Los Angeles Juvenile Crimes Lawyer
If your child is 17-years-old or younger and gets into trouble with the law, then they typically will go through the juvenile court system in California. The juvenile justice system is intended to aid adolescents and their families through community resources, though it also offers a system of punishment.
If your child has been arrested and now faces the juvenile court process, do not try and handle it alone. Your child has the right to a criminal defense attorney just like an adult, and it will benefit your son or daughter to have experienced legal representation throughout this process. There are many serious consequences to juvenile proceedings, including confinement, limited education and career options, and a social stigma with friends. A juvenile crimes lawyer from Spolin Law P.C. will protect your child’s rights and fight for their future.
Contact us today at (310) 424-5816 to schedule a free, initial case evaluation
Common Juvenile Crimes
Your teen may find themselves in juvenile court for behavior that would be illegal if they were adult. Any conduct that is a criminal offense in California can lead to charges for an adult or minor, including stealing, fighting, vandalism, and doing drugs. However, certain activities are illegal based on your child’s age, such as alcohol offenses, marijuana crimes, sexting, and skipping school. In California, the commission of a crime by a minor is known as juvenile delinquency.
A juvenile crimes lawyer at Spolin Law P.C. can help your son or daughter with include:
Theft (California Penal Code [PC] § 484, 488, 459.5)
Your child can be charged with petty theft, shoplifting, or grand theft. Depending on the items allegedly stolen and their value, they could face misdemeanor or felony theft charges. Teens are often arrested and entered into the juvenile justice system for shoplifting small items.
Assault and Battery (PC § 240, 242, 234(d), 245)
If your child gets into a fight, they could face assault and battery charges, or aggravated assault or battery charges. While many of these are misdemeanors, there are times when they could rise to the level of a felony. If your teen is accused of assault or battery that included a dangerous weapon or led to serious bodily harm, contact a juvenile defense attorney right away.
Vandalism (PC § 594)
If your son or daughter is found spray painting, defacing, or destroying property, they will be charged with malicious mischief, which most people refer to as vandalism. This could include egging someone’s home or car, as well.
Alcohol Possession (Business & Professions Code § 25662)
Your child cannot lawfully purchase, possess, and drink alcohol until they are 21-years-old. If they are caught with alcohol in any public place, they can be charged with a crime. If your underage son or daughter was caught with alcohol and is facing charges as a result, contact a juvenile crimes lawyer right away.
Underage DUI (Vehicle Code § 23136, 23140)
Your child can be arrested and charged with DUI if they have any detectable alcohol in their system while driving. A blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .01 percent or higher will lead to charges, because California has a zero-tolerance policy for this offense. If your teen had a BAC of .05 or higher, they face even harsher charges and penalties.
Marijuana Possession (Health & Safety Code § 11357)
To use marijuana recreationally in California, you must be over 21-years-old. If your teen is caught with marijuana, they could get into trouble with the law. However, possessing small amounts of marijuana is an infraction, and upon a first offense, your child may be forced to complete drug education and community service.
Sexting (PC § 311 or PC § 647(J)(4))
California does not have sexting-specific laws; however, it could still be illegal for your minor to participate in this activity. If your teen sent nude photos of themselves, received and kept nude photos of other teens, or sent another person’s nude photos to friends, they could be in trouble. Even if the photos were consensually taken, sent, and received, they may constitute child pornography. Also, if the nude photos were not consensually shared, they may violate the state’s “revenge porn” statute.
Rape (PC § 261-269)
Teenagers may be accused of sex offenses, including rape. If your child has been accused of sexually assaulting another person, whether it is an adult or a minor, contact a juvenile crimes lawyer immediately.
An Overview of the Juvenile Justice System Process
As a parent dealing with the California juvenile court system for the first time, it is important to understand the process you’re about to go through. The juvenile court process has many stages, though it will move much faster than the adult criminal process. You can expect your teen’s case to move forward in a matter of weeks. Many teens get to their disposition hearing (the juvenile version of a trial) within 30 calendar days.
Arrest & Intake (Welfare & Institution Code § 625 – 631, 652 – 65)
A police officer can take your child into custody without a warrant as long as the officer has probable cause that your teen committed a crime. The officer has some discretion in what to do next, though the most common step is for the officer to deliver the minor to a probation officer.
If the cop takes your child to a probation officer, they must provide a written statement of probable cause. The probation officer will then investigate the situation and determine whether to release or detain your teen. If the probation officer believes there is not enough evidence to move forward with a case, they will release your teen to you or another parent or guardian.
If there is enough evidence to move forward with charges, then your child will either be detained or released on home supervision. There is no such thing as bail for minors in the juvenile system. Under California law, the probation officer can only detain your minor child if:
- Detention is a matter of immediate and urgent necessity for the protection of the minor or it is reasonably necessary for the protection of other people or property
- Your child is a flight risk
- Your child violated a juvenile court order
When your child is placed on home supervision, they must follow certain restrictions and appear at their detention hearing the coming days or weeks.
For help understanding your son or daughter’s legal options following an interaction with a police or probation officer, contact Spolin Law P.C. to speak with a juvenile crimes lawyer right away.
Informal Disposition or Petition in Juvenile Court
The probation officer has another choice to make. After deciding there is enough evidence that your adolescent may have committed a crime, the probation officer must determine whether an informal disposition is appropriate, or whether to ask a prosecutor to file a petition in juvenile court.
Informal disposition means your child does not go through the juvenile court system entirely. Instead, for up to six months, you and your teen must abide by certain conditions. If all goes well during this period of time, your teen may be able to move forward without any further proceedings or findings against them. However, if your child fails to abide by the rules, the prosecutor has the discretion to file a petition against your child, which means they will move forward with criminal charges.
Detention Hearing (Welfare & Institution Code § 632, 635)
If a probation officer decides to detain your teen, then there must be a hearing to determine whether your child should continue in the court’s custody or be released. A detention hearing must be held within 48 hours of a warrantless arrest for a misdemeanor that did not include violence, a threat of violence, or possession or use of weapons, if the minor is not currently on probation or parole. Or, a detention hearing must be held before the expiration of the next judicial day after a juvenile court petition is filed.
In order for your child to continue being detained, the prosecution must show that your child returning to your home is contrary to their welfare, and at least one of the factors is true:
- Your child violated a juvenile court order
- Your child escaped from the commitment of the juvenile court
- Your child is likely to flee the jurisdiction
- Retaining custody of your child is a matter of immediate and urgent necessity to protect them
- Custody is reasonably necessary to protect the person or property of another.
A juvenile crimes lawyer at our firm will do everything we can to ensure your child is released and is returned to our care.
Arraignment Hearing (Welfare & Institution Code § 700)
Whether or not your child is released, if the prosecutor filed a petition with the juvenile court, then your child must show up for their arraignment. This is the hearing during which your child will hear the charges against them and learn about their rights during the proceedings. In some situations, detention and arraignment hearings are combined.
Before your child submits a plea, the judge will ascertain whether they understand the allegations and the nature of the proceedings. If the judge is satisfied with your child’s understanding of the situation, then your child must:
- Admit the allegation
- Deny the allegation
- Plead no contest to the allegation
- Deny the allegation by reason of insanity
Your child should have a lawyer at their arraignment. An attorney with knowledge of juvenile law can help your teen understand what is happening, and the consequences of any plea they submit.
If your child denies the allegation, then the court will set a date for the jurisdiction hearing, This is the juvenile equivalent of trial.
Your teen’s case may not go directly from the arraignment to a jurisdiction hearing. There are several pre-trial proceedings that may occur, including:
- A hearing in regard to an insanity plea
- A motion to transfer the case to adult court
- A motion to suspend proceedings to determine the minor’s competency
- A motion to suppress illegally-obtained evidence
- Motion to suppress statements made by your child and obtained in violation of their right against self-incrimination
- Motion to dismiss the case based on retaliatory prosecution, the statute of limitations, insufficient evidence, or other grounds
- Discovery motions requiring the prosecution to disclose evidence to your child’s juvenile defense lawyer
Plea Bargain Negotiations
After a petition has been filed and before a jurisdiction hearing, your child’s juvenile crimes lawyer may recommend negotiating with the prosecution. By working with the prosecuting attorney, your son or daughter’s charges may be reduced. Alternatively, your child may be able to obtain an advantageous plea bargain.
Jurisdiction Hearing (Welfare & Institution Code § 657, 701.1)
If your child were an adult and had been charged with a crime, they would have a trial. In the juvenile court system, this hearing is known as a jurisdiction hearing. It is presided over by a judge who will make the final determination. There are no jury trials in the juvenile system. This hearing must be scheduled within 15 court days of the detention hearing, or within 30 calendar days of when the case is filed.
During a jurisdiction hearing, the prosecution presents evidence to the judge. Once the prosecution’s turn is finished, your child’s juvenile crimes lawyer can proceed with their defense. Often, your son or daughter’s attorney will immediately ask the court to dismiss the case based on insufficient evidence. If the court denies the motion to dismiss, then your child’s lawyer will present evidence on your child’s behalf.
In the end, the judge will determine whether the allegation of your child’s alleged criminal conduct is true or false. If the judge believes the evidence shows beyond a reasonable doubt that your child committed a crime, then this is known as a “true finding.”
Disposition Hearing (Welfare & Institution Code § 702, 725.5)
If the court hands down a true finding, then the next hearing is in regard to your child’s punishment. For adults, this is known as a sentencing hearing. For an adolescent, it is known as a disposition hearing.
The disposition hearing can occur right away, or the judge may delay it:
- To receive a social study of your child from a probation officer
- For up to 10 days, if your child is detained
- For up to 30 days after the petition was filed, if the minor is not detained, and up to an additional 15 days if there is good cause
The judge will review the entirety of the circumstances to determine an appropriate disposition for your child.
After your child’s jurisdiction and disposition hearings, the case may not be over. Their juvenile crimes lawyer may recommend appealing the decision or punishment. You must file an appeal within 60 days.
If the situation has changed or new evidence has been obtained, then you, your child, or other interested parties may file a petition for modification. This petition may ask the court to change its judgement or penalty or to terminate its jurisdiction over the matter.
Also, five years after your child’s penalty is complete, or anytime after your child turns 18, they can petition the court to seal their case records.
Potential Penalties for Juvenile Crimes
If the judge makes a “true finding” in your child’s case, then the judge has discretion to penalize your child in a variety of ways. Overall, there are three types of dispositions: Dismissal of the case, temporary probation without wardship, or wardship.
Dismissing the Case (Welfare & Institution Code § 782)
There are situations in which despite the allegations being true, the judge does not believe your child should be punished. The judge may find it is your child’s best interests to dismiss the case. You should work with an experienced juvenile crimes lawyer to determine if this outcome is possible.
Probation Without Wardship (Welfare & Institution Code § 725, 729.2, 729.10)
The judge may sentence your child to probation for up to six months without making them a ward of the court. If your child is required to go through probation, both you and your son/daughter must follow a number of conditions. You may be required to participate in educational programs or counseling, with or without your child. Your child may need to abide by a curfew. Your child must attend school without any absences, and they may be required to complete drug or alcohol education or counseling. If they fail to adhere to the rules of probation, a juvenile court judge may make them a ward of the court.
Wardship (Welfare & Institution Code § 726 – 731.1)
Wardship means the judge makes your minor child a ward of the court. The court can continue to exercise authority over your child as if it were a parent. During a wardship, your child may be able to stay at home with you, or they may be removed from the home. There are many potential penalties a judge can utilize under wardship.
- Wardship – Removal from Home
The court may order that your child be removed from your home. This typically occurs if the court deems you or the child’s other parent or guardian incapable of providing appropriate care, your child has failed to reform while on probation in the past, or your child’s welfare requires that custody be taken away from you or the other guardian. If your child is not committed to a juvenile hall, camp, or ranch, or confined to a juvenile detention facility, then they may be placed in foster care, a community care facility, or with a relative.
- Wardship – Juvenile Camp, Ranch, or Hall
When your child is deemed a ward of the court, the judge may decide to send your child to a juvenile camp, ranch, or juvenile hall for a period of time. After they complete their time at this facility, they may be able to return home, or they might be required to go to foster care, a relative’s home, or a community care facility.
- Wardship-Supervised or Unsupervised Probation
As a ward, your child may be required to undergo supervised or unsupervised probation while living at home or a facility. If your child is on supervised probation while at home, they may need to check in with a probation officer or the court on a consistent basis. You may also be required to participate in a counseling or education program with your child.
- Wardship – Confinement
If your child is at least 11-years-old and committed certain serious crimes, then the judge may order that they are confined to a Department of Juvenile Justice facility for a specific or undefined period of time.
Restitution and Fines
Your child may be ordered to pay restitution to the victims, a restitution and/or a wardship fine to the court. These fines can amount to hundreds of dollars, or more than $1,000. Your child could also be required to pay fines they could be charged if they were found guilty of the offense in an adult court. Additionally, as a parent or guardian, you can be found jointly and severally liable for these costs. You may be required to pay the fees if your child cannot. If you cannot afford to pay these fees, you should work with a juvenile crimes lawyer to show the court your inability to pay.
Additional Penalties for Juvenile Cases
There are other consequences that you and your child should know about, including:
- Three Strikes Law – California has a harsh three strikes law. If your child is at least 16-years-old and commits a serious or violent offense, they will receive a strike. If they commit a second serious or violent offense, they receive a second strike and their punishment can be doubled. If your child commits a third serious crime, they may face a significant penalty.
- Registration – Certain crimes require registration if convicted or found to be true. Your child may be forced to register as a sex offender, an arson offender, or a gang offender. This can have a profound impact on their educational and career opportunities.
- Firearms Restrictions – If your child commits a crime listed in Penal Code § 29820, then they can be restricted from possessing or owning a firearm until they turn 30.
At Spolin Law P.C., our juvenile defense lawyers will ensure you and your teen are fully aware of the potential consequences of a conviction. We will also explain how a true finding can lead to collateral consequences, such as registration requirements, firearms restrictions, educational and career difficulties, and much more.
When a Juvenile Can be Tried as an Adult
Proposition 57 passed in November 2016, and it changed how charges against minors are filed in juvenile court. A prosecutor may file a motion to transfer a juvenile case to the adult court system if:
- Your child is at least 16-years-old and has been accused of a felony
- Your child is 14 or 15-years-old and accused of a crime listed in Welfare & Institution Code § 707(b).
These offenses listed in Welfare & Institution Code § 707(b) include, but are not limited to:
- Murder or attempted murder
- Voluntary manslaughter
- A lewd or lascivious act
- Oral copulation by force, violence, duress, menace, or threat of great bodily harm
- Kidnapping or kidnapping for ransom
- Assault with a firearm
- A felony offense in which the minor personally used a weapon
- A violent felony
- Aggravated mayhem
When a judge is deciding whether your child’s case should move to the adult court system, they will consider:
- The degree of criminal sophistication exhibited by your child
- Whether your child can be rehabilitated before the juvenile court’s jurisdiction over them expires
- Your child’s delinquent history
- The success of previous attempts by the juvenile court to rehabilitate your child
- The circumstances and gravity of the alleged offense
Your Child’s Rights During a Juvenile Court Case
The juvenile court system is very different than the adult court system, and your teen does not have all of the same rights as they would within the adult courts. However, your child still has many rights, which should be protected and promoted by a juvenile crimes attorney.
Your child has:
- The right to counsel
- The right against self-incrimination
- The right to cross-examine witnesses
As a parent or guardian, you also have rights during the process, including:
- The right to notice of juvenile proceedings
- The right to be present during juvenile proceedings
- The right to counsel
Contact a Juvenile Crimes Lawyer Immediately
If your adolescent child is in trouble with the law, it is best to call a lawyer right away. At Spolin Law P.C., we will thoroughly review the allegations against your child. Then we will determine the best course of action. We will fight to:
- Get your child out of detention and have them home during the case
- Avoid transfer to the adult court
- Have your child’s case dismissed
- Win your child’s jurisdictional hearing
- Have your child stay at home during their penalty, if they are found to have committed a crime
- Focus the court on your child’s best chance of rehabilitation.