Juvenile delinquency cases are different from criminal cases. The juvenile justice process aims to rehabilitate young offenders and ensure they become productive members of society. While the focus is on rehabilitation instead of punishment, you should not take your child’s criminal charges lightly. A ward of the court can face penalties, consequences, and criminal history. Consequently, it would help if you acted promptly, and it begins with consulting with Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm. Our attorneys are knowledgeable about the complexities and intricacies of the judicial system. We can work aggressively to ensure your baby is tried as a minor and receives a sentence designed to rehabilitate them. 

Legal Definition of Ward 

When your child is considered a ward, the court takes the obligation for the minor’s treatment and control. Before determining the wardship, the judge will consider the following factors:

  • The minor’s age
  • The circumstances surrounding the alleged crime and its severity
  • The child’s prior criminal history

The judge can require that the wardship lasts for a particular probation period or until another court order.

The court can subject a ward to either unsupervised or supervised probation. The minor is not under a probation officer’s watch if unsupervised probation is imposed. Nevertheless, the court will impose probation terms and conditions that they must comply with.

Most young offenders are placed on visitation or supervised probation. The court will impose supervised probation if they engage in an offense highlighted in the California Welfare and Institution 707(b). These crimes include:

  • Murder
  • Arson
  • Robbery
  • Rape with threats of great bodily injury, violence, or force
  • Sodomy by threats of great bodily injury, violence, or force
  • Lewd conduct with a minor below 14
  • Oral copulation by threats of great bodily injury, violence, or force
  • Forcible sexual penetration
  • Kidnapping with bodily injury or for ransom or robbery
  • Assault
  • Torture
  • Carjacking
  • Aggravated mayhem
  • Kidnapping during a carjacking or for sexual assault
  • A violent felony that constitutes a criminal gang enhancement
  • Voluntary manslaughter

Other crimes that require supervised probation include:

  • Possessing controlled substances (narcotics) like opiates, hallucinogens, cocaine, and peyote
  • Burglary

If the ward is a non-resident, the judge can have the child returned home instead of having them in another state. Nevertheless, the judge can only order this, provided it is in the juvenile’s best interest.

Probation Terms and Conditions

When a judge imposes probation, they require the juvenile to comply with reasonable conditions. The imposed probation must:

  • Be associated with the alleged crime
  • Require or ban behavior that is associated with a future criminal act

Common conditions and terms include:

  • A curfew
  • Not violating truancy laws and going to school
  • Driving limitations
  • Refraining from interacting with specific individuals
  • Wearing a monitoring gadget
  • Banning gang-related behavior

Moreover, the court can require a juvenile to undergo counseling.

California Education Code 48260 defines a truant as a child who, without valid excuses, is:

  • Absent for three full days in a school year
  • Absent three times for at least thirty minutes
  • Tardy thrice in one year or
  • A combination of the above

A minor is a chronic truant if they miss 10% of their school year.

The court can excuse a minor’s school absence if:

  • They are sick
  • A health care provider has recommended a quarantine
  • For jury obligation
  • The minor has chiropractic, dental, vision, or medical appointment
  • To allow the minor to attend a loved one’s funeral service
  • For justifiable reasons approved by their school
  • At the school administrator’s discretion

What Happens If a Ward Violates Probation?

Failing to adhere to the probation conditions can lead to the juvenile’s arrest and detention.

The court will schedule a Section 777 hearing where the prosecution proves the violation by a preponderance of the evidence.

Sometimes the judge will give the ward a break or impose harsher conditions.

Placement Away From Home

The court can remove a ward from their parents’ home and place them in foster care. Before removing a minor child from their parent’s custody, the court ought to find that:

  • The juvenile is a chronic truant
  • The parent has failed to offer proper training, maintenance, and education
  • The juvenile did not reform despite being on probation in their parent’s custody
  • The child’s well-being requires removing them from their parent’s physical custody

Probation officers are obligated to determine the most appropriate placement. A ward placed outside their parent’s custody for foster care should be in an environment that is family-like, least restrictive, and meets the minor’s needs. The effort should be made to ensure the placement is near their parent’s home.

During the suitable placement hearing, the court will review your child’s social study that the probation department prepares. It can include an alleged victim impact statement. Both the ward and their parent can present evidence.

The judge can reject or take the probation officer’s recommendations. If the judge denies the minor’s placement determination, they will contemplate other placement suggestions.

Different forms of placement include:

Family Members

If your child is placed in a relative’s home, the judge can authorize the loved one to serve as the parent as far as legal consent is concerned. It can include authorizing the child’s medical care and education needs.

Foster and Resource Family Homes

If placement with loved ones is impossible, the court can place your child in either a:

  • Group care placement
  • Resource family of a foster agency
  • Foster family home

Group Care Homes and Treatment Centers

  • Common group care placement options are:
  • Community treatment center
  • Group home
  • An out-of-state residential treatment program
  • Short-term residential therapeutic program

Out of Home Placement Length

Generally, the juvenile delinquency system in Riverside is determined to return a minor to their parents’ homes. Several factors determine the length of an out-of-home stay. They include:

  • If the juvenile has completed treatment services
  • The ward and their family’s needs
  • Whether the minor poses a threat to their community

Ward’s Constitution Rights

Discussed below are the rights of a ward placed out of the home:

  • Family visitation — A child out of their home is entitled to be family members visitation. The judge cannot delegate power over their visitation to the residential program.
  • Gender identity — The court must place a juvenile in out-of-home care according to their gender identity irrespective of their sex or gender highlighted in child welfare or court records.
  • Computer and internet access

Ward Confinement

The judge can order the ward to be confined. The confinement aims to promote responsibility and rehabilitation instead of punishment.

Confinement is mandatory if the child committed a California violent felony with a firearm. If the juvenile suffers from a mental health disease, the judge can place them in an alternative treatment program.

Common confinement options include:

  • A camp or ranch
  • Juvenile hall
  • A secure juvenile home
  • Division of Juvenile Justice
  • Forestry camp

The court determines the length of confinement depending on whether the alleged criminal activity is a California misdemeanor or a California felony. The length can be the maximum permitted for adult defendants charged with the same criminal activity under California laws.

Restitution, Fines, and Fees

The judge can enforce fines against the young offender. It can be equivalent to that of the same adult offense. The court should typically prove that the juvenile is financially capable of paying the enforced fines. The fines are alongside any restitution the minor pays.

Victim Restitution

The ward ought to pay restitution if the alleged victim incurred economic losses.

An alleged victim can be a government authority tasked with replacing or repairing damaged property. It can also be an immediate surviving relative of the victim.

Typically, restitution includes payment for:

  • Medical health care
  • Profits or income the alleged victim lost
  • Medical expenses
  • Damaged or stolen asset

If the imposed restitution amount is too high for you to raise, your minor child is entitled to a restitution hearing.

Generally, a restitution fine depends on the seriousness of the criminal activity committed. The restitution fine should not exceed one hundred dollars if the alleged crime is a California misdemeanor. On the contrary, a felony attracts a restitution fee between one hundred dollars and one thousand dollars.

Your Parental Rights in a Juvenile Delinquency Case

Even if the child is deemed a ward of the court, you are still their parent, and you maintain your parental responsibilities and rights.

The law allows you to make your child’s educational, welfare, and medical decisions. You maintain these rights, provided you have your child’s legal or physical custody.

Regrettably, the circumstances below can terminate the rights:

  • When the child is placed in legal guardianship for a criminal activity triggered by their environment
  • When a child is freed for adoption due to negligent conduct of their parent

Additionally, the ward is entitled to request their parents’ presence.

Some of your parental rights in the case include:

Law Enforcers Should Advise You of Your Baby’s Arrest

If the minor child is suspected of violating a law, the police will arrest them, take them into custody, and detain or release them, depending primarily on the crime’s nature. Law enforcers should notify you that your son/daughter will be detained in juvenile hall or taken to the probation department. Moreover, you should be alerted of your child’s whereabouts.

Please note that you are not entitled to be present during your child’s interrogation. Nevertheless, you can hire skilled legal representation and advise the minor of their entitlement to remain silent. Since police officers can use evidence against your child, instruct them to avoid confessing through an apology letter or accepting guilt unless their defense attorney advises them to act.

Entitlement to Visit Your Child in Police Custody

You are also entitled to visit the minor child in police custody. Please note that your visit is not confidential. Just because a police officer leaves the room does not mean you have privacy; the interrogation room has cameras that record conversations and take videos.

Your defense lawyer should accompany you to the visit.

Right to Ensure the Minor’s Proceedings are Kept Confidential

If an adult commits a crime, a conviction can affect various aspects of life, including employment opportunities, reputation, social life, education, and finances. The same is true for juvenile delinquency.

Fortunately, you are entitled to keep the criminal case and proceeding confidential. It ensures that:

You safeguard your child from negative reputation consequences and social stigma that can restrict their educational, social, employment, or housing opportunities

You protect your loved ones

You are Entitled to Attend Your Minor Child’s Court Proceedings

The California juvenile delinquency process has numerous hearings that begin with detention and end with the disposition hearing. Your parental right is to attend all court hearings until the case closes.

You Can Access the Minor Probation Reports and Court Files

California’s juvenile delinquency system seeks to safeguard young offenders’ lives and reputations and ensure their court hearings are closed to the public and confidential.

Nonetheless, a parent can access their child’s probation reports and court files. Other individuals who can access the records include:

  • Child protection agency
  • Federal, state, or city lawyers
  • Your child’s defense attorney
  • Law enforcement agencies

Right to Have the Child Released Into Your Custody Before the Case is Closed

You also have the parental entitlement to have the child released into your custody before the court determines their case. During the ward’s detention hearing, the court will listen to the criminal charges and can allow the minor to go home. Nevertheless, your child can also be confined or taken to out-of-home placement.

Parental Obligations and Responsibilities

If your child is charged with a crime, you have parental obligations. While you will not be charged with your child’s criminal activity, you are accountable for paying damage claims.

You are responsible for paying for:

  • Costs the county incurs providing clothing, healthcare, and food for your minor
  • Victim restitution
  • Legal fees
  • Electronic surveillance costs

The Role of a Probation Officer in a California Juvenile Delinquency Case

On top of defense attorneys and prosecutors, probation officers play a significant role in the juvenile delinquency system. Keep reading the following section to learn the role of a probation officer.

During a Child’s Arrest

When your child is charged with a felony or a misdemeanor, the initial law enforcers of the juvenile will meet after police officers are probation officers.

If the arresting police officer believes the alleged crime is serious, they will take your son/daughter to juvenile hall for an interview with the probation department. The juvenile hall can be likened to county jail. It is where the probation department interviews the juvenile and where the ward remains during their trial if the court believes they are a threat to themselves or the community.

The probation department runs juvenile halls.

After the interview, the probation department will decide to either:

  • Send the juvenile home with a probation program tailored to handle the root cause of the crime
  • Send the child to a suitable placement
  • Detain the ward to juvenile hall

During Your Child’s Adjudication Phase

A probation officer also plays a role in other juvenile delinquency process phrases, including:

  • Recommending whether the district attorney (DA) should bring a petition against your child
  • Recommending whether the juvenile is fit to be tried within the California juvenile system

After Disposition Phrase (Sentencing)

The probation department oversees the juvenile if the court sustains the petition against your child (the ward is found guilty). It is true whether your child is committed to a county probation camp or permitted to go home on probation.

Police Interrogations in Juvenile Cases

A minor accused of a California crime is entitled to remain silent and to be read Miranda warnings before police interrogate them. Miranda warning advises people arrested of the entitlement against self-incrimination under the 5th Amendment to the United States Constitution. The described rights include the following:

  • Entitlement to remain silent
  • Whatever your child says will and can be used against them in court
  • Right to legal representation
  • The court will appoint a public defender if you cannot raise attorney fees.

The law requires Miranda warnings whenever law enforcers take a minor into custody. However, police officers can question your child without giving Miranda warnings if the officer has reasonable suspicion of a crime (Terry Stop).

After reading Miranda warnings, police officers will ask your child whether they understand their rights. If your minor child claims they do, the officers will inquire whether they wish to speak.

If the juvenile invokes their entitlement to remain silent, the police officer should stop any questioning. While no words are needed to invoke the entitlement to remain silent, the ward should affirmatively invoke it.

Your Child Can Waive Their Miranda Rights

However, if the child talks or agrees to talk, they waive their entitlement to remain silent, and the police can use anything they say to establish guilt.

A ward can only waive their Miranda rights if the waiver is voluntary. The prosecution team should establish that the waiver was voluntary by a preponderance of the evidence.

When determining whether the child’s confession was voluntary, the court will consider the following factors:

  • Did law enforcers threaten to harm or physically harm the minor?
  • Did the officer threaten to jail or arrest the minor’s loved ones?
  • Did the law enforcer promise less severe penalties for the minor’s confession?
  • Was the interrogation unduly lengthy?
  • Did the police deny your child their right to remain silent or speak with their lawyer?
  • Did the police deny your child food, water, or sleep?

Minor Children Should Consult With Defense Attorney Before Waiving Their Miranda Rights

The law makes it illegal for police officers to interrogate a minor not older than seventeen years in police custody until the ward consults with a defense attorney.

The consultation can happen via video conference, phone, or in person. Neither you, the parent nor your child can waive the consultation.

However, the police can question a ward seventeen or younger before the juvenile consults with their attorney if:

  • The law enforcer reasonably thinks the details are essential to safeguard property or life from an imminent threat
  • The police’s questions are restricted to those that are vital to acquiring information

Steps Your Child Should Take After Their Arrest

There are numerous steps your child should take to protect themselves if the police stop or arrest them. First, the minor should:

  • Not resist
  • Be polite
  • Remain relaxed and calm
  • Give their name

If your child is arrested, advise them to:

  • Ask for you, their parent
  • Ask for their defense attorney
  • Understand that the police are not their friends
  • Never write an apology letter or confess

What Happens If Miranda Rights are Violated?

If Miranda rights are violated, any subsequent confession cannot be used as the prosecutor’s evidence.

However, unless the confession was coerced, the prosecution can still use it to impeach the ward’s testimony. In other words, if the juvenile changes their story at trial, the prosecution can use the statements to establish that they are lying.

The court considers coerced confessions more seriously than other Miranda rights violations. A coerced confession should be excluded from the trial.

Can You Sue for Your Child Miranda Rights Violations?

Generally, failure to read the Miranda warning does not give you and your child the entitlement to sue for damages. However, other Miranda violations give you the right to bring a civil lawsuit for:

  • A Section 1983 civil rights violation
  • Police misconduct

A lawsuit can lead to an award of compensatory damages like emotional distress and medical expenses. And in severe Miranda violation cases, your child can receive punitive damages.

Contact a Skilled Criminal Defense Lawyer Near Me

A single mistake, misunderstanding, false accusation, or wrong decision can alter your child's future for you. Being deemed a ward carries penalties beyond the conviction. Your child's life, well-being, and future are essential to you, and you should act promptly. It is a priority to Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm. You can rely on us to review the case, explain the juvenile's rights, answer all your questions, and work diligently to achieve the best possible case outcome. To schedule your free, confidential case review with our top-rated defense attorneys, don't hesitate to contact us at 951-946-6366.