Juvenile Delinquency Court

A juvenile delinquency court is a special court established for offenses committed by children under eighteen. After an arrest, a minor can be released with a warning or taken to the juvenile hall, where their case is handed over to the prosecution. The prosecutor will then file a juvenile petition against the child.

The juvenile delinquency court handles offenders differently than the criminal court. Instead of proving a child’s guilt for the offense, the prosecution must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the minor committed an alleged offense. This will cause the juvenile court judge to sustain the juvenile petition and impose dispositions to rehabilitate the child into a law-abiding citizen.

Being arrested is a traumatic experience for a minor. The child may be unsure how to protect their constitutional rights and what to say during their interactions with law enforcement officers. Therefore, hiring and retaining a criminal defense lawyer for the child is critical.

The attorney will help the child protect their constitutional rights and build a strong defense against the juvenile petition. While battling their juvenile delinquency case in Santa Ana, CA, your child will benefit from the expert legal guidance and representation we offer at Darwish Law.

Understanding the Juvenile Delinquency Court

The juvenile delinquency court is a section of the civil court dedicated to adjudicating felony and misdemeanor offenses committed by minors. The juvenile court handles many offenses committed by children under 18 years old. These offenses can be status offenses like truancy and curfew violations or severe offenses like murder, arson, and robbery.

The juvenile delinquency court is different from the adult criminal court. Instead of punishing the minors for the violation, the juvenile delinquency court aims at education, treatment, and rehabilitation. This allows a juvenile delinquent to reform and become a law-abiding citizen.

According to Senate Bill 439, the juvenile delinquency court has jurisdiction over minors between 12 and 17 years old. If a minor under twelve commits an offense, alternative measures can be used for rehabilitation. Instead of finding a juvenile guilty, innocent, or not guilty of juvenile delinquency charges, the judge can dismiss or sustain a juvenile petition.

Regardless of its noble objectives, the juvenile delinquency court has received much criticism for excessive use of force against minors, the use of medication to control truant minors, and confining children for long periods. As your child undergoes the juvenile delinquency court system, you must ensure that they receive the proper support and legal guidance.

Juvenile Delinquency Court Proceedings

A juvenile court case begins when your child is arrested for committing an offense. The arresting officer can release the minor on the citation or detain them in the juvenile hall. When the offender arrives at the juvenile hall, the law enforcement officer hands the juvenile to the prosecutor, who can file a juvenile petition against the minor.

If a minor is released after filing a petition, a probation officer will explain their obligation to return to juvenile court for their case proceedings. Otherwise, the juvenile will remain in detention. While in the juvenile justice system, your child must attend the following juvenile delinquency court proceedings:

Detention Hearing

The juvenile court holds the detention hearing after receiving a juvenile petition against a child held in the juvenile hall. At the detention hearing, the court decides your child’s eligibility for release before adjudication. Under California law, minors are not entitled to bail. Therefore, the detention hearing will determine whether they can go home with you or remain in juvenile hall until their adjudication.

The juvenile court holds the detention hearing within 48 hours of the minor’s detention. The following factors will impact the court’s decision to detain or release your child:

  • The minor’s criminal history. California law is strict on repeat offenders, even in juvenile delinquency court. The judge may be reluctant to release your child with a pending juvenile petition if the minor has an extensive criminal history.
  • Community safety. Like adults, minors could be arrested and charged with serious offenses like murder or assault. Before releasing your child from custody, the judge will consider the safety of other people in the community. If a child threatens the safety of other people in society, they can be detained until their case ends.
  • Child’s flight risk. When a juvenile delinquent is released from the juvenile hall before adjudication, they must return for other juvenile delinquency court proceedings. A child is considered a flight risk if they are likely to flee to avoid facing the consequences of their crimes. If a juvenile is a flight risk, the court may order them to remain in detention.
  • History of court appearances. The judge will assess a child’s record of attending court hearings before their release at the detention hearing. If your child shows a good history of obeying court orders by attending their past hearings, they can be released to go home with you before adjudication.

Transfer Hearing

While the juvenile delinquency court deals with offenses committed by minors, there are times when a juvenile offender could be tried as an adult. This means that your child will be tried in adult court and, if convicted, will be sentenced to prison. The juvenile delinquency court holds a transfer hearing before a juvenile is transferred to adult court. At the transfer hearing, the judge will consider the factors of the case to determine the child’s suitability for trial as an adult.

Your child may be eligible for transfer to adult court if they are charged with serious offenses like murder, manslaughter, arson, robbery, and kidnapping. Additionally, a child must be over fifteen years old before the transfer. Factors that will impact the decision to transfer your child to adult court include:

  • The child’s criminal sophistication. Under California law, criminal sophistication is the intellectual capacity to make elaborate criminal plans and take the necessary measures to avoid capture. A child with high criminal sophistication could be tried as an adult.
  • The success of previous rehabilitation attempts. Most juvenile delinquents in adult court have an extensive criminal record. The juvenile court judge will assess the past rehabilitation attempts for the juvenile before sending them to adult court.
  • Circumstances of the child’s case. A child’s home and community environment can contribute to their delinquent acts. The judge may keep the child in the juvenile court system if a hard or violent home environment is a substantial factor in their crimes.
  • Availability of rehabilitation programs for the child. When deciding whether to keep a child in juvenile court or transfer them to adult court, the juvenile court judge will determine the availability of rehabilitation programs needed for the child in juvenile court.

Adjudication Hearing

The adjudication hearing acts as a trial in juvenile court. If your minor remains in juvenile hall after a detention hearing, the adjudication hearing will be held within fifteen days of the detention hearing.

At this hearing, the judge will determine whether the allegations in the juvenile petition against your child are true. Like a trial, the prosecution will present their case against your child by providing evidence and proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the minor engaged in the alleged criminal acts.

After the prosecutor has presented their case, your child can present a defense, call witnesses, and cross-examine the witnesses presented by the prosecution. After assessing the evidence presented by the defense and prosecution, the juvenile court judge will dismiss or sustain the juvenile petition.

If insufficient evidence proves that your child committed the crime, the court will dismiss the petition, and your child can go home. If the petition is sustained, the case will proceed to disposition.

Disposition Hearing

The disposition hearing in juvenile court is similar to sentencing in criminal court. However, the dispositions imposed in juvenile delinquency court aim to rehabilitate the offender, not punish. The court will consider these  factors when determining the appropriate dispositions for your child:

  • The child’s age. Your child's age determines their ability to comprehend the gravity of their actions. Therefore, the court will impose dispositions that are age-appropriate.
  • The nature of the child’s offenses. Juvenile offenses could range from minor curfew violations to severe felonies. The nature of the child’s violation will dictate the type of disposition.
  • The child’s delinquent history. A child with multiple sustained juvenile petitions on their record could face harsh dispositions.

Common dispositions a juvenile offender could face after a sustained juvenile petition include:

Formal Probation

After a sustained juvenile petition, the judge could order your child to serve formal probation. Formal probation could be served at home, in a juvenile camp, or a group home. The judge’s decision on pacing a minor for formal probation will depend on the circumstances of the child’s case and the structure needed for their rehabilitation.

Formal probation for juvenile delinquents lasts up to one year. While on formal probation, the court will impose the following probation conditions:

  • Mandatory school attendance.
  • Community service.
  • Curfew violations.
  • Substance abuse counseling.
  • Victim restitution.

Informal probation

If a juvenile is found to have committed a minor offense, they can be placed on informal probation or a diversion program. Offenses for which a juvenile delinquent can be placed on informal probation include shoplifting and trespass. After the successful completion of informal probation, the case will be dismissed.

While on informal probation, the probation officer creates counseling and education plans for the child. Since informal probation is served at home, you must ensure that your child does not engage in further delinquent acts and that they attend school.

Deferred Entry of Judgment

If the court imposes a deferred entry of judgment for your child’s case, the minor must admit guilt for their charges and entry into the DEJ program. Upon completing this program, the court will dismiss your child’s case. DEJ is a common disposition for first-time offenders facing charges for less severe offenses.

Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ)

Detention in a Division of Juvenile Justice facility is the harshest disposition imposed in juvenile delinquency court. The judge will order this disposition for minors found to have committed serious offenses. This disposition is close to adult prison and involves placement in a detention facility.

At the DJJ facilities, the juvenile will undergo education, treatment, and counseling programs. The placement of minors in DJJ detention will depend on the availability of rehabilitation programs, given the circumstances of their case. A juvenile delinquent remains in a DJJ facility for up to two years or until they turn twenty-three years old.

Rights of Parents in Juvenile Delinquency Court

Even when your child is arrested and charged with an offense in the juvenile delinquency court, you will remain their guardian and have a right to understand the nature of your child’s case. The following are some parental rights that you can explore while your child undergoes the juvenile court process:

Right to Know of the Child's Arrest

If a minor is not released on a citation for committing an offense, they will be arrested and detained in juvenile hall. Not knowing the whereabouts of your minor child could be devastating. Therefore, you have the right to receive notice that your child has been arrested. The police officers should also provide information on the detention center where your child is held. This allows you to be by the child’s side and offer the support they need to navigate the court process.

Right to Hire Legal Guidance for Your Child

Learning that your child has been arrested is challenging. Interactions with police officers can affect your child’s mental and emotional well-being. When you receive notice of the child’s arrest, you must consult a skilled criminal attorney for them. The child’s lawyer will guide them on the right information to divulge to law enforcement officers during the investigations.

Right to Learn Your Child's Constitutional Rights

Regardless of the offense for which your child is charged, their constitutional rights must be respected in the juvenile court process. As a parent or guardian of a child facing a juvenile delinquency case, you have the right to learn the child’s rights. Most juveniles are first-time offenders and cannot comprehend the nature of their charge or the proper steps to protect their constitutional rights.

Understanding these rights helps you advise the minor appropriately and ensures that law enforcement officers do not violate their rights.

Right to Have Your Child's Hearings Kept Confidential

An arrest and juvenile delinquency charge can create stigma for a minor and have devastating effects on the child’s life. Fortunately, you can demand confidentiality for your child’s hearings and court proceedings. This helps ensure:

  • The child's reputation is protected.
  • Your child will not be subjected to stigma that could impact their employment, education, or social life.
  • Your family’s confidential information is kept out of the public.

Rights to Attend the Court Hearings

Several hearings will be held when a minor is arrested and charged with an offense in juvenile court. Although you don’t need to be present while the law enforcement officers interrogate your child, you have a right to attend all the court hearings.

Right to Access Your Child's Court Files

The juvenile delinquency court protects the reputation of minors by keeping their case proceedings confidential. However, parents and guardians can access the court records for their child’s case. Other individuals who could access this information include:

  • School officials.
  • The child’s legal team.
  • Federal and state attorneys.
  • Law enforcement and child protection agencies.

While exercising your rights throughout your child's juvenile delinquency case, you must be prepared to take on the following responsibilities in your child’s case:

  • Pay for the costs and expenses incurred by the county to provide food, healthcare, and clothing for your child while in detention.
  • Cover the cost of legal representation for your child.
  • Pay for electronic surveillance of the minor.
  • Pay victim restitution if the minor caused injuries or damage to another person’s property.

Find a Competent Criminal Defense Lawyer Near Me

Violations of California law by minors are referred to as juvenile delinquency. Since California law works on the assumption that minors do not have the necessary mental capacity to make entirely right decisions, juvenile delinquents are treated differently than adult offenders. When a minor faces an arrest, the prosecution will file a juvenile petition against them in juvenile delinquency court.

The child will undergo different juvenile delinquency court hearings, leading to a sustained juvenile petition or a dismissed case. Unlike the criminal court system, the juvenile delinquency court aims at rehabilitation instead of punishment. Therefore, if your child is found to have committed the offense for which they are charged, the court imposes dispositions to treat and rehabilitate the child.

If your child is arrested and charged with an offense in California, understanding the juvenile delinquency court process helps you offer the support your child needs to defend against the case. A juvenile delinquency court case can be a traumatizing experience for your child. At Darwish Law, we offer top-notch legal guidance for all our clients battling juvenile court cases in Santa Ana, CA. Contact us at 714-887-4810 to discuss your case.