When a person under the age of 18 violates a criminal law in California, the responsible court unit that will decide what happens with the minor is called the juvenile court system, as a separate system from the criminal justice system, which also operates in a very different way. The juvenile court system’s two essential purposes are to protect society from individuals who have been convicted of a crime and punish the violators, and help rehabilitate youngsters so that they can grow up to be productive citizens.
However, the criminal laws recognize that a juvenile is ethically less responsible than an adult defendant in a similar situation. As a result, the juvenile investigation and court process will prioritize rehabilitation over punishment, especially for nonviolent first-time offenders.
These cases are usually prosecuted in adjudication hearings, which have several features in common with an adult court, such as the power to subpoena witnesses, get a lawyer, offer a defense, against self-incrimination, etc. So, if your child or a young person you are close to is accused of a violation or felony, or you just want to discover more about the California juvenile laws and rules, continue reading all of the critical points of this post.
Common Crimes Done By Juveniles
In the state of California, juveniles commit a wide spectrum of felony crimes and misdemeanors. The following are a few of the most common crimes done by juveniles:
- possession of graffiti tools
- possession of alcohol
- possession of marijuana
- petty theft
- grand theft auto
- weapons charges
What Happens When A Juvenile In California Is Arrested
When authorities suspect a young person of committing a crime, a petition is filed in Juvenile Court after they are arrested. Moreover, the judge will determine if the petition is true based on the evidence offered. For juvenile crimes, there are two sorts of petitions:
These petitions allege status offenses. Status offenses are crimes committed only by children, such as breaking curfew or truancy. If the offense is repeated, the child is classified as a status offender.
If the accused was 18 or older, this type of petition is comparable to a misdemeanor or felony prosecution under Section 602 of the Welfare and Institutions Code. On the other hand, if the charge is upheld, the accused is labeled a “delinquent” and designated as a “ward of the court,” which means the court is now in charge of the minor’s care and treatment. In this case, the judge will choose a disposition that is best for the child’s rehabilitation.
Possible Sanctions For Minors
Instead of punishing, the penalties for juvenile offenses are designed to rehabilitate. The seriousness of the offense and the child’s prior history may also be considered by the judge. The following are examples of possible penalties for minors:
- Fines or restitution (paying a victim for property damage or stolen things);
- Informal probation—the most lenient punishment, in which the minor is allowed to return home while refusing to admit fault. Upon completion of any mandatory programs, all accusations are dismissed.
- Detention for a period not to surpass the minor’s 18th birthday—for more serious crimes, the judge may order that the minor be detained for a period of time not to exceed the minor’s 18th birthday, served at a detention facility under the DJJ: Department of Juvenile Justice.
- Formal probation.
- Community service.
- Foster home placement.
Instances Of Juveniles Being Tried As Adults
When a minor under the age of 16 is accused of committing a major felony listed in California Welfare and Institutions Code Section 707(b) WIC, the court may decide to hold a transfer hearing to send the minor into the criminal justice system and have them tried as an adult.
If convicted, the young person will serve their sentence in an adult jail, as required by law. Murder cases and very serious felony charges committed by minors aged 16 or 17 with past criminal histories are the most typical reasons for a petition to transfer a juvenile to adult court.
Hopefully, it is now clear how the juvenile system works. However, before you begin to panic if your child is accused of a crime, remember that even if they are sent to one of these facilities, each facility strives to offer programs and services that can help troubled teens turn their lives around.
Still, you and your child will have to work hard to take advantage of all offered to the fullest extent possible. This can be a long road, but with the right attitude, parent support, and good behavior on your child’s part, success can be achieved in time. If your child needs legal defense for a juvenile or criminal charge, talk with an attorney immediately. There is tremendous potential for rehabilitation and return to society as a productive citizen with the appropriate intervention.