The juvenile justice system handles minors who violate California law. Unlike the adult criminal system, the juvenile justice system aims at rehabilitating minors and providing them with the necessary education to avoid illegal activity in the future. When your child is arrested for a crime, they will be detained at the juvenile hall, where the prosecutor can decide to file charges against them in the juvenile court. Learning of your child’s arrest can be very challenging for you and your family.

In juvenile court, a judge will sustain the petition against the minor if the child is found to have committed an offense. The consequences that accompany a sustained juvenile petition could be life-changing. The juvenile justice procedures are very complicated. Therefore, it is crucial to enlist the guidance of a criminal defense attorney as soon as you learn of your child’s arrest. At Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, we will provide the legal insight your child needs to avoid the consequences of a sustained juvenile petition. We serve clients requiring legal guidance to battle criminal charges in Riverside, CA.

Overview of Sustained Juvenile Petitions

It can be traumatizing for a minor to face an arrest for violating the law. It can be challenging for a child to handle detention and face the intricate court proceedings. In California, the treatment for juvenile offenders is not similar to that of adult offenders. When an individual under eighteen years commits a crime, they are handled by the juvenile justice system. The juvenile court differs significantly from the adult criminal court. The main aim of the juvenile delinquency court is to rehabilitate juvenile offenders and discourage future criminal conduct.

The minor must undergo several court processes before the court arrives at a sustained juvenile petition. A juvenile delinquency case begins when your child faces an arrest for violating the law. A minor could be arrested for different forms of violations ranging from minor offenses like curfew violations to serious crimes like murder or aggravated assault.

For minor offenses, the child will be released with a warning. If the matter is more serious, the officer could take the minor to juvenile hall. If your child is arrested and detained in juvenile hall, you have a right to be notified. At the juvenile hall, the minor is handed over to a probation officer who can decide to:

  • Release your child with a requirement to return to court on a specific date
  • Hand the child over to a probation program
  • Hold the minor until the judge decides the right course of action
  • Request the district attorney to file a petition against the minor in juvenile court.

Court Hearings Leading to a Sustained Juvenile Petition

Leading up to a sustained juvenile petition, the court will hold several hearings, including:

Detention Hearing

A detention hearing is the first appearance of a juvenile offender before the juvenile court. At this hearing, the judge will either decide to detain your child in juvenile hall r allow them to go home with you pending their trial. Unlike in adult court, juvenile delinquents are not entitled to bail. Instead, they must appear for a detention hearing, and the minor’s attorney must convince the court that detaining them is unnecessary.

The judge may decide to detain your child under the following circumstances:

  • The child has violated a juvenile court order
  • The juvenile is a flight risk
  • Detaining the child will protect them or other members of the society from harm
  • The minor has a history of escaping juvenile court commitments

Additionally, the judge could ask for the input of the probation officer, the child, the child’s parents or guardians, and the district attorney. If the judge finds it fit to release the minor, you can go home with them and return on a later date.

Transfer Hearing

Criminal cases involving minors are handled in the juvenile court, which is more lenient when compared to adult court. However, there are instances where a juvenile delinquent could be treated as an adult and taken to adult court. A minor between fourteen and seventeen years can be charged as an adult when the prosecutor files their case directly in adult court or transferred from the juvenile system to the adult court in California.

Before your child is transferred to adult court, the juvenile court will hold a transfer hearing where the judge determines whether the minor fits the juvenile delinquency system. When deciding the outcome of the transfer hearing, the judge will consider the following factors:

  • The degree of criminal sophistication that was exhibited by the minor in the commission of the crime
  • The child’s delinquent history
  • The minor’s potential to be rehabilitated before the end of juvenile court jurisdiction
  • The severity and circumstances surrounding the minor’s crimes
  • The success of previous attempts to rehabilitate the minor in the juvenile delinquency justice system

If the juvenile court finds that the minor may not benefit from juvenile rehabilitation, they could be transferred to the adult court system. Under WIC 707b, the following criminal offenses could prompt a juvenile court judge to order a transfer of the minor to adult court;

  • Arson causing serious injury
  • Murder or attempted murder
  • Carjacking
  • Lewd conduct with a child under fourteen years
  • Rape
  • Oral copulation by fear or force
  • Assault with a deadly weapon
  • Aggravated assault

When a minor is charged as an adult in California, the outcome of a sustained juvenile petition changes significantly. If found guilty of the offenses addressed under WIC 707, a minor could be sentenced to jail or prison.

Adjudication Hearing

If the juvenile offender remains in detention, the adjudication hearing will take place fifteen days after the detention hearing and thirty days for a minor, not in custody. At the detention hearing, the juvenile court judge will read the petition and explain to the minor what it means and the potential consequences if the petition is sustained. With the help of a criminal defense attorney, your child will state whether the charges are accurate or not. While your child has a right to remain silent, the silence may be interpreted as admitting to the allegations

  • At this hearing, your child’s attorney can:
  • Cross-examine the witnesses 
  • Object to the evidence presented by the district attorney
  • Present evidence in the child’s defense
  • Argue the case in court

After assessing both sides of the case, the judge will determine whether the child broke the law or not. If there is no sufficient evidence to prove that your child violates the law, the case could be dismissed; however, if the court finds that the charges are justified with evidence, the court will sustain the petition. If your child faces charges in juvenile court, it is crucial to ensure that a skilled criminal defense attorney represents them.

The Disposition Hearing

While in adult court, an offender is found guilty and convicted, sustaining a juvenile petition is an indication that a minor is found to have committed the alleged offenses. The judge will only sustain a petition if they agree with the district attorney on the charges against your child. At the disposition hearing, the judge will determine a suitable sentence for the minor based on the following factors:

  • The minor’s age
  • The severity of the offense
  • The child’s delinquent history

Consequences of a Sustained Juvenile Petition

If a minor commits a crime and the petition against them is sustained in juvenile delinquency court, the court could subject them to different disposition options. The seriousness of the juvenile disposition varies depending on the offense they committed, their criminal history, and their potential to be rehabilitated. Common juvenile dispositions in California juvenile delinquency court system include:

Informal Juvenile probation

When the juvenile court judge is convinced that your child committed the crime for which they are charged, the minor could be sentenced to informal probation. One of the common forms of probation is a home placement where they live with their parents during the probation period. Home probation placement without Wardship is offered to a minor who is a first-time offender and has committed less serious delinquent acts. Home probation placement without Wardship lasts for up to six months, after which the minor is free from probation obligations.

The court can place your child at home with Wardship for more serious juvenile delinquency acts. This is a more invasive and stricter form of probation. If the judge at the juvenile court feels that the environment in the child’s home is not conducive enough for rehabilitation, the minor will be placed in a probation camp. While on probation for juvenile delinquency, a minor will be required to follow these probation terms:

  • Mandatory school attendance
  • The parents of the minor must accompany the child to counseling.
  • Payment of fines and restitution. If a minor was involved in a crime that resulted in injury or losses for another person, they must compensate the victim. As a parent of a juvenile delinquent, you will be responsible for paying fines and restitution as required by the juvenile court.
  • Adhere to curfew restriction
  • Participation in community service
  • The minor could be subjected to random searches and drug testing.
  • The minor may be required to cut all contact with specific individuals.
  • Driving restrictions

Often the juvenile court sets probation requirements to rehabilitate the minor while ensuring the safety of other people. If your child violates any of the conditions of juvenile probation, they could face a re-arrest and detention.

Differed Entry of Judgment

If a juvenile delinquent admits the allegations brought by the prosecutor, the judge could issue a deferred entry of judgment. DEJ is designed to rehabilitate first-time juvenile offenders and discourage repeated delinquency. In the DEJ sentencing, the juvenile will take responsibility for their conduct, after which the judge orders them to probation. Differed entry of judgment is not available for all juvenile offenders. Your child could be eligible for DEJ if:

  • The minor has never been placed in a Division of Juvenile Justice Facility
  • The minor is at least fourteen years at the time of sentencing
  • The child is eligible for probation
  • The crimes for which the child is charged are minor

Probation for the DEJ program often lasts between one to three years, and the child will be required to adhere to probation conditions such as mandatory drug testing and curfew restrictions.

Commitment in the Division of Juvenile Justice

A minor who is found to have committed a serious crime could face the Division of Juvenile Justice disposition. The DJJ aims at educating and rehabilitating juvenile offenders and is a common sentence for many juvenile delinquency cases. While in the DJJ, minors undergo programs that address violent tendencies and mental health complications.

Suitable Placement

Following sustained juvenile probation, the judge can order the removal of your child from your care and placement with a relative or in foster care. The judge is discrete in deciding on custody placements, conduct, and supervision of a juvenile delinquent. The court could remove your child from your home if they find that:

  • The juvenile is a chronic truant.
  • The home is environment is not safe for the child.
  • You cannot provide proper maintenance, training, or meet the child’s educational needs.
  • The child was on probation in-home placement and did not exhibit signs of rehabilitation or commit another offense while on probation.

For suitable placement, the county probation office has the authority to determine a child’s appropriate placement, and the options include:

  • Placement in a rescue or foster home
  • Placement with a suitable member of the extended family
  • Placement in a group home or treatment center

Detention in Juvenile Hall

Sometimes, the judge could sentence your child to detention in juvenile hall. However, it is essential to understand d that minors can only be detained for a short amount of time.

Adult Jail or Prison

Minors who face an arrest for serious crimes such as murder, sexual battery, arson, attempted murder, among others, could be tried as adults. Although California law prohibits the treatment of minors as adults in the justice system, some circumstances could prompt the court to transfer the child to adult court. However, a minor must be at least fourteen years at the time of the crime to be treated as an adult.

Being charged as an adult is one of the worst courses your child’s juvenile delinquency case can take. If the juvenile is found guilty of their offenses in adult court, they can be sentenced to jail or prison sentence. If your child faces a transfer hearing, you will need to seek competent legal guidance for them.

Lasting Consequences of a Sustained Juvenile Petition in California

The consequences of a sustained juvenile petition go far beyond detention in juvenile hall and probation. Unlike popular belief, your child’s juvenile record could significantly affect their lives even in adulthood. Therefore, it is essential to avoid a sustained juvenile petition by hiring a skilled criminal defense attorney to represent your child in the juvenile delinquency case. A sustained juvenile petition will remain in the minor’s criminal record and may affect them in the following ways:

Challenges during College Application

Most universities and colleges are very strict when accepting individuals with a sustained juvenile petition in their records. Although they will not automatically reject the application, they could carry out extensive research on the type of crime and the success of rehabilitation efforts. After admission, the college authorities may watch the individual who can be very uncomfortable.

Difficulty Obtaining a Job

Most employers often carry out an extensive background check on their potential employees. An extensive criminal record could portray you as an untrustworthy individual. No law prevents an employer from denying you a job opportunity based on your criminal record. Therefore, your child could miss out on a good job opportunity due to crimes they committed as a minor.

Challenges when Applying to Join the Military

Each branch of the US Armed Forces sets its rules on treating applicants with a sustained petition in their juvenile record. Since the military is stricter than other companies, the sustained juvenile petition could affect your child’s chances of acceptance.

Future Penalty Enhancements

An adult offender with a sustained juvenile petition in their record is likely to receive an enhanced sentence after a conviction. A judge considers your juvenile record to indicate that you, an individual, are incapable of obeying the court systems and staying away from criminal activity.

Options for a Minor after a Sustained Juvenile Petition

After a sustained juvenile petition, the judge will impose dispositions that the juvenile offender must serve. However, you do not always have to accept the judge’s decision. A juvenile can explore the following actions after a sustained petition:

Appeal the Court’s Decision

Like adults tried and convicted in criminal court, a minor has a right to challenge the court’s decision. If your child’s juvenile petition was sustained, they could appeal the decision. A commissioner handles a rehearing within ten days of receiving s notice of the court’s decision. Once the court receives a request for a rehearing, the judge will read through the transcripts of the juvenile court and decide the outcome within twenty to forty-five days.

If juvenile offenders file for a rehearing and the juvenile court denies it, they can file a normal appeal. Both the prosecutor and the minor’s legal team are allowed some time to file their briefs and gather evidence to support their arguments. If the commissioner has a different ruling regarding the juvenile child petition, they could go free or have the dispositions lessened.

Sealing Juvenile Records after a Sustained Petition

As a parent of a minor whose juvenile petition is sustained, you may be uncertain about their future. Although the dispositions handed out in juvenile court are geared towards rehabilitation, they could significantly affect the child’s life. In adulthood, seeking employment or applying for college could be challenging with the sustained juvenile petition in your child’s record.

By filing a petition to seal the juvenile records, the record can be hidden from the public. The child will be free from the disability associated with the sustained petition. A juvenile record includes all reports and court records related to the criminal activity of a minor, and they include:

  • Arrest reports
  • Exhibits and evidence
  • The findings of the juvenile court judge
  • Probation reports

Before an individual file a petition to seal juvenile records, they must meet the following criteria:

  • Be at least eighteen years old
  • Have no criminal convictions for a felony or a misdemeanor
  • Possess no civil litigation resulting from their juvenile offenses
  • Convince the court that they are successfully rehabilitated

An individual could accrue the flowing benefits from sealing their juvenile records:

  • You truthfully state that you do not have a criminal record when asked by a potential employer.
  • Prospective employers cannot use a sealed criminal record to discriminate against you.
  • You will no longer be required to retain the sex offender registration status.
  • Having a juvenile record removed from the public eye can reduce the level of stigma associated with a sustained juvenile petition.

Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

It is not unusual to hear that a child under eighteen years has committed a crime in California. Minors commit crimes ranging from minor curfew violations to serious crimes like murder. The law cannot hold them entirely accountable for their decisions and actions because of their age. Minors who commit crimes are handled by the juvenile justice system, whose primary goal is to rehabilitate the juveniles and not to punish them.

If your child faces an arrest and the prosecutor files criminal charges against them, their fate will be determined by a juvenile court judge during a disposition hearing. If there is not enough evidence to prove that your child committed the crime, they will be set free. However, sustaining the juvenile petition indicates that the court finds the minor guilty of their charges. The aftermath of a sustained petition could attract consequences which include probation, detention, and a criminal record which could affect the minor's future.

If your child faces an arrest and juvenile criminal charges in Riverside, CA, it would be wise to contact a criminal defense attorney to guide them. At Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, we will ensure that your child understands their charges and guide them through the case to ensure the best possible outcome. Call us today at 951-946-6366.