probation at home
  • Detention at a probation camp
  • Placement with a suitable foster family
  • Dedication to the Juvenile Justice Division

When a minor is convicted of a serious offense, the prosecutor may request that the juvenile be charged as an adult in an adult criminal court. The minor might face years in typical adult prison if the prosecuting attorney can persuade the judge to transfer the case. The following are some of the considerations before transferring a matter to an adult court:

The Kind of Offense the Juvenile Committed

Minors would normally be prosecuted for minor infractions such as shoplifting or non-controversial matters. As a result, if a person under the age of eighteen commits more serious offenses that result in serious injury or harm to the victims, he or she could receive standard penalties in an adult criminal court. The justification for such transfers is that the juvenile engaged in serious crimes for which the Juvenile Delinquency punishments would be inadequate.

Every offense that qualifies a juvenile for prosecution in an adult criminal court is listed in the California Welfare and Institutions Code. The following are some of the crimes:

Kidnapping and Ransom Demand

If a minor defendant kidnaps a victim and demands a ransom in return for their release, this violation introduces extra aspects which should be prosecuted in a separate court. Furthermore, the facts of the case will reveal additional details about the nature of the conduct, such as if the juvenile in question harmed the victim. If this is the case, you (the child) may face more severe consequences.


Because murder is a capital charge, juveniles who participate in the murder will undergo the same judicial process as adults. Because of the seriousness of the offense, there is limited room for negotiation of more moderate court procedures. Therefore,  the transfer hearing could lead to an affirmative transfer. Keep in mind that murder prosecutions in ordinary courts can result in harsh punishments such as lengthy jail sentences or even life imprisonment.

Attempted Murder

Attempted murder also is a serious act that results in a case being transferred from a Juvenile Delinquent court to an adult criminal court. The distinction between murder and attempted murder is that the victims of the crime may or may not die as a result of the act. It is, however, a prosecutable violation, particularly if the prosecution can show criminal intent.

Rape With the Use of Violence and Force

If a juvenile is implicated in rape that is characterized by aggression, threatening, and excessive force, his or her case will be transferred. The intensity of the crime is a deciding factor in this case, owing to its overwhelming nature.

Other acts that result in transfers include:

  • Voluntary Manslaughter
  • Carjacking
  • Oral copulation under duress
  • Arson resulting in serious bodily injury
  • Delinquent past of the minor

Aside from the offense perpetrated, the judge will look at the minor's previous criminal history. The background check operates in the same way as an adult criminal background check, in that previous offenses decide whether an offender receives a more serious trial procedure and penalties. As a result, if you have been convicted of a crime in the past, your trial will most likely be transferred to an adult criminal court.

The Outcomes of Previous Rehabilitation Activities on the Juvenile

The Juvenile Delinquency Court also considers whether previous rehabilitative orders imposed on a youngster were successful or unsuccessful. In this situation, the youngster will have previously been charged with delinquency and received many court orders.

If the child completes the rehabilitative procedure, they can then take the case to the Juvenile Delinquency Court, which will retain jurisdiction over the case. If, on the other hand, the juvenile repeatedly disobeyed probation orders or had difficulties complying with probationary officers, the court may consider and decide to move the case to an adult criminal court.

The Degree to Which the Individual Has Progressed in Committing crimes

The case will not be heard in juvenile court if investigations indicate that you engaged in highly advanced activity while doing illegal acts. Using modern vehicle tracking devices to detect vehicles for your carjacking crime, for instance, could cause the court to consider the intricacy of your crime.

As a result, you will face prosecution in adult criminal court, where you'll be required to explain how you obtained such equipment to carry out the unlawful acts. Furthermore, if you are suspected of being involved in gang activity, the prosecution can obtain records from detectives detailing how you engaged in highly organized crime. If you face a joint trial, you may undergo criminal proceedings with your counterparts in the adult court jurisdiction.

When Does Disposition Hearing Occur?

Disposition hearings are usually scheduled right after the case. However, this will only happen if the judge is presented with all of the facts he or she needs to make an informed decision. In some situations, the probation officer can withhold delivering their assessment on the case's social aspects, which includes their desired sentencing.

In addition, the child's family or the juvenile themselves may wish to present evidence pertinent to the trial to aid in their sentencing. The disposition hearing can be postponed in both of these situations. In circumstances when a juvenile has a psychological or mental health problem, the judge may order a psychological assessment. This may also cause the hearing to be postponed.

The duration of the delay is often not long but it is determined by when the evidence may be given in court. If the child is imprisoned in a juvenile facility, the additional data must be submitted as soon as possible since a disposition hearing should be arranged ten days after the trial ends.

The child has the right to be in attendance during the sentencing hearing. They can also submit a written impact statement or testify to support their trial through their attorney. This means that the juvenile has the right to participate during his or her sentencing hearing.

Possible Sentences That Can Be Imposed on a Minor at the Disposition Hearing

A schedule for the disposition hearing is usually determined after the case is completed. This is the stage at which the judge will pass on a sentence given the evidence and rulings of the trial. Every parent, as well as the accused juvenile, is yearning to learn the severity of the sentencing they will face. The judge has various punishment options available to them if the juvenile is convicted of the crime they are charged with.

Usually, a judge issues a sentence to rehabilitate the minor and provide him or her with the necessary tools to become a more productive member of society under the governance of the law. The sentence possibilities range from a complete dismissal of the case through probation and CYA commitment. These are some of the possible options:

  • Dismissal of the case
  • Placement in a group home
  • Formal probation like placement with a relative
  • Sentencing the juvenile to informal probation
  • Probation at a county managed camp
  • California Youth Authority commitment

We go through some of these sentencing alternatives in depth below.

Informal Probation

If the purported crime committed by the minor is not significant, the juvenile could be subjected to diversion and informal probation. If the child is convicted of a minor offense such as vandalism, and it happens to be their first offense, the judge may subject him or her to informal probation.

This minor offense is diverted under Welfare & Institutions code 654, and the child is placed on probation before filing the petition. Many of the lawsuits filed before juvenile courts are for minor offenses like shoplifting, as defined by PC 484.

Due to the trivial character of the offense, your child's defense attorney will fight for informal probation or diversion. This will prevent your child from pursuing a suit against them, or even the accusations of shoplifting will be removed after probation is fulfilled.

The probation officer designs the program to place the child under the court's supervision. In general, the program provides minors with education and counseling. The child could occasionally fail to live up to the probationary requirements. In this instance, the probation officer does have the choice of initiating formal court procedures.

As per Welfare & Institutions Section 725, informal probation differs from that in section 654. The case against the child is normally filed here, but the court puts it on hold to give the minor a second chance. The child does not plead guilty in this situation, and the case against him or her is dropped if they follow the conditions of their probation.

Under the informal probation program, the child is given probationary terms. The minor is required to attend school every day, receive counseling sessions, and is under a curfew. The court also instructs the child's parents to attend counseling.

If the crime involves drugs, the youngster would be required to be present for drug testing regularly, and if any destruction was done, the parents would be responsible for reparation. In this particular instance, informal probation goes for up to 6 months.

Deferred Entry of Judgment

Here, a minor must acknowledge committing a crime as per the claims against them to get this type of sentence, according to California's Welfare & Institutions code 790. The penalties against the child are dropped if they finish the DEJ program.

DEJ programs are only available to first-time offenders in felony cases that do not fall under w&I section 706(b). DEJ programs are usually 12 to 36 months long.

Children frequently associate with the wrong crowds as they grow and make missteps that can have a negative impact on their future. The California juvenile court system, on the other hand, recognizes the importance of rehabilitating rather than punishing minors who break the law. Your child can have exceptional defense in a juvenile court with the help of a competent attorney who specializes in children's issues, which could result in a favorable result.

Formal Probation

Informal probation is the antithesis of formal probation. When the judge orders the child to formal probation at the disposition hearings, the juvenile becomes a court's ward. Even though the juvenile is referred to as a court ward, they may be allowed to complete their formal probation sentence at home.

Whenever a juvenile is declared a ward of the court, they may be placed in a group home or under a relative's care for formal probation. A juvenile can be sent to a level 14 foster home if they are emotionally unstable. Juveniles on formal probation are also subject to several conditions or requirements that the court deems fit for the child's rehabilitation. The following conditions must be rigorously adhered to:

  • School attendance is required
  • A curfew is imposed on the minor
  • If necessary, the youngster must attend drug abuse therapy
  • The minor will not be allowed to associate with certain people
  • A community service order may be issued to the minor
  • The minor may be mandated to clean up the graffiti
  • The juvenile may be obliged to make reparation for the harm they have caused
  • If the judge determines that the child needs a greater level of structure to complete their probation, the minor may be sent to a camp.

In California, probation camps can last anywhere from three to twelve months. Most of the camps include dorms, which provide a more organized daily routine. These timetables include programs for learning, rehabilitation, and counseling.

Other camps for children in California include wilderness or fire camps, however, there aren't many of that kind. The focus at these centers is on forestry and firefighting training, military-style boot camps, and home-like camps that cater to small numbers while providing extensive training as well as treatment.

CYA Commitment

A juvenile offender can be put to CYA in addition to probation. Apart from serving his or her sentence in an adult prison, this is the harshest penalty a juvenile can receive. Minors who commit significant offenses as defined by Section 707(b) or who conduct offenses that necessitate them to list as sex offenders are subject to this sort of punishment.

Consequences of a Juvenile  Adjudication

As previously stated, when a juvenile is deemed guilty of perpetrating a crime in a juvenile court, they are sentenced. Likewise, the court retains a record of their misconduct, and the adjudication might damage their future, even if they made mistakes as a child.

As per California's three-strikes legislation, if a child is sentenced or their appeal is sustained, it counts as a strike. This means that if the youngster commits another crime again, their punishment will be harsher than if they were a first-time offender. Furthermore, the California Rules of Court allow adult courts to look into the offender's criminal past before passing sentences.

Juvenile adjudication could also result in the youngster being classified as a sex offender as well as being held in civil confinement as an  (SVP) sexually violent predator. However, if the infraction was minor, your child's history can be concealed and kept hidden with the help of an attorney. This is only achievable if the child serves out his or her term and does not engage in any more crimes over a period of time.

What Can Happen After the Disposition Hearing?

If the juvenile is unhappy with the outcome of the process or believes their rights were violated, their attorney can file a petition. The attorney must file a Notice of Appeal if the juvenile wishes to dispute. However, they have only 60 days from the date of the disposition hearing or the date on which the judge issued the order to do so. The District Attorney may also file an appeal.

A juvenile has the right to ask the court to modify or withdraw a court decree. They can do so since the minor's circumstances have altered or because new evidence has surfaced. However, if the kid does not follow the rules, they might have to return to court to receive a harsher sentence.

If the juvenile has no more violations that are presented to Juvenile Justice Court within 5 years, they can request that their files be expunged. They could seek for their files to be concealed at any time once they reach the age of 18 if the initial trial was before a judge. The juvenile or even the probation officer might request the judge to seal the following documents:

  • Records of their arrest
  • Court file
  • Records of probation
  • Records from other organizations that could have information on the case

How an Attorney Assist Your Child in Obtaining a Favorable Outcome

A juvenile who has broken the law and is convicted in a juvenile delinquent court has the same rights to a trial and legal counsel as an adult. Hiring a seasoned attorney is essential for the presentation of the child's case since they are familiar with the law, juvenile justice system jargon, and the process, and also how to find flaws in a prosecution's case.

Furthermore, your child's lawyer works to safeguard his or her best interests. As a result, the defense attorney examines the details surrounding the allegations to devise tactical defenses in the favor of your child. Your child's attorney can also defend them by providing counter-evidence that could lead to your child being acquitted of the crime they are accused of committing. Also, the attorney is dedicated to rehabilitating the child and giving them the best opportunity to fix their errors.

Find a Juvenile Delinquency Attorney Near Me

Being apprehended and criminally charged can be frightening and unsettling for anyone, let alone a child. If your child is caught and charged with a crime, your biggest worry would be their welfare and guiding them on to a positive path. The juvenile justice system in California recognizes this and engages with the child's defense attorney to attain the most desirable outcomes possible.

At the Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, we are committed to assisting clients facing criminal accusations in their fight against the charges brought against them. Call us at 951-946-6366 to discuss the case against your child in detail.