Juvenile Delinquency Attorney | Orange County

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What is Juvenile Delinquency?

When a juvenile commits a crime, it is handled by the juvenile delinquency court. If your child is detained and charged with a crime, the police have the power to release your child to your care or keep him/her in juvenile hall until a detention hearing, which will determine whether your child will get to come home to you or will be kept in jail until further hearings. 

If your child was arrested and charged with a crime, it is extremely important that you contact one of the experienced juvenile defense attorneys at Wallin & Klarich prior to the initial court hearing because your child may be facing spending many months in jail waiting for his/her case to be completed. If your child has been released from jail and will be facing future court hearings he/she will need an experienced juvenile crime law attorney fighting for their freedom. Wallin and Klarich’s attorneys have been successfully defending juveniles charged with crimes for over 40 years. We are ready to help your child and your family now.

If you hire our law firm before the detention hearing we will do all we can to create a plan with you so your son or daughter will be supervised while the case is ongoing. If we can convince the court that your child will be supervised then that will increase the chances that the judge will release him/her while the juvenile crime case is ongoing. 

Categories Of Juvenile Crimes

There are three types of juvenile cases that a minor may be involved in. These include:

  • Status offenses
  • Delinquency offenses
  • Juvenile being tried as an adult.

Juvenile Status Offenses

Status offenses are acts that would be otherwise legal if committed by an adult. These can be minor offenses like truancy from school or violation of curfew or can be more serious offenses that are specifically illegal by virtue of the person’s status as a minor.

For example, in California, a juvenile is generally prohibited from possessing alcoholic beverages (California Business and Professions Code section 25622) or from driving with a 0.01% blood alcohol level (California Vehicle Code section 23136) until he or she reaches the age of 21.

Juvenile Delinquency Offenses

A delinquency offense is any act that would be a crime regardless of the age of the person who committed it. For example, if a juvenile commits an act of vandalism (California Penal Code section 594), he likely will be having his case heard in the juvenile court.

A delinquency or status offense case may  proceed through three primary stages:

  1. the detention hearing
  2. the jurisdictional hearing
  3. the disposition hearing.

The detention hearing takes place if the defendant is being held in juvenile hall. Similar to the preliminary hearing in an adult criminal case, a defendant in juvenile court may enter a plea of guilty or not guilty during this hearing. The judge may decide to keep him or her in custody or release the juvenile to the custody of his/her parents or legal guardian if the judge determines the minor is not a serious risk to the community.

The jurisdictional hearing is essentially a trial, but it differs from a typical criminal case in that a minor facing a criminal charge in juvenile court does not have a constitutional right to a jury trial. Instead, the case is tried and decided by a juvenile court judge. During this hearing, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The minor should hire an experienced juvenile crime law firm like Wallin and Klarich to represent them at this trial. 

If the juvenile defendant is found guilty, the judge is said to have “sustained the People’s petition,” and the case will proceed to a disposition hearing for determination of a sentence. A disposition hearing is similar to a “sentencing hearing” in adult criminal court. If the judge finds a minor guilty of a juvenile crime the juvenile can be sentenced to juvenile hall for the maximum time provided for by law for that criminal offense. In addition, the minor can be fined and be ordered to serve a period of time on court-supervised probation. In some cases, the parents of the minor can be held legally responsible for the fine imposed upon the juvenile. Typical sentences in juvenile cases involve serving time in juvenile hall, as well as fines. 

Trial As An Adult

Under Proposition 21, California law permits a juvenile over the age of 16 to be tried as an adult for any crime under. Before a juvenile can be tried as an adult, the court must make a determination of his or her fitness to stand trial as an adult. The decision will turn on whether the treatment, training, and care programs of the juvenile system would be effective in rehabilitating the minor, and whether the court believes these programs would be able to reasonably deter the minor from future criminal behavior. This involves reviewing multiple factors concerning the case and the defendant’s circumstances, including:

  • The gravity of the offense and the circumstances of the case
  • The minor’s degree of criminal sophistication
  • Whether rehabilitation could be achieved prior to the expiration of the juvenile court’s jurisdiction
  • History of delinquency
  • Whether past attempts at rehabilitating the minor by the juvenile court have been effective.

If the court determines that the juvenile should be tried as an adult, the case will be moved into the adult court system, and, if found guilty, the defendant can be punished in the same manner that an adult would be punished for the crime he or she committed.

Between the ages of 14-16, however, the juvenile can only be tried as an adult for serious violent or sex-related crimes, such as:

  • Murder with special circumstances (if the minor personally killed the victim)
  • Rape with force, violence, or threat of great bodily harm
  • Spousal rape with force, violence, or threat of great bodily harm
  • Forcible sex in concert with another
  • Lewd and lascivious acts on a child under 14 with force, violence, or threat of great bodily injury
  • Forcible sexual penetration
  • Sodomy or oral copulation by force, violence, or threat of great bodily injury.

When Can Minors Be Tried As An Adult?  

Minors at least 14 years old may face prosecution as an adult in the state of California. There are two ways in which minors ages 14 to 17 may be tried as an adult in a California Superior Court:

  1. An eligible minor is automatically prosecuted as an adult for certain aggravated offenses include 
  • Murder with special circumstances if the prosecutor alleges that the minor personally killed the victim;
  • Pre-determined sex offenses if the prosecutor alleges that the minor personally committed the offense and other aggravating circumstances
  1. A prosecutor files a petition for a “fitness” hearing in juvenile court. If the juvenile court judge finds the minor “unfit” for rehabilitation, the minor will be prosecuted as an adult

What is a Juvenile Court Fitness Hearing?

During a fitness hearing, a juvenile court judge decides whether your child can be rehabilitated or is “fit” for the juvenile court system, based upon an evaluation of the following five criteria:

  • The degree of criminal sophistication exhibited by the minor.
  •  Whether the minor can be rehabilitated prior to the expiration of the juvenile court’s jurisdiction.
  • The minor’s previous criminal history 
  • The success of previous attempts by the juvenile court to rehabilitate the minor.
  • The circumstances and seriousness of the offense

If the judge decides that a minor is unlikely to benefit from the rehabilitative services of juvenile delinquency court, the minor is transferred to adult court, where he or she faces the same punishments as an adult. Some of the juvenile crimes that a minor can be prosecuted as an adult if the court finds them unfit include but are not limited to: 

  • Murder or attempted murder
  • Arson causing great bodily injury or of an inhabited structure;
  • Robbery
  • Sexual Offenses- Certain sexual offenses in which force, violence, or threat of great bodily harm occurred. 
  • Kidnapping for ransom, purposes of robbery, or with bodily harm
  • Assault with a firearm or destructive device or by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury
  • Drug Offenses- Manufacturing, compounding, or selling one-half ounce or more of a salt or solution of a controlled substance specified in Health & Safety Code 11055(e)
  • Violent felonies under Penal Code 186.22(b): criminal street gang sentencing enhancement

Punishments & Sentencing for Juvenile Crimes | What You’re Facing

Assuming the minor is tried in the juvenile system, there are a variety of available punishments for status and delinquency offenses. Unlike adult offenders, the punishment of these crimes is generally intended to correct the behavior of the offender and teach them to be productive members of society before they reach adulthood. Regardless of the reformative intent, these punishments often carry life-long consequences. These punishments can include:

  • Probation
  • Restitution to the victim
  • Fines
  • Community service
  • Time in a correctional facility or Juvenile Hall
  • Placement in a foster home
  • Training programs
  • Secured detention in the Division of Juvenile Justice (formally California Youth Authority).

Juvenile Crimes and California’s Three Strikes Law

Under California’s Three Strikes Law, a prior juvenile felony conviction can be a strike on your child’s record. If your child gets convicted of an adult strike, their prior juvenile strike can count as an adult against him/her. If your child gets three strikes on his/her criminal record, he/she can be sentenced to 25 years to life. In order for a prior juvenile conviction to count as a strike, the following criteria must be met:

  • The defendant was 16 years or older at the time you committed the prior offense
  • The prior offense was a serious or violent felony as listed under California Penal Code sections 1192.7 or 667.5
  • The defendant was found to be a fit under juvenile court law
  • The defendant was determined to be a ward of the court because the  offense listed under section 707 of the California Welfare and Institutions Code

Fight Back | Possible Defenses Against Juvenile Charges

If your child is charged with a juvenile crime in California, you may feel completely overwhelmed and not know where to turn. However, with the experienced attorneys at Wallin & Klarich on your side, you can rest assured we will fight for your child’s freedom. Our law firm has represented juveniles all over Southern California facing a variety of crimes. During over forty years our skilled attorneys have identified many effective defenses to help our juvenile clients achieve the best result possible in their cases. We will review the specifics of your child’s case to determine the best defense, according to the circumstances of his/her case. Some of the defenses that we have identified include:

False Accusations/Wrongful Arrest

One common defense for a variety of juvenile crimes is false accusations. For example, your son wrestles with a friend consensually. . After losing the match, the friend gets mad and claims your son assaulted him. In this case, his attorney will argue that the other party consented to the wrestling match and that no criminal assault occurred. This defense can apply to other crimes as well where we can argue that the alleged victim consented to the conduct.

Illegal Search & Seizure

For drug-related offenses, our attorneys have successfully argued that the police committed an unlawful search and/or seizure of the minors’ possessions. For example, police found drugs in your teen’s car. He did not give police consent to search the vehicle and the drugs were not in plain view. Our attorneys may be able to how the police officer violated your teen’s constitutional rights and illegally searched the car without reasonable cause or a warrant. 

Specific Intent

Your child’s lawyer may argue that he/she had no specific intent to commit the crime. For example, your daughter borrows a $200 jacket from her friend believing she had permission to do so. Later, the parents contact the police claiming that the minor stole the jacket. Our lawyers would show the court that your daughter did not have the specific intent required to steal as her friend consented to her borrowing the jacket.  

Sealing Juvenile Records

In the instance that your child is convicted of a crime in juvenile court, the good news is that juvenile records can be sealed. This means that the record of a person’s crimes before the age of 18 may be hidden from public records, which would otherwise likely negatively impact their ability to find employment or achieve other goals in their life. This prevents the record from being discovered by a background check for employment and allows an applicant with a juvenile record to deny its existence without penalty. The records of any arrest without a formal charge being brought can also be sealed.

The process of sealing a juvenile record is not automatic, and certain types of offenses are ineligible to be sealed, such as murder, arson, robbery, carjacking, many sex offenses, and any other violent felonies. To seal a record, our lawyers would file the appropriate petition in the juvenile court in the county where the conviction occurred. 

In order for a petition to seal a juvenile record to be granted the following conditions must be met:

  • Be 18 years of age or older
  • Have no misdemeanor or felony convictions as an adult involving a crime of moral turpitude (dishonest or immoral behavior)
  • Convince a court that he or she is rehabilitated
  • Have no pending civil litigation as a result of the juvenile criminal acts.

Hiring A Juvenile Crime-Delinquency Defense Attorney | How We Can Help You

When dealing with such serious allegations, it is crucial to hire the best attorney you can find to help your child in their time of need.  At Wallin & Klarich juvenile criminal defense law firm we believe that there are four (4) key aspects that you, the client, should look for when hiring an attorney. 

  1. Experience
  2. Communication
  3. Track record
  4. Ethos – Credibility

Wallin & Klarich | 40+ Years of Experience Defending Juvenile Crimes

Here at Wallin & Klarich, our team of highly-trained attorneys have over 40+ years of experience representing minors accused of committing juvenile crimes. This experience does not only mean that we are competent in the handling of your child’s case, but equally important, we know our way around the local courthouses and we know the local prosecutors. This sometimes overlooked, and often underappreciated knowledge makes it easier to craft a defense that gives your child the highest chance of success possible. 

24/7 Communication With Your Attorney | The Wallin & Klarich Way 

Cases are won in the courtroom but made in the office. At Wallin & Klarich, we believe that communication and transparency are vital to a successful case. With all the paperwork and legality, we have found that when people retain other law firms it is common for the client to get lost in the legal process and only have a vague idea of what is going on in their case. We believe this is why so many people retain our law firm to help them with their child’s juvenile case. By keeping an open line of communication with our juvenile clients and their parents and walking side-by-side with them through the entire legal process we have found that our clients and their families are not only happier but receive a better outcome when communication is kept at the forefront of our efforts. 

Give us a call at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 and let’s begin communicating on how we can get the best outcome for your child’s case. 

Track Record of Success | Wallin & Klarich History of Winning Cases

Words mean nothing if the outcome of your child’s case is not what you were looking for. We are confident enough in our abilities to deliver the best possible outcome in your child’s case that we invite you to read about some of our previous client’s experiences:

Reputation & Ethos | Wallin & Klarich A Reputation You Want on Your Side

There are hundreds of lawyers that claim to have extensive experience defending minors throughout California charged with crimes. It is often difficult to determine which law firm to hire to help you with your child’s criminal case. Throughout our 40 years of representing persons facing criminal charges, many of our cases have been recognized on television, in newspapers and can be viewed throughout the internet. Feel free to check out some of our most noteworthy cases below.

Frequently Asked Questions

No. Once you receive a strike on your record, it cannot be removed. That is why it is of the utmost importance, especially as a juvenile, to have your charges dismissed or lowered to a misdemeanor.

You may be able to seal your juvenile criminal record. The record of a person’s crimes before the age of 18 may be hidden from public records. This prevents the record from being discovered by a background check for employment and allows an applicant with a juvenile record to deny its existence without penalty.

A fitness hearing is where a juvenile court judge will decide whether your child can be rehabilitated or is “fit” for the juvenile court system. The judge will take into account the seriousness of the crime, previous criminal history, and other factors in order to come to a decision.

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