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Juvenile Delinquency

When your child below 18 years engages in a delinquent act, they risk arrest and a petition in the children’s court. The juvenile court is more tolerant than the adult criminal justice system, as it seeks to rehabilitate delinquents instead of punishing them like the adult criminal court. If your juvenile is arrested for delinquency, it will be traumatizing for them and the entire family.

A sustained petition in a juvenile court is devastating and can adversely affect the minor’s future. Therefore, you should talk to an experienced juvenile delinquency attorney to guide the accused juvenile and help you understand your rights in the case. At Leah Legal: Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer, we will protect your rights and those of the juvenile for a positive outcome in Los Angeles.

Juvenile Delinquency at a Glance

Juvenile delinquency happens when a juvenile not younger than 12 or older than 17 commits a misdemeanor or felony offense. When a minor is apprehended for delinquency, they go through the juvenile court system, which is less strict than the criminal court system. The law court also deals with contraventions like curfew violations, which are only deemed criminal when perpetrated by juveniles.

Children feel traumatized whenever they face arrests but must understand what is expected of them to avoid unexpected consequences. In an arrest, your child should not resist. Instead, they must be polite and cooperate with the arresting officers. Nevertheless, this does not mean the minor should assume the law enforcement officials are friends. Anything the child says during an arrest could be used against them when a petition is filed, hence the need to have the parent or a juvenile attorney present during interrogation to avoid confessions or self-incriminating statements.

The objective of the juvenile court system is to rehabilitate and prepare delinquents to become decent adults or citizens. Nevertheless, the arrest circumstances can be problematic for you and the minor to decipher, hence the need to have legal counsel from a defense attorney.

Sometimes, a juvenile can commit a crime only to be arrested after they have turned eighteen. Under the circumstances, the person will still be treated as a juvenile, and the matter will be adjudicated in the juvenile law court. Nevertheless, juveniles can face trial in criminal court when they commit specific offenses. Your juvenile being transferred to an adult court can be devastating because they risk charges and penalties like the ones adults face.

Factors the Judge Considers when Deciding to Charge your Minor in the Adult Court

A hearing to decide whether a minor should be tried as an adult is known as a transfer hearing. In this proceeding, the judge considers several elements when deciding whether to try the child in juvenile court or transfer them to the criminal justice system. These factors are:

  • The Brutality of the Child’s Offense

Your child can be arrested for small non-violent crimes like truancy, curfew violation, petty theft, underage drinking, and driving. Nevertheless, the accused could be apprehended for a severe violent crime. In these situations, the juvenile court can hold a transfer proceeding to decide whether the child should be transferred to the adult court for trial. The circumstances under which your juvenile can be tried in a criminal court are outlined in the Welfare and Institution Code (WIC) 707b, and they include but are not limited to:

  • Murder.
  • Attempted homicide.
  • Aggravated assault.
  • Rape resulting in severe bodily harm.
  • Kidnapping during a robbery.
  • Kidnapping for a ransom.
  • Forcible oral copulation.
  • Kidnapping with physical harm.
  • Forcible sodomy.

The court treats an underage person very differently from adults. When your underage child is prosecuted in an adult court, they risk prison incarceration or hefty court-imposed court fines. Besides, your minor will miss out on the privileges provided in the children’s court. Therefore, there is even more need to find an experienced attorney when your child can be transferred to adult court.

  • Your Child’s Delinquency Record

In addition to the crime’s severity, if your minor frequently appears in juvenile court because of juvenile offenses, a subsequent severe offense could result in them being tried as adults.

  • The Accomplishment of Previous Rehabilitation Attempts

The justice system's objective for children is to rehabilitate and prepare delinquents to be responsible adults. So, the juvenile court will consider your underage child’s performance in previous rehabilitation attempts. If the child disobeys court orders or fails to rehabilitate in the previous attempts, sentencing them to the juvenile court system again will still be futile. In these situations, the child will be moved to the adult court for trial.

  • Level of Sophistication Displayed by the Juvenile

When investigations into your underage child’s delinquency point out a sophistication degree in the behavior they exhibited while engaging in the delinquency, they will not be handled in the juvenile or children’s court. Again, when the delinquent is suspected of being a member of a criminal group or engaged in the said crime in furtherance of criminal gang activity, they will be moved to the adult court for trial.

The Juvenile Delinquency Process

The court process dealing with juvenile delinquency starts with apprehension for committing a crime. After the arrests, the matter can end lightly, with the arresting cop choosing to reprimand the child and release them. Alternatively, the cop can take the child to the Los Angeles probation division, where they will be detained in a detention center awaiting petition filing.

The petition is similar to the criminal charges filed in adult court. The petitioner files the petition, indicating your juvenile's alleged crime and the charge they will answer for in court.

The delinquent’s petition will proceed to the next phase if it meets the necessary criteria. Several proceedings are conducted between the apprehension and the conclusion of the case. These are as follows:

Detention Hearing

If, after the child’s apprehension, they were held in a juvenile hall, the detention proceeding is the first hearing after the petition has been filed. The court decides if you can take the child home or if they will remain in the detention facility. Even if you can take the child home after the proceeding, they will remain a ward of the court until the case is concluded.

It would help to know that the juvenile system differs from the adult court because your child cannot obtain a pre-trial release. Instead, the supervising officer will decide if you can take the delinquent home or if they will remain in detention. If the supervising officer is convinced the child is better off in detention, you assume the burden of persuading the court otherwise. Therefore, even if these are the initial stages of the delinquency case, you will need an experienced defense attorney to compel the court not to detain the child and walk you through the process to the end. And if you cannot afford to hire a private attorney for them, the child will have a court-appointed one.

In the proceeding, the juvenile will have their petition read and be informed of their right to a court hearing. They will then enter a plea or deny the accusation, citing insanity. Your minor’s attorney can contest the arrests. When this happens, the judge must be convinced that the accused child engaged in the alleged delinquency. After pleading not guilty in the detention proceeding, the court will allow you to take them home while you await the petition's determination.

Nevertheless, the judge will opt to detain the delinquent if the following is true:

  • The juvenile has a record of breaching court orders — Children are ineligible for bail. Once the court allows them to reunite with their family, as the parent, you have no financial obligation to the court. The judge expects the delinquent to appear in court and has arranged and adhered to release terms. Nevertheless, when the child fails to abide by these instructions or has a history of disobeying court instructions, they will remain in the juvenile hall until the delinquency case closes.
  • Your child is a flight risk — The accused being labeled as a flight risk means they are highly likely to skip town if released and skip scheduled proceeds. Therefore, if your juvenile offender is deemed a flight risk, they will not go home with you.
  • The need to protect the delinquent and the general public — Some children engage in delinquency because of their home environment. Therefore, the judge can decide to continue holding your child in the juvenile facility if they are convinced there is a need to protect the child from the home environment. Then again, the judge can detain the juvenile if the alleged crime is violent and there is a need to protect the public.
  • The delinquent is known to escape court commitments — Most dispositions have no detention requirement when a child has a sustained petition. Instead, the court imposes a curfew or probation. If the juvenile disobeys court commitments, they will repeat the behavior when released. Detaining them is the only suitable option.

You do not want your minor to lose the detention proceeding because they will stay away from home until the matter is settled in court. However, when you win, you will reunite with the child until the next hearing. At the Leah Legal: Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer, we can guide you through this proceeding and convince the court to allow the child to return home and be reunited with loved ones.

Pre-trial Hearing

The child’s petition must go through the pretrial stage. The proceeding happens within 15 days after deciding whether the minor should remain in the detention hall. Nonetheless, for the delinquent that is at home, the hearing can happen after thirty days. The proceeding aims to update you on the petition’s progress and obtain the supervising officer’s report regarding the accused’s behavior.

Similarly, in this proceeding, the court decides whether the prosecutor and the defense attorney can settle. If your child’s attorney recommends that you admit the delinquency was committed, the prosecutor can ask the court for a disposition. The most common disposition your minor will obtain at this stage is supervised probation.

Jurisdiction Proceeding

In the jurisdictional hearing, the judge reads the petition and explains it to your child. Further, the judge expounds on the likely verdicts of the proceeding and explains to you, the parent, your obligation to pay the court-imposed monetary fines when the minor ends up with a sustained petition.

The judge will allow the prosecutor to present their evidence and convince the court beyond a reasonable certainty that the minor was involved in the delinquency. Afterward, your juvenile’s attorney will be granted an equal opportunity to contest the evidence presented by the prosecutor.

Moreover, the attorney will interrogate witnesses used by the petitioner to poke holes in the testimony. A key witness used by the petitioner is the arresting cop. The defense attorney can accuse the officer of police misconduct or violation of the accused’s rights and contest their explanation of the events leading to the apprehension.

To build a compelling defense, the minor’s attorney must present his witnesses before the court for their testimonies and to support the evidence that the child did not engage in the alleged delinquency.

The next phase involves a judge giving a verdict on the petition’s validity and the measures to be taken against the delinquent.

Disposition Proceeding

Ten days after the jurisdiction proceeding, the court will hold a disposition hearing to determine your juvenile’s punishment and rehabilitative measures. Nevertheless, before the hearing, the judge must review the supervising officer’s report on the minor’s criminal record, family history, school history, and recommendations. The officer’s insight will help the judge determine the most appropriate sentence. The best result of the case is one that considers your child’s and the public’s safety.

Parental Rights in Juvenile Delinquency Petitions

The apprehension of your child by cops can devastate you as a parent or guardian. After the apprehension, the cops will take the child to a juvenile detention facility based on the alleged offense. The child will remain in the facility for fifteen days until the detention proceeding. Delinquents do not enjoy the right to bail, but this does not mean you have no rights as guardians or parents. As the child's legal guardian, you reserve the privilege to make critical decisions for the juvenile.

Nevertheless, when the child is up for adoption, the court can terminate the right. The law deems you a significant contributor to a delinquent’s behavior. So, when they discover that you have neglected the child in any way, the judge can put the minor up for adoption, terminating your parental rights.

The other way the court can terminate your maternal rights is if the juvenile is put under legal guardianship. It happens after the court concludes your child’s delinquency stems from the home environment, hence the need to place the minor in the lawful custody of another guardian for protection.

You are entitled to be present during your minor’s apprehension or interrogation. Nevertheless, the child has the right to remain silent until their attorney or legal guardian is present. Furthermore, when your juvenile faces the juvenile delinquency system, you have several rights, including:

  • The Privilege to be Informed of the Minor’s Apprehension and Detention

After apprehension for a delinquent act, your minor will be detained in a juvenile detention facility, awaiting a detention proceeding. Before the petitioner presents them before a judge for the proceeding, they must notify you of the arrest and your rights as the parent or guardian. Being in the dark about your juvenile’s whereabouts can be scary, making the privilege of being alerted of the apprehension fundamental. Once you know where your minor is being held, you can hire a defense attorney to provide legal guidance and the support they require through the delinquency case.

Make sure the attorney talks to the child before the case commences. And if it is impossible, you can advise the minor not to answer questions until the attorney shows up. You are not entitled to be present during interrogations, meaning you must hire an attorney on time to avoid losing the petition before it starts.

  • The Right for the Juvenile’s Court Hearing to Stay Confidential

Juvenile delinquency petitions can have life-altering consequences for the accused. Not only your child who faces the petition will be subjected to social stigma. The entire family will, which is why the juvenile court system keeps the proceedings secret. Confidentiality is promoted in these cases to protect the accused’s reputation. Making the details of the petition public promotes social stigma against your child.

Similarly, there is a need to promote confidentiality because of the sensitive nature of the family life details revealed in these cases. Besides, when the information about the family remains confidential, it cannot be used against them or the accused.

The court considers minors unable to make informed decisions because of their age. Therefore, it will be wrong to make the juvenile delinquency petition public because it will harm the child’s future and minimize their chances of admission to school or obtaining employment, which is contrary to the objective of the juvenile justice system.

  • The Right to Appear in Court Proceedings

Several proceedings are involved in a juvenile delinquency petition. In the detention proceeding, the court will rely on your testimony to decide whether to detain or release your child. Therefore, your presence in court is crucial in this proceeding and others, like the jurisdiction and disposition proceedings. You are entitled to appear in these proceedings to support the accused juvenile.

  • The Right to Learn Your Juvenile’s Rights

Despite engaging in delinquency, your child has rights that they can exercise during arrests and subsequent court processes. As the parent or legal guardian, you have a right to understand your accused minor’s rights, advise them properly, and play your part toward their freedom. Some of the delinquent’s rights that you must understand are:

  • The police need probable cause to arrest the accused, while the close family of the juvenile requires reasonable suspicion to believe the child is engaging in a delinquent act.
  • Your accused minor is entitled to make a phone call after detention.
  • Your accused child is entitled to legal counsel after apprehension.
  • Your minor is privileged to have the petition against them proved beyond reasonable certainty in the jurisdiction proceeding before they are deemed delinquents.
  • Your accused juvenile must be informed of their crime immediately after apprehension.

You can streamline the process if you understand these rights as the accused minor’s guardian.

The Rehabilitation Goal in Juvenile Delinquency

Several dispositions are available in juvenile cases to rehabilitate delinquents and turn them into decent adults. These dispositions or sentencing options are:

Formal or Informal Probation

When the delinquent obtains a sustained petition for a minor crime, the court can sentence them to informal probation. The child’s supervisor will create a monitoring plan lasting at most half a year. After the completion of the program, the petition against the child will be dismissed.

If the court declares the delinquent a court ward, they will be adjudicated to formal probation. The formal probation conditions include the following:

  • Victim restitution.
  • Community labor.
  • Curfew restrictions.
  • Drugs or alcohol counseling.
  • Compulsory school attendance.

Additionally, the court could instruct the child to steer clear of certain persons believed to have contributed to their delinquent conduct.

Deferred Entry of Judgment (DEJ)

A DEJ is a sentence requiring a delinquent to plead guilty to the charges in return for petition dismissal after completing a rehabilitation program ranging from twelve to thirty-six months.

Youth Authority Commitment (YAC)

Apart from being transferred to the adult court, placement in the YAC is the harshest adjudication your juvenile can face. The sentence is normally handed down to accused minors who commit sexual offenses and have a legal obligation to enlist in the sex offender registry.

Find the Right Juvenile Defense Attorney Near Me

Society and the juvenile court system are reluctant to hold children liable for criminal actions. Nevertheless, the penalties of a sustained petition can have devastating repercussions on your juvenile’s life. When you learn of your child’s apprehension because of engaging in delinquency, you should talk to the knowledgeable Leah Legal: Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer in Los Angeles. We will guide you and the accused juvenile throughout the court process for a favorable outcome. Contact us today at 424-600-7164 for a consultation.