Juvenile Crimes Are Not a Minor Matter
Juvenile crimes, juvenile court, and juvenile detention are similar to the adult system except they call everything by a different name and rehabilitation is a top priority. This is very good for you or your child because the goals of the juvenile system are less about punishment and more about recovering your child and allowing him or her to become a productive adult.
Juveniles Have the Right to an Attorney Too!
However, the Juvenile system is still a lot like the adult system. A crime has been committed and they are going to hold someone accountable. If the crime is serious enough, the Juvenile Justice System may confine him or her to one of their facilities. Usually though, they are more anxious to find a way for your child to continue to lead a normal life while still paying for their mistakes.
Just as in the adult system, a petition (or charge) doesn’t mean it will result in the petition being sustained. Evidence may still be faulty or incorrect. The rule of law is still in play. Your child’s petition may end up being groundless.
The Juvenile system is a labyrinth seeking out a balance between justice and rehabilitation. You and your child need legal representation more than ever in these cases.
You Need A Specialist
From the moment your child is arrested you should give me a call. Even though your company has attorneys on staff or someone you know is a lawyer, they won’t be able to help you like I can. I know the system from both sides, as a prosecutor and a defense attorney. I also know all of the options available. I can protect your child’s rights and yours.
As your child’s defense attorney, the goals you have for your child become mine. With proper representation, juvenile court will seek for what is best for you and your child without putting society or your child at risk. I help see to that goal on your behalf. Read more about the juvenile justice system here.
An Overview of the California Juvenile Justice System
A Sacramento juvenile crime lawyer can best explain the juvenile justice system, which differs a lot from the adult criminal justice system. In general, the intent of the criminal justice system is to protect the safety of people in society. The juvenile justice system seeks to achieve this goal by rehabilitating offenders so that they may act responsibly once they reach adulthood. This differs from the adult criminal justice system which is primarily focused on punishing offenders for criminal acts. If you have a juvenile case in Sacramento county, you should seek the advice of a Sacramento juvenile lawyer.
In California, the juvenile justice system is governed by the California Welfare and Institutions Code sec. 602. This section provides that any person under the age of 18 who commits a violation of the law will be under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court system. The juvenile court system also has the power to make the minor a ward of the court, meaning that the court will control aspects of the minor’s life to ensure his/her well being. A Sacramento juvenile lawyer can help in three general areas of law dealing with minor defendants.
- The first area is juvenile delinquency which deals with criminal act committed by persons under the age of 18. Acts constituting juvenile delinquency range from misdemeanor to felony offenses.
- The second area covered by the juvenile courts involves juvenile dependency cases. These cases involve children who are the subjects of abuse or neglect. The purpose of dependency cases is to protect children from mistreatment by parents or guardians.
- The final area of law covered by the juvenile courts is juvenile status offenses. These are acts that only minors can get in trouble for, such as skipping school or underage drinking.
Juvenile Delinquency can be categorized into one of four types of offenders:
- Under California Welfare and Institutions Code 602, juveniles will be considered “criminal offenders” if under the age of 18 and responsible for a misdemeanor or felony crime.
- Under Welfare and Institutions Code 707, juveniles who are at least 14 years of age who have committed certain serious felonies can be tried as adults in the California Superior Court.
- Under Welfare and Institutions Code 601, minors who have committed status offenses (based on the offender’s age), such as a curfew violation,
- Welfare and Institutions Code 654, covering juveniles who have committed a minor offense and may be eligible for diversion programs.
Regardless of what category your situation falls into, a Sacramento juvenile lawyer can provide competent representation in your case.
The juvenile court can retain jurisdiction over the minor until age 21. Under California Welfare and Institutions Code 607, a juvenile offender committed to the California Youth Authority (CYA) due to a crime listed under W&I section 707 may be under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court until age 25. If you or someone you know is unsure whether they might still be under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court, a Sacramento juvenile lawyer can assist you in understanding where you stand.
When Juveniles Are Tried As Adults – Consult a Sacramento Juvenile Lawyer
There are three ways in which the juvenile justice system may charge minors as adults. A prosecutor may directly file a case with the adult criminal court. Whether direct filing is mandatory or discretionary depends on the circumstances surrounding the offense. A juvenile may also be charged in adult court indirectly, meaning that he/she will be found a better fit for superior court proceedings after a fitness hearing. A Sacramento juvenile lawyer can help in any of these situations to try to prevent the case from going to the superior court.
Mandatory filing for juvenile crimes is discussed in California Welfare and Institutions section 602(b). This section states that a juvenile 14 years of age or older must be prosecuted in the adult criminal court when committing crimes such as murder, and specified sex offenses including child molestation. These types of cases will not go to juvenile court, but rather directly to the superior court criminal prosecution process. Whenever a case proceeds directly to superior court. a Sacramento juvenile lawyer can also represent you in a criminal case.
Secondly, a juvenile offender can be charged in adult court based on the discretionary decision of the prosecutor. In these cases, the prosecutor may find that the circumstances of the crime indicate that the juvenile should face charges in the normal criminal justice system. To be considered for discretionary filing, a juvenile must be at least 16 years old, and have committed an offense under California Welfare and Institutions Code 707(b). These crimes include:
- Attempted murder
- Rape of Sodomy or Oral Copulation by force or threat of great bodily harm
- A violation of California Penal Code 288 (lewd/lascivious acts on a minor)
- Kidnapping for robbery, with bodily harm or for ransom
- Assault with a firearm or use of force potentially causing great bodily injury
- Shooting a firearm into an occupied or inhabited structure
- Arson under California Penal Code 451(a) or 451(b)
- Violent crimes against persons 60 years old or older or disabled persons as described in California Penal Code 1203.09
- Any offense listed in California Penal Code 12022.5 and 12022.53 dealing with personal use of a firearm in the commission or attempted commission of a felony
- Committing a felony as a minor using a weapon listed in 12020(a)
- Commits a felony under California Penal Code 136.1 involving preventing or dissuading a witness from testifying
- Commits a felony under California Penal Code 137 dealing with bribing witnesses.
Clearly, the above crimes are all very serious in nature. One should consult with an attorney familiar with juvenile law under these circumstances. It is beneficial to have a Sacramento juvenile lawyer representing you to seek the best possible outcome.
When the district attorney initiates a case against a juvenile who falls within Penal Code 707(b), the case can go straight to the superior court, or can be submitted to the juvenile court judge to determine if he/she believes the minor should be tried as an adult. In either of these situations, those in Sacramento County should consult a Sacramento County juvenile lawyer. At the juvenile court hearing, the judge will use the factors listed in Welfare and Institutions Code section 707 to decide if trying the juvenile as an adult is appropriate.
The other type of discretionary filing is for a minor who is at least 14 years old and committed an offense that can receive a death sentence, or life in prison. A juvenile offender may also qualify under this type of filing if they used a firearm when attempting or actually committing a felony. Additionally, California Welfare and Institutions Code 707(d)(2) allows for discretionary filing when a minor commits a Welfare and Institutions Code 707(b) offense and had previously committed an offense listed under Welfare and Institutions Code 602(b). Crimes committed as an act of gang violence, against elderly or disabled persons, or hate crimes can also fall within discretionary direct filing. In a case where discretionary filing applies, a competent Sacramento juvenile attorney can help prevent the case from going to superior court.
Submitting the case to the juvenile court to make the decision (on charging as an adult) is the last way a minor can end up in criminal court. In making that decision, the judge will look at the seriousness of the crime and whether the dispositions available in juvenile court will actually help the minor. This process is referred to in California Welfare and Institutions Code 707 as a “determination for unfitness” or a “fitness hearing.” In essence, the judge tries to decide whether the juvenile offender is “unfit” for the juvenile court process. A Sacramento juvenile lawyer can appear in a fitness hearing to present the best case that a juvenile doesn’t deserve to be tried in adult court.
California Penal Code 707(a) lists the factors that a judge may consider when determining unfitness. Specifically, the judge will look at the level of “criminal sophistication” demonstrated, whether rehabilitation can be achieved within the temporal jurisdictional limits of juvenile court, the juvenile’s prior delinquency, prior attempts to rehabilitate the minor, and the seriousness and surrounding circumstances of the offense. If it is found that the minor is not fit for juvenile court, the judge has the authority to move the case directly into the adult criminal justice system.
Once the juvenile has been convicted in an adult criminal court, he/she can receive the same sentence as adults, such as being sent to an adult prison. In some cases a juvenile charged as an adult may be sent to the Juvenile division of the Department of Corrections. It is important to seek the help of a Sacramento juvenile lawyer when facing one of the above situations.
How the Juvenile Court System Process Works
Once a juvenile commits a crime and is arrested by authorities, the law enforcement agencies have discretion in how to further deal with the individual. In some cases, law enforcement may simply allow the offender to be released into the custody of his/her parents. In other cases the juvenile may be transported to juvenile hall to face the Department of Probation.
Unlike adult criminal cases, where the Department of Corrections is responsible for the custody of convicted criminals, the juvenile hall system is run by the Department of Probation. The Department of Probation oversees all juvenile offenders who are not committed to California Youth Authority (CYA) facilities. Since offenders committed to CYA make up a very small percentage of those in the juvenile justice system, the Department of Probation plays a large role in the juvenile delinquency process.
If the juvenile is taken to juvenile court, the department of probation takes over the discretionary role and decides whether the situation merits accepting the individual into juvenile hall. If the probation department agrees to take the offender, he/she will be booked into the juvenile hall system. Where the offender is rejected, he/she remains in police custody and police may make a decision on how to proceed further.
Once an individual is accepted into juvenile hall, either the district attorney’s office or the probation department will file charges via a petition in the appropriate juvenile court. In more serious cases, the district attorney will have the juvenile transferred (or remanded) to the superior court to face charges as an adult. The prosecutor will make this decision based on the type of crime committed. If the juvenile remains in the juvenile court system, he/she will go through the juvenile court adjudication process and is essentially convicted once the court sustains the petition. A Sacramento juvenile lawyer can represent an minor in these proceedings to obtain a favorable result in the case.
Potential Dispositions (Sentences) for Juvenile Matters
Once the petition in a juvenile case is sustained, the juvenile court must decide what to do with the juvenile who has been found to have committed the offenses alleged. There are many different sentences (dispositions) that a Sacramento juvenile lawyer can help you get. Keeping the rehabilitative intent in mind, there are several ways a court may deal with a youthful offender based on the offenses committed.
A juvenile offender can be placed on informal probation pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code 654.Under this code section, a probation officer may put a minor on informal probation by withholding the filing of a petition with the juvenile court, and making arrangements with the minor’s parents or guardians to carry out specific requirements. The hope here is that the minor’s problems will be addressed without the intervention of the juvenile court. Informal probation has a maximum time limit of 6 months. However, if the minor fails to comply with the guidelines set by the probation officer, a petition can be filed anytime up to 90 days after the completion of the probation period.
The types of requirements imposed during informal probation include attending programs for substance abuse or mental health. The minor may also be required to participate in counseling programs or to receive counseling alongside his/her parents. With parental advice, a probation officer may also have a minor spend time in care facility, crisis resolution home, or attend a educational/vocational skills center. Your Sacramento juvenile lawyer can assist in finding a suitable program for your situation.
If a petition has already been filed against a juvenile, the court can still place the offender on informal probation under Welfare and Institutions Code 725. Under this code section, if the court determines that the minor qualifies under Welfare and Institutions Code secs. 601 and 602, and has not committed an offense listed under Welfare and Institutions Code 654.3 (sales & possession of controlled substance, drug offenses near schools and other violations) or Welfare and Institutions Code 707(b), it can use informal probation. This section basically freezes the pending petition and allows the minor to complete the terms of probation. If the minor fails to follow the program as required, the court can officially designate the offender as a ward of the court.
Welfare and Institutions Coder 654 also allows the use of diversion in lieu of filing the petition. Imposing a diversion program parallels the process that takes place for informal probation. Typical diversion requirements include performing community service and completing substance abuse, educational and counseling programs. As with informal probation, the idea is to attempt to reform the juvenile without the significant involvement of the juvenile justice system, and to evade the negative effects of a juvenile criminal record.
Deferred Entry of Judgment
Welfare and Institutions Code 790 lets the court put minors on deferred entry of judgment. The defendant will have to plea guilty to the charges. Then the juvenile offender will have to complete educational or counseling programs. Once he or she finishes the program requirements, the court will withdrawal the guilty plea and dismiss the case. Deferred Entry of Judgment (or DEJ) is not allowed for serious offenses.
Formal probation can be used where the minor is a ward of the court under California Welfare and Institutions Code 727. This section allows the court to make orders for the minor’s care. This includes placing them on probation and requiring them to report to a probation officer. The probation period may be served in the home of a relative or non-relative, a community care home, or a foster home. The minor may also have to attend counseling sessions or treatment services and go to school regularly.
California Welfare and Institutions Code 730 allows the court to impose any of the options under Welfare and Institution Code 727 and also send a juvenile offender to a “juvenile home, ranch, camp, or forestry camp” for a period of time. They can also be sent to juvenile hall if no camp or ranch exists in the county.
California Youth Authority
A juvenile can be sent to CYA as described in California Welfare and Institutions Code 733. This section states that a minor is eligible for a CYA commitment if they committed and offense under California Welfare and Institutions Code 707 or a California Penal Code 290.008 sex crime. Minors cannot be sent to CYA if they are under 11 years old, have an infectious disease, or have not committed a W&I 707 offense or sex crime.
Since there are various possible outcomes to a juvenile court case, a minor defendant should be represented by a Sacramento Juvenile Lawyer to make sure an appropriate disposition occurs.
Consequences of a Juvenile Record
Juvenile law offenses & Three Strikes
One of the most serious consequences of a juvenile adjudication is that the sustained petition (or conviction) can be counted as a strike in a later criminal prosecution. The current three strikes law in California Penal Code 667(d)(3) states that an offense committed as a juvenile counts as a strike if it is listed under Welfare and Institutions Code 707(b), is violent or serious, and the minor was at least 16 years old when the offense was committed. The situation must meet all three of these requirements to be used as a strike.
The effect of having a strike is that you may have to serve a longer prison sentence based on past criminal activity. Since juvenile criminal activity can have a severe negative effect on future criminal proceedings, you should have your case reviewed by a Sacramento juvenile lawyer to discuss all possibilities.
Sealing a Juvenile law Record
Juvenile records are not automatically sealed or erased once the minor becomes of age. This means that if no action is taken to do so, these records can be viewed by future employers, and licensing agencies. Therefore, sealing a juvenile record can be a big help in getting your adult life started on the right track. However, the process for sealing a juvenile record can be difficult to understand. Thus, it is best to consult with a Sacramento juvenile lawyer to find out how to best plan for the process.
In order to qualify to seal juvenile records, it must be shown that your adult criminal record does not contain any crimes of moral turpitude. This means no crimes that demonstrate fraudulent or outright immoral tendencies. The court must also find that you are successfully rehabilitated, and that there are currently no lawsuits against you as a result of juvenile misconduct. Persuading the court that you are rehabilitated can be done by a Sacramento juvenile lawyer. Someone who does not meet all three requirements will not be allowed to seal their records. Also, persons who have committed crimes listed under Welfare and Institutions Code 707(b) cannot seal juvenile records.
Minors who were arrested but never charged will have records of that arrest. However, California Penal Code 851.7 allows the sealing of these records if the crime alleged was a misdemeanor and the minor was not charged due to a lack of evidence, the case was dismissed, or he/she was found not guilty at trial.
Petitions to seal juvenile records are filed in the juvenile court where the petition (or conviction) was sustained. The court will review the petition at a hearing where evidence may be presented by the applicant and the opposing side which may be the district attorney or department of probation. If a petition is granted, the records will be sealed and later destroyed. California Welfare and Institutions Code 781 states that once records are sealed, the criminal event is “deemed never to have occurred.” If a petition is denied, the applicant may resubmit it at a later date. It is important to note that sealing juvenile records can also erase the requirement to register as a sex offender under Penal Code 290. If at any time you are confused as to how to discuss sealed records with employers or licensing agencies, consult a Sacramento juvenile lawyer.
There are two exceptions where a sealed record may still be viewed by others. Under California Welfare and Institutions Code 781, where a person is sued for defamation, records can be opened and introduced into evidence at a hearing. However, the records will be sealed again once the hearing is over.
The second exception covers convictions under the California Vehicle Code or other vehicle related charges that are held by the DMV. The DMV is allowed to give information about sealed records to insurance companies who are evaluating a driver for car insurance coverage and rates. The insurance company is not allowed to disclose this information to any other person or to use it for any other purpose.
If you have any further questions about a juvenile criminal case, contact DWB Law Office today for a confidential consultation from an experienced juvenile defense attorney.