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Four Things You Need to Know About Juvenile Courts in CA

Posted in Riverside Jails Information on June 16, 2017

Having a child arrested and accused of a crime is terrifying for all parties involved- and the situation comes with many questions. How does the juvenile system work and how different is it from adult courts? Will my child have a record? What could happen to them in jail?

While your mind may never fully be at ease, our Riverside juvenile crimes attorney outlines the four most important things you need to know about the juvenile system.

Getting into legal trouble under the age of 18 will most often result in a case with the juvenile court system in California. Unless the courts decide to try the offender as an adult, the youth will stand trial in juvenile court instead of the adult criminal court system. This means different penalties, consequences, and sentencing options than in the adult courts. While your mind may never fully be at ease, our Riverside juvenile crimes attorney outlines the four most important things you need to know about the juvenile system. 

1. Design of the Court System

The juvenile court system is fundamentally different from the adult system in that the former aims to rehabilitate minors and prepare them for life after a crime, while the latter serves to punish the convicted criminal for his/her wrongdoings. This differentiation makes for different sentencing techniques in each court system. Minors face sentences for the purposes of education and counsel, such as programs and courses. The odds of receiving a sentence like jail time are lower in the juvenile system than the adult system.

2. Seven Different Hearings

The trial, conviction, and sentencing processes differ greatly between the two court systems. In a juvenile court case, a judge or commissioner makes the final decision on the offender’s guilt or innocence – not a jury. The law does not entitle minors to jury trials. There are seven hearings that occur in the juvenile court in California:

  1. Detention. In cases where law enforcement detains an arrested minor for more than two days, he/she will have a detention hearing, during which the judge will decide if the minor can return home until the next hearing. Keep in mind, the juvenile courts do not offer bail.

  2. Pretrial. A pretrial hearing, or settlement conference, aims to settle the case without going to trial. If this hearing is successful, it can mean the end of the court process.

  3. Motions. Motion hearings can arise at any time within a case, if the judge orders motion court dates to work out certain details of the case.

  4. Fitness/waiver. This hearing decides whether the courts will try the child as a juvenile or as an adult. If a child is under the age of 14, he/she is not eligible for trial by the adult courts.

  5. Jurisdiction. This hearing is when the judge will decide on the offender’s guilt or innocence.

  6. Disposition. During disposition hearings, the judge will decide how to sentence the party, if convicted. This hearing may occur the same day as the jurisdiction hearing.

  7. Review. After the youth has served part of his/her sentence, the court will hold a review hearing to see how the child is doing.

A youth must attend all necessary hearings during his/her juvenile court case. The minor has the right to an attorney during these court processes. Learn more about going to court.

3. Criminal Record Expungement

Unlike adult criminal charges, a juvenile can petition the courts to destroy or “seal” a juvenile criminal record once the youth turns 18 and his/her case has ended. Whether this is possible depends on the type of crime and how long it’s been since the youth exited the juvenile court system. This action can, in effect, clear the youth’s record.

4. Penalties

In many juvenile cases, the courts will order probation instead of a jail sentence. Probation takes many different forms, but it always has certain terms and conditions the youth must obey at all times. Most probationary periods require the youth to stay in certain areas, attend programs, and submit to random drug and alcohol tests. A probation officer will have authority over the probation period in a juvenile case. For more information about juvenile cases, contact Graham Donath Law Offices, APC.