Juvenile Offense Facts
The California Juvenile Court System handles cases concerning juveniles. Juveniles may be picked up by the police either for “delinquency” (committing a crime) or a “status offense,” an age-related offense such as truancy. If a child over the age of 14 commits a very serious offense, the court will hold a “fitness hearing” to decide whether the child should be treated as an adult and tried in the adult criminal court system.
The Juvenile Court system consists of five steps:
- Filing the petition
- Referral to intake
- Fitness hearing for serious crimes
The potential penalties can be severe, especially for a minor. A child under the age of 16 can be incarcerated until age 21 while a child over the age of 16 can be incarcerated until the age of 25. Juvenile defendants have the right to a lawyer but no right to bail or to a jury trial. It is imperative to obtain a skilled criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to obtain the best results under the particular set of facts and law of the child’s case.
A conviction of a juvenile crime can have a devastating effect on not just the child, but the family as well. In the past, most juvenile crimes were handled informally. Presently, a juvenile conviction is a serious matter that may result in serious future consequences for both the minor and their family. A conviction may result in the denial or revocation of a driver’s license, denial of employment, schools refusing to provide financial aid, and eviction from public housing. This can occur even if the offense is a minor one such as possession of marijuana. Juvenile courts have jurisdiction on cases of minors between the ages of 10 and 17 years old.
Additionally, a child will be either be placed on probation, imprisoned in a probation camp, sent to a juvenile prison or, in more serious crimes, the juvenile could be tried as an adult and sent to prison.
Juvenile cases are unique in that they can be dismissed at any stage of the proceedings by either the police, juvenile intake officer, prosecutor or the judge. A juvenile crime is either a felony or a misdemeanor. The consequences may be very different. A strong and aggressive defense can make the difference. Filing a charge as a felony can result in very harsh and significant penalties.
In some cases, felonies committed by a juvenile may be filed as an adult. If that happens, the case will be handled in adult court. These types of cases are usually reserved for the most serious charges or in the case of a juvenile with a serious criminal record. The decision to file the case in adult court is determined by the prosecutor and the judge. Having an aggressive juvenile defense attorney can make the difference in convincing a judge or District Attorney to keep the case in juvenile court. Several factors are considered in determining whether to file the case in adult court. These factors include:
- The severity of the crime and whether it was accomplished.
- The degree of criminal sophistication in committing the crime.
- The chance for rehabilitation rather than punishment.
- Any previous criminal record of the juvenile.
Juvenile crimes may include:
- Robbery – Penal Code Section 211
- Theft crimes – Penal Code Section 459, 484, 484(e)
- Shoplifting – Penal Code Section 484
- DUI (Driving under the influence) – Vehicle Code Section 21352(a), 21352(b)
- Arson – Penal Code Section 451
- Alcohol consumption – Penal Code Section 647
- Speeding and/or reckless driving
- Gang related crimes – Penal Code Section 186.22
- Assault – Penal Code Section 245
- Fighting in school
- Gun and weapons possession – Penal Code Section 12022
- Sex crimes – Penal Code Section 261
- Sexual assault – Penal Code Section 243.4
- Battery – Penal Code Section 594
- Assault crimes- Penal Code Section 245
- Graffiti – Penal Code Section 594
- Vandalism – Penal Code Section 594
- Drug possession – Health and Safety Code Section 11350(a)
- Drug transportation – Health and Safety Code Section 11352(a)
- Drug sales – Health and Safety Code Section 11352(a)
- Marijuana crimes – Health and Safety Code Section 11357(a), 11357(b)
- Murder – Penal Code Section 187
If the prosecutor determines the case will be filed in adult court, then the juvenile case, if filed, will be dismissed. The case will now be filed in adult court as though the minor was an adult. The punishment in these cases can result in the juvenile being sent to the California Department of Corrections juvenile facilities, known as the California Youth Authority. A juvenile can be housed at the CYA until they are 25 years old. If they have more time remaining on their sentence, they will be transferred to an adult prison to complete their sentence.