Any criminal act committed by a minor under the age of 18 years constitutes a juvenile crime. Misdemeanor and felony crimes allegedly committed by persons under the age of 18 years are adjudicated in a juvenile delinquency court. A situation involving an adult being jailed for a crime is always frustrating and can even be more stressful and painful if a case involves your child as the one accused of a crime. This is always caused by the fear that the young person will be not be treated as a child by the police, judges, and prosecutors. A child is prone to making a youthful poor judgment, something that the prosecutors do not put into consideration.
Originally, the juvenile court system was not created to punish, but the main purpose was to rehabilitate the minors. However, the mission statement has changed due to the enactment of harsh laws. As a parent, therefore, do not hold on to the belief that your child will not be subject to severe legal punishments if found guilty of a crime. In California, juvenile crimes are treated with aggression by the law enforcement and prosecuted vigorously. In some cases, a juvenile crime can be treated more harshly than a crime committed by an adult.
When it comes to dealing with criminal cases involving minors, there are important factors that must be considered. Some of the most crucial issues that you’ll have to deal with include protecting your loved one against a criminal record, getting them on the right path, and keeping them out of custody. For this reason, it’s imperative to retain an attorney with experience and success on the road you’re about to travel. At Pasadena Criminal Attorney, we know how anxious and confused one can be if their child has been arrested for a crime. To get your questions answered and legal advice on the best course of action, set up a free initial consultation with one of our prospective attorneys. Call us today at 626-689-2277.
Categories of Juvenile Crimes
Juvenile cases involving minors are divided into three categories. These include:
- Juvenile delinquency offenses,
- Juvenile status offenses, and
- Juvenile trial as an adult
Status offenses are only considered to be criminal in nature when committed by juveniles. However, the act would otherwise be considered as legal if an adult committed it. Some of the offenses that fall under this category include curfew violations and truancy from school, or any other offense that’s illegal by the virtue that it's committed by a minor. For instance, in California, Vehicle Code Section 23136 prohibits a minor from driving with a 0.01% blood alcohol level while California Business and Professions Code section 25622 from possessing alcoholic beverages until they are 21 years of age. Status offenses are also adjudicated in a juvenile delinquency court.
These are acts that are outrightly criminal in nature irrespective of the age of the individual who committed it. For instance, an act such as vandalism is a delinquency offense and if a juvenile commits the crime, they can still be charged under California Penal Code Section 594. There are three primary stages that all cases involving delinquency offenses go through. These include
- The detention hearing
This takes place if the offender is being held in juvenile hall. Just as with adult criminal cases, a juvenile case during this hearing may enter a guilty or not guilty plea. Also, the minor may be kept in custody by the judge or be released in the custody of the parents or guardian if he/she does not pose a serious risk to the community.
- The jurisdictional hearing
This is essentially a trial but not similar to that of a typical criminal case in that; the case does not involve the jury. Instead, it’s tried and decided in a bench trial by the judge of the juvenile court. During this hearing, the burden of proof is on the prosecutor. Also, during this phase, the defendant is entitled to have a defense attorney and has the chance to defend himself or herself. If found guilty, the case will proceed to a disposition hearing which is basically for the purpose of determining the sentence. In most juvenile cases, the sentences involve fines and serving time in jail. The parents will be held liable for the payment of fines for the conduct of their child.
Trial as an adult
For certain crimes, under Proposition 21, a juvenile over the age of 16 must be tried as an adult. Conversely, a juvenile between the age of 14-16 can also be tried as an adult if the crime is sex-related or a violent crime. These crimes include:
- Murder with special circumstances if it is alleged that the juvenile personally killed the alleged victim
- Forcible sex in concert with another
- Forcible sexual penetration
- Lewd and lascivious acts on a child under 14 with violence, force, or threat of great bodily injury
- Sodomy or oral copulation by violence, force, or threat of great bodily injury
In order for a minor to be tried as an adult, there is need for the court first to determine whether the defendant is fit to stand a trial as an adult. At this point, the decision will turn on whether the care programs, training, and treatment of the juvenile system would be effective for the minor’s rehabilitation, and whether the court has a reasonable belief that the programs would be able to dissuade the minor form engaging in criminal behavior in the future. There are different elements that must be reviewed concerning the circumstances of the defendant and the facts of the case. They include:
- The severity of the offense,
- The minor’s history of delinquency,
- Whether past rehabilitation attempts have been effective,
- The degree of criminal sophistication that the minor holds, and
- Whether rehabilitation could be achieved before the jurisdiction of the juvenile court expires
Trial as an adult simply implies that the case will be moved from the juvenile court into the adult court system. If the defendant is found guilty, the punishment can be just the same as an adult would be punished if convicted of the same crime. Other crimes that could result in a minor being tried as an adult are recorded under California Welfare & Institutions Code, Section 707(b).
Typical Punishments Related to a Juvenile Prosecution
There are many sentencing options given by the juvenile courts to youth offenders. The sentencing options, also known as disposition orders, fall into two major categories depending on the criminal history of the minor and the degree of the crime:
Incarceration punishments for juvenile offenders
While incarceration may sound like a prison or jail sentence, it isn’t. The judge of the juvenile court can order for the confinement of the juvenile offender in a number of ways. Here are different incarceration punishments for a juvenile delinquent:
- Placement with another individual who’s not the parent or guardian of the minor- the judge orders the minor to live in a foster home, in a group, or with a relative
- Secured juvenile facility- a minor may be sentenced to stay for a longer period of time in a secured juvenile facility if the crime committed is more severe
- Juvenile hall- a short-term stay in a juvenile detention center
- Probation- this comes after spending time in juvenile hall
- Home confinement or house arrest - the minor will be required to stay at home for a specified period with certain exceptions for places such as hospitals, counseling visits, and school
- Adult jail- there are very serious cases that may result in the minor being ordered to spend time in state prison or county jail
- A combined sentence- the juvenile court, in some jurisdictions, can order the minor to spend time in a juvenile facility until he/she is 18 years. From that point on, they will be transferred to an adult jail.
Non-incarceration options for juvenile delinquents
Depending on the crime, there are other rehabilitation options for juvenile offenders. Some of the options that do not include confinement include:
- Verbal warning- the judge rebukes the juvenile offender verbally
- Fine- paid to the victim or the government
- Community service
- Electronic monitoring- this involves wearing an ankle or wrist bracelet at all times to show where you’re
- Probation- Potential probation conditions for juvenile offenders include avoiding certain groups of people like gang members, meeting curfews, going to school, attending counseling, and completing anger management classes. If the juvenile offender is placed on probation, they will be assigned a probation officer. Violation of any of the probation terms can result in a severer disposition order such as incarceration.
Common Juvenile Crimes
Some of the more common crimes that your child could be charged with include (but not limited to):
- Assault and battery- PC 240 and PC 243
- Sexual Misconduct
- Alcohol offenses- California Business and Professions Code 25662
- Driving under the influence- CVC 23152 (a) and (b)
- Marijuana and other drug offenses- HS 11357
- Theft- PC 484
- Vandalism- PC 594
- Disorderly Conduct
- Trespassing- PC 602
- Weapon charged
- Violent crimes
Problems with the Juvenile Justice System
The juvenile court system in California is known for its noble objectives, but even with that, it has also received its fair share of criticism for its failures. Some of the problems include:
- Confining children in cells for 23 hours a day
- Excessive use of force on children who are already restrained
- Lack of proper medical and mental health care
- Making children to get education while locked in cages
- Instigating racial conflicts through the use of extreme, gang-related violence
- Using psychotropic medications on children
These are problems that you’d not wish to have your child go through. The best course of action, therefore, is to contact a seasoned juvenile crime attorney immediately.
Sealing Juvenile Records
In California, juvenile records can be sealed, including records of an arrest without a charge or conviction. This means the criminal record of a minor may be hidden from public records. Sealing plays a critical role in ensuring that one can pursue an education as well as secure employment. It also makes it possible for an individual applying for an educational or employment opportunity to deny the existence of a juvenile record without penalty. It is imperative to note that the process of getting a record sealed is not automatic. There are certain types of offenses that qualify while others are ineligible to be sealed such as many sex offenses, robbery, murder, carjacking, arson, and any other violent felonies. A petition must be filed with the juvenile court involved in the conviction in order to seal a record. The following criteria must be met:
- The applicant must be 18 years of age or older
- Convince a court that he/she is rehabilitated
- Have no convictions as an adult involving a crime of immoral behavior
- Have no unresolved civil litigation resulting from the juvenile criminal acts
How You Can Get Your Child On the Right Path
As a parent, it’s crucial to understand that teenage years can be lonely. The world changes so fast and so is what is expected of us. Young adults often feel alone even as they explore the world and try to connect. The moment a child is arrested can be very confusing and isolating at the same time. One important thing that you ought to do as a parent is first to accept that the child is in dire need of your assistance and you have to actively find a way to get them the help they need. Do not make excuses for the behavior of your child. Your child is in trouble for a reason or reasons, and it’s up to you as a parent or a legal guardian to develop a plan that will get your child on a path to success. This will help the child realize their own mistake, know the right way to do things, and plan for their future.
How We Can Help Your Minor
Irrespective of the alleged crime, your minor child needs the help of an understanding and caring juvenile criminal defense attorney to aggressively fight for and protect the rights and future of your child. Delinquency defense attorney Michelle of Pasadena Criminal Attorney understands the importance of communication when a child is in trouble. It is, therefore, our commitment to listen to our clients. When you retain us to represent your minor, we will fight tooth and nail to protect his/her future while ensuring your child is treated as a child. Call us today at 626-689-2277 to schedule a free initial consultation. We will be there when you call.