San Diego Juvenile Crimes Attorney

California’s juvenile justice system is a place intended for reform more than punishment, but that does not make processing a criminal charge against your child any easier. In many juvenile crime cases, kids have made one bad mistake. After the initial proceedings, they are ready to move forward. Whether you are facing a minor shoplifting charge or more serious allegations, you will need the services of an attorney who understands juvenile laws in California.

If your son or daughter has been charged with a crime as a Juvenile in San Diego, you should know that the Juvenile Court system is different from the system for adult criminal defendants. It is important to retain an attorney who is familiar with the differences and who knows how the Juvenile Court operates. There are three types of juvenile crimes recognized by the state:

  • Status offenses. When a minor engages in activities that are legal for adults to participate in, the act is considered a status offense. For instance, playing hooky and drinking under age are considered status offenses, although drinking underage is clearly more serious.
  • Delinquency offenses. Activities that are criminal in nature for any age group are called delinquency offenses. Assault, vandalism, theft, and other crimes are included in this category. Typically, a delinquency offense will be handled in juvenile court.
  • Adult trials. For certain serious crimes, the court may choose to try children aged 16 and older as adults. For violent crimes like murder and sex-related crimes, anyone over the age of 14 can face trial as an adult. If rehabilitation from the crime is likely, the court may lean more toward a juvenile court approach. Adult trials for juveniles are reserved for those who have acted with a degree of criminal sophistication, those who have a history of delinquency, and those who are least likely to successfully complete a rehabilitation program.

What Happens to a Minor After an Arrest?

After a minor has been arrested there is a detention hearing to determine whether the child will be held in custody until the case is heard. Minors are usually detained in Juvenile Hall. The detention hearing is a crucial event in a juvenile criminal case. Unlike an adult proceeding, the juvenile process does not permit bail as a means to be released from detention. The decision on whether to release a minor from custody is in the discretion of the Probation Officer, and requires a formal detention hearing before a Judge.

At the hearing a Judge will decide whether or not to release the child based on certain factors relating to the defendant and the nature of the offense. It is critical to the defense to do everything possible to secure the release of the child, not only for the benefit of the child’s well being, but also to enable a more effective investigation of the case and to prepare the best defense to any charges. Working with an experienced criminal defense lawyer is essential in all juvenile crime cases. The possibility of intimidation and improper procedure in the Juvenile Court is no less than in any other Court. For many children facing criminal charges this is their first interaction with the Court system. Parents can be equally unfamiliar with the rules and rights that go along with a juvenile crime prosecution.

It’s important to remember that the Juvenile delinquency Court is not part of the California Criminal Courts. Instead, it is operated as part of the Civil Court System. The Juvenile Court’s procedures and rules are different from adult criminal proceedings. Juvenile cases demand experience and attention to every detail. Gathering relevant evidence and interviewing witnesses at the earliest moments in your case will provide you with the best chance for a favorable outcome. Decisions on release from detention and whether to transfer a case to adult court are made solely by a Judge, not a jury. Every effort must be made to properly present your defense to the Juvenile Court Judge.

What Will The Judge Decide At The Detention Hearing?

The primary work for a defense lawyer at the detention hearing is to convince the court to release the child. This involves evidence or testimony that the child is not a threat to the general public, there is no risk that the child will commit another criminal offense throughout the course of proceedings and that it is in the child’s welfare to return home to his parents. The courts decision to detain a child rests largely on the nature and circumstances of the alleged offense and if there is an immediate need for the protection of the child or other persons or property. An experienced criminal defense attorney can argue and receive alternative services available from the county to permit the return of the child to the home without the need for detention.

Specific Findings are Required

It is not enough for the court to state that the child is accused of committing some offense in violation of the law, in order to detain the child the court must be satisfied that some other reason for detention exists which can include:

  • Violation of a court order
  • Likelihood that child will flee and to remain in the home would contravene the child’s welfare
  • Detention is necessary for the immediate protection of the child
  • Child has escaped from commitment at some juvenile facility
  • There is a threat posed to some other person or property

There is no automatic rule that a court can establish that will permit the detention of a juvenile. At this hearing the attorney can argue against probation reports indicating that the child is at risk of being placed in the foster care system. If there is a need to remove the child from the home the court is far more likely to permit detention. Gathering evidence showing that the child lives in a stable and well-maintained home which does not place the child’s welfare at risk is important work that should be done in advance of any hearing.

Juvenile Court Penalties

For minor infractions including most status offenses and delinquency offenses, the court has the ability to choose from a range of sentencing possibilities. A child convicted in juvenile court may have to serve in the community, pay fines, pay restitution, go through recommended training and rehabilitation programs, or spend time in a detention center. In some cases, a child will go through a period of probation or be placed in a foster home as a result of the case.

The good news is any conviction in juvenile court will be sealed. Crimes that have taken place before the age of 18 are not accessible through public records. For minors who make the mistake of drinking underage, stealing from a store, or engaging in other criminal activities, the sealed records offer a second chance for young individuals. To have a record sealed, however, the juvenile in question must file a petition and prove he or she has come of age and has not engaged in any subsequent crimes. He or she must also show the court that rehabilitation was successful.

Fighting a Juvenile Crime Charge

Although the system works differently for juvenile matters, securing the services of an experienced legal counselor can help you understand and fight the charges against your child or ward. Some criminal acts like truancy can affect a young person’s ability to get a driver’s license. Other acts can affect a child well into adulthood. If your child or ward is facing charges, it is never too early to seek the advice of a defense attorney.

At the Law Office of George Gedulin in San Diego, we routinely help families navigate the complexities of the juvenile court system. Our goal is to help you and your family move past a juvenile crime charge without any lasting impacts on your child’s future. For more information about our approach to juvenile cases, reach out to our office today.