Juvenile Crime Defense Attorney
Our Criminal Defense Attorneys Can Help Keep Your Child From Being Tried As An Adult.
If you’ve been arrested as an adult, you know how scary it can be. For children, it can be an even worse experience. They may not understand what they did wrong or what will happen to them. In California, children under the age of 18 are prosecuted in a separate justice system.
The juvenile court system in California offers minors more lenient punishments than time in prison. This is why it’s critical to hire an experienced juvenile crimes defense attorney.
Minors charged with juvenile crimes need an experienced attorney to help protect their rights. The team at the Melkonyan Firm will fight to keep your case in juvenile court. We will argue against the detainment of your child and work hard to find treatment and rehabilitation options instead of jail time. Call the Melkonyan Firm today to learn how we can help your family.
Overview of Juvenile Crimes in CA
Minors who are charged with juvenile crimes and misdemeanors in California are tried in Juvenile Delinquency Court. The juvenile court system is separate from the California criminal court system. It’s a civil court system, and its role is to adjudicate cases.
The probation department or the district attorney’s office files a petition in California juvenile court, and a judge hears the case. While there are defense attorneys and prosecutors present, there is no jury. A judge will not find the minor defendant “guilty” or “not guilty.” Instead, if the judge believes the minor is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, the judge “sustains the petition” and the result is an “adjudication.”
Under California’s Welfare and Institutions Code 602 WIC, minors between the ages of 12 to 17 charged with a juvenile crime are tried through this system. Occasionally the court sees a case with a defendant under the age of 12 if they’ve been charged with a serious crime like murder or crimes involving a gun.
Parents have a right to see a copy of their child’s petition so they can understand the charges. After receiving the petition, you will get a notice informing you of the first court hearing, called the detention hearing.
The detention hearing is where the judge determines if your child is allowed to return home before the next hearing or has to be detained in custody. You may also have a transfer hearing to determine whether your child should be tried as an adult. This only occurs in cases where the minor is 14 years or older at the time of the crime and is decided by the judge. If the judge believes your child is unfit for juvenile court, they will be transferred to an adult court.
The jurisdiction hearing for juvenile crimes cases is where the judge hears the evidence and decides if your child committed the crime. Your lawyer helps your child prepare for this hearing and will be in court to present their defense.
If the judge believes your child is guilty of the crime, they “sustain the petition” and hand out any punishment in a disposition hearing. This hearing may be held directly after the jurisdiction hearing or at a later date. Any victims of the crime are allowed to attend and give statements during the disposition hearing.
As punishment, the judge at the disposition hearing will hand out one of the following decisions:
- Your child will not be detained. They stay at home and have up to 6 months of probation supervision
- Placement of your child into formal supervision with a probation officer
- Probation is issued, and your child is moved, either to a family member’s home, into the foster care system, or another institution
- Your child may be sent to a specialized probation camp
- Your child may be detained through the Division of Juvenile Justice
- The judge may order parents or guardians to attend parenting training counseling
Finally, there are review hearings to evaluate how the child is progressing in their placement or treatment. Parents are required to attend all hearings.
If it’s determined that your child did not commit the crime because there is insufficient evidence, they can be released and will be allowed to return home.
601 and 602 Petitions For Juvenile Crimes
The District Attorney files a petition to move the case into a court hearing when a youth is charged with a crime. A petition lists the juvenile and their parents or guardians’ contact information as well as the charges against the juvenile. There are two types of petitions:
The probation court can file this petition when a child runs away from home, commits truancy, or violates their curfew. If the judge finds the petition true, the child becomes a “status offender” and becomes a ward of the court.
The District Attorney’s office files this petition if a child committed a crime as though they were an adult at 18 years old or older and has committed a felony such as a car theft or a misdemeanor-like assault. If the judge finds the petition true, the child becomes a ward of the court as a “delinquent.” Section 602 of the California Welfare and Institutions Code grants the juvenile court authority to hear these matters.
The juvenile court will attempt to resolve the case unless the juvenile has been charged with a felony that requires the case to be transferred to adult court. In these juvenile procedures, a judge will determine whether the juvenile committed the offense and impose sentences.
When a Juvenile Can Be Tried as an Adult in California
A transfer hearing may be held for juveniles aged 16 or 17 accused of a violation under Section 707(b). This type of proceeding will determine whether the juvenile should move on to the adult court after considering the following factors:
- Level of criminal sophistication
- Background of juvenile delinquency
- Whether the juvenile can attend rehabilitation
- Successful rehabilitations in the past
- The seriousness of the offense and its circumstances
- Additional factors including the juvenile’s involvement in the crime and their mental and emotional state
Juveniles may be tried in adult court for some of the following serious and violent crimes listed in Section 707(b):
- Attempted murder
- Kidnapping for ransom
- Assault by any force that causes bodily injury
- Firearm discharge into an occupied or inhabited building
What are the Penalties for Juvenile Crimes in California?
Juvenile crimes may not seem as serious as adult crimes, but the punishments can be severe. Juveniles can suffer penalties such as:
- Court supervision
- Detainment in a correctional facility or youth camp
Penalties for Juvenile Crimes In California
If a juvenile is convicted under any crime listed in Section 707 (b), their case goes forward as though they were an adult. The most serious sentence a juvenile may face is being committed to the California Youth Authority (CYA), a California Department of Corrections Facility, until age 25. Transferring to an adult facility occurs when there is more time to serve after the age of 25.
Charged With Juvenile Crimes? Call For a Free Case Evaluation
If your child has been arrested, you may feel overwhelmed, unsure of what to do next, and fearful of the consequences your child may face if convicted. The Law Offices of Mariya Melkonyan will help you understand your child’s legal rights and the potential penalties for their actions.
We can develop strategic legal defenses for your child’s case to help keep your child at home. We will argue against the detainment of your child in favor of treatment or rehabilitation options at all costs. Contact our law firm for a free consultation to help you protect your child’s rights.