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How the Juvenile Court Process Works in California

Okabe & Haushalter Aug 24, 2018 Juvenile Crime

Minors under the age of 18 who get into legal trouble are usually tried in juvenile court rather than a criminal court for adults. The big difference between them is that criminal courts are designed to punish adults for crimes they commit, while juvenile courts focus on rehabilitating, counseling, and educating minors.

Because the courts handle different offenders in different ways, their court processes differ as well. Your child will, however, still need a juvenile criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles. Here are X ways juvenile court processes in California can be distinguished from criminal court processes for adults.

Juvenile Cases Are Decided Without a Jury

Commissioners or judges make the final decision of innocence or guilt for minors in trouble with the law. However, the rules of proof are still identical to adult court cases. The prosecutor bears the burden of coming up with evidence that proves the juvenile is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Minors Must Be Advised of Their Charges Within 48 Hours

When a minor is taken into custody, the system has 2 days to bring them into court for a detention hearing to be advised of their charges. During this hearing, the court decides whether the juvenile can be released to his or her parents, or whether they’ll remain in custody until their trial.

Bail Is Not an Option

Juvenile courts don’t offer bail, so it’s extremely important to hire a juvenile criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles to defend them to the judge and try to get them released into parental custody. Otherwise, they’ll be spending their time behind bars until their case moves forward.

There Are Four Hearings

The juvenile court process consists of four total hearings. The first is the detention hearing mentioned above. Next is a fitness hearing where a judge determines whether to try a minor in juvenile delinquency court or transfer them to an adult criminal court. This hearing only happens on occasion under serious circumstances. Most minors are tried in the juvenile court system.

After the fitness hearing comes the main trial or adjudication hearing. The case will be presented in front of a judge who will decide and delegate the minor’s future. Lastly, the judge will sentence the juvenile at a disposition hearing. They may have to pay a fine, do community service, go on probation, or be subjected to time in juvenile hall.

Juvenile Probation and Adult Probation Are Different

For less serious crimes, a judge may order probation as a minimal punishment. Probation for minors often consists of attending school or counseling, performing community service, following a curfew, or paying restitution to the victim of the crime.

They Can Petition to Destroy or Seal Their Criminal Record

After the age of 18, when their case has ended, a minor may be able to destroy or seal their criminal record by petitioning the court. Whether this is possible depends on what type of crime was committed and how long it’s been since the juvenile left the court system. To do so, you’ll need an experienced juvenile crime defense attorney in Los Angeles who can help you take the necessary steps.

If your child has been accused of and charged with a crime, the law office of Okabe and Haushalter can help. With years of experience in criminal law, our attorneys have the knowledge and proper strategy to provide an aggressive defense that will protect your child’s future and their rights. Call us today at 310-430-7799.