The juvenile justice system can be intimidating for anyone involved. But with some understanding of the process, you and your loved ones can better prepare and navigate your legal situation.
The Primary Goals of California’s Juvenile Justice System
In general, the primary goals of this system are rehabilitation and reformation rather than punishment.
Instead of punitive measures, juveniles should be given educational opportunities and the necessary services to reunite with family and become productive citizens. Sanctions are meant to be a form of rehabilitation and not retribution.
The California Juvenile Court Process
When a minor is arrested in California, the cops have a few options. The police may issue a warning and allow them to go home, or they may provide a citation to the minor that requires them to appear in court at a later time.
However, If the matter is serious enough, they may take the minor to juvenile hall.
Once a petition is filed in juvenile court – which is similar to filing charges in adult court – the juvenile court process begins. This petition will lay out any alleged offenses and offer evidence of guilt.
A detention hearing must be held within 48 hours of the arrest, and a probation officer will be assigned to the juvenile for evaluation. At the detention hearing, the judge will decide if the minor can go home, or they can decide to keep them in custody throughout their case.
In some cases, the judge may allow them to return home with one or more conditions, such as wearing an ankle monitor or regularly attending counseling sessions. In other cases, they might order them to stay in juvenile custody until their case is resolved.
There is no right to bail in juvenile cases, meaning the only way a minor can be released from custody is by judicial decision.
Types of Sanctions for Minors in California
The court could place the offender on probation with certain stipulations—such as regular meetings with a probation officer, counseling sessions, community service hours, etc. These sanctions are designed to help them develop into productive members of society.
Alternatively, they could be placed in foster care or group homes if necessary. Juveniles convicted of less serious offenses may also be sentenced to a juvenile ranch/camp for rehabilitation purposes.
Finally, for more serious offenses and for those with significant criminal histories, offenders may be sent to the California Youth Authority.
Alternatives To Formal Proceedings
Informal probation is an alternative to formal court proceedings for juveniles accused of crimes. It does not require them to enter a plea or go through a trial.
After a six-month period of supervision on informal probation, any pending petition in juvenile court is suspended. The court retains jurisdiction over the case and requires periodic progress reports from both the juvenile/their attorney and the probation officer.
These conditions could include regular meetings with their probation officer, attending counseling sessions, participating in community service activities, or completing educational courses.
If all conditions and requirements have been fulfilled at the end of the 6-month period, the petition will be dismissed. If they haven’t been completed, the court will reinstate the petition and the juvenile will have to face their charges.
Minors Can Sometimes Be Tried As Adults
In California, juvenile offenders between the ages of 14 and 17 may be tried as adults in certain cases:
- The prosecutor files a petition for a fitness hearing. During the hearing, it is up to the prosecutor to demonstrate that the minor is not suitable for rehabilitation. This means that they would not gain any advantage from services offered by the juvenile justice system and could be a threat if allowed back into society without facing harsher punishment. If the judge agrees, they can refer the case to adult criminal court where harsher sentences can be imposed than those given out in juvenile court.
- Certain aggravated offenses committed by a minor automatically put them in adult court.
In some cases, the prosecutor may directly file a case with adult criminal court at their discretion if they believe the circumstances warrant this.
What To Do After Your Child Has Been Arrested
Going through the juvenile justice system can be an intimidating process, and it’s important to get the help you need. You and your child should hire a lawyer right away to protect your child’s rights and ensure that they receive fair treatment.
A lawyer will work with you and your family to make sure everyone understands the charges against your child and will explain the process of the court system so that you know what to expect each step of the way.
They will also review evidence and build a defense. Additionally, they can help negotiate with prosecutors on behalf of your child to get them the best possible outcome for their case.If you need help with a juvenile case in California, contact Ahmed & Sukaram today to schedule a free consultation.