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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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
Juveniles may be tried in adult court for some of the following serious and violent crimes listed in Section 707(b):
Juvenile crimes may not seem as serious as adult crimes, but the punishments can be severe. Juveniles can suffer penalties such as:
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.
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.
If your child is detained, the juvenile court will hold a detention hearing within 3 days to determine if they can come home while waiting for their next hearing date. If your child isn’t allowed to go home, they may be sent to live with a relative or go to an institution or group home.
Children aged 14 or older at the time of the crime might be charged as an adult if the crime was serious. These crimes include murder, rape, kidnapping, robbery, crimes involving guns, drug crimes, and some arson cases. Adult court carries more serious consequences for those convicted. You should work with your lawyer to keep the case in the juvenile system where possible.
After your initial consultation, we’ll be able to determine a retainer fee and discuss payment options. In most cases, the retainer fee payments are divided into two parts; the first is typically payable upfront.
There are various options for paying your retainer fee, including cash, check, or card.
Your child will only be sent to an adult correctional facility if charged and convicted in adult court. Even if they are tried and sentenced in an adult court, minors are sent to the Division of Juvenile Justice(DJJ) until they are at least 16 years old. The DJJ allows juveniles to stay in their facilities until the age of 25.
Yes, you may have to pay restitution to the victim of your child’s crime. This is money you will pay as compensation for any damages or loss caused by your child. The victim has the right to request restitution.
Fighting against juvenile crimes cases is extremely stressful for families. No one wants to have their child get tried and convicted as an adult. For your child’s sake hire an experienced criminal defense attorney and build the best defense you can for your child.
At The Law Offices of Mariya Melkonyan, we always have our client’s best interest at heart. From the moment you contact us for a consultation, we start planning solid defenses for your case. Most clients feel ashamed, frustrated and angry after being charged with crime, but our legal team is here to reiterate that you, as a citizen, have basic rights, one of which is to hire an attorney.
Before you speak to authorities, remember that you do not have to answer any questions regarding your juvenile crimes case without a lawyer present. Mariya Melkonyan is a former Los Angeles District Attorney who has tirelessly fought countless felonies and misdemeanors and can apply those same skill sets in your case.