Junile Law in California is complex and ufortunately varies greatly from county to county. As a former Juvenile Corrections Officer, Juvenile Probation Officer, I know the ins and outs of the Juvenile Justice system. I have also practiced Juvenile Criminal Defense for Almost 13 years and represented hundreds of Juveniles in court in Madera, Fresno, Montery, Tulare, Kings, and Kern County.
I will give you a basic overview of the Juvenil Court system below and at a different time go over what it means if you child is being tried as an Adult or a 707 b offense is alleged or if the case was directly filed.
When looking at Juvenile Law there are several key differences with the adult court.
One is that a Juvenile is not entitled to Bail in Juvenile Court.
Also, a Juvenile is not entitled to a Jury Trial.
The first step in a Juvenile case.
Usually after an arrest or a warrant has been issued, a Detention Hearing is scheduled. At the Detention Hearing the defense will provided with both a detention memo, and a petition.
A detention memo is memorandum prepared by the probation department giving a quick glance a the minors life, is he or she attending school, what are there grades like, have they been in trouble before, is the family life stable. All of these things are revelevent in the courts determination of whether the minor should be detained or allowed to remain in the parents home pending the outcome of there criminal case.
At the detention hearing the minor’s Attorney will enter a plea, either waive time for speedy trial 15 days for in custody minors, and thirty days for out of custody minors. And will either stipulate to a prima facia case deny the stipulation.
It should be noted that a stipulation or non stipulation to a prima facia case is not a probable cause determination. In other words the court will only be looking to see if on its face the police reports provide an adequate basis to hold the minor in custody and proceed. In other words, no wether the minor is innocent or guilty, but only if a criminal offense has been committed and on its face without going further, the minor committed the offense.
Some Lawyers, feel this is somehow a Probable Cause determination it is not.
If the Lawyer does not stipulate then the police reports will be read into the record. A hearing may even be held where the police officers can be cross examined on the police reports to ascertain if a prima facia, on its face, offense has occurred.
If a prima facial case exists, the court will determine if the minor should be held at Juvenile Hall or released to the parents either on Electronic Monitoring Program or on Supervision. It should be noted The Attorney at this phase of Detention Hering may bring what are called Affrimative Defense witnesses.
These are witnesses that show Self Defense or Entrapment.
The electronic monitoring program is a program where a gps device will be attached to the minor to establish if the minor is abiding by the terms the Court gave to minor to stay out of custody.
Home detention is simiar; however, there is no Electronic monitor attached to the minor.
The court will look at several factors to determine if the minor should go home on monitor home detention or stay at the Juvenile Facility.
How is the minor doing in school Is the minor attending everyday, what are his grades.
Is the minor involved in gangs? if the minor has gang indicia IE admits, has gang tattoos,
Does the minor have a prior history and how serious is that history.
All of these factors are taken into consideration by the court when making the determination of whether the minor should remain in Juvenile Hall or be allowed to return home to his family on Electronic Monitoring or Home Detention.
After this determination. the case will be set for a settlement conference.
At the settlement conference possible resolution of the matter will be discussed with the District Attorney and possible Deversion Programs will be looked into.
What is a diversion program? A diversion program is a program where if the minor admits the offense he will be ordered by the court to perform certain duties then the case will be dismissed and records sealed. below are the most common programs.
If a minor is placed on informal probation he will be ordered to do community service and possibly other things. When he or she is finished they will have another court date and if they completed everything the case will be dismissed and the records sealed.
Similiar to the Informal Probation Program. If the minor meets certain criteria, even if the case is a Felony and the minor is over 14 years of age, the minor will enter a 1 year program. If he completes the program satisfactorily then at the scheduled court date the case will be dismissed and his record sealed.
This program is the collaberative Justice Program, under this program the minor will meet with the victim make restitution, apologize, and then if the program is satisfied the case will be dismissed and the record sealed.
There has also been new legislation from the California Legislature which requires the Juvenile Court to review Juvenile Convictions for possible sealing and destroying of records.
Under this law, even if the minor was not part of the above-mentioned programs they could stil have there records sealed. The way the law was before this new legislation the minor would have to come to court and set a court date and ask the court to review and possibly destroy records. Now automatically the court will review the records after a certain amount of time has passed, and if the minor has not re-offended, and is in good standing the record of conviction will be sealed.
Also, Juvenile records are not public records therefore, the clerk of the court cannot release records of the conviction to the public. If the minor is for example going for a Law Enforcement Job, he would still have to disclose the conviction to them. Other than that, even if the records are not sealed they would be very difficult for anyone to find outside of Law Enforcement.
A minor should not be made to feel that just because he or she has “youthful indiscretions” that there life is somehow ruined. This is simply not the case.
What happens if I want to go to trial
If you do not take one of the above-mentioned deals then your case will be set for contested Adjudication. Again, a Jury will not decide wether the petition if true only a Judge will make that determination.
Other than the lack of a Jury the trials are very similiar to adult trials with sworn witnesses etc. if the case is not proven by proof beyond a reasonable doubt the petition is dismissed and the minor released if he is in custody.
If you lose at trial or admit the validity of the petition or charges.
Then you will have to serve a term of probation, usually one year in Juvenile Cases, and or some time in Juvenile Hall and one of there programs.
Again, this is a general overview of the Juvenile Justice system, for non 707 B offense or non direct file cases. to discuss your Sons or Daughter’s case don’t hesitate to call get the experience of someone that has worked in the Juvenil Justice system for more than 13 years and worked as a Juvenile Corrections Officer, and Juvenile Probation Officer.