One of the most stressful things that a parent can experience is having their child arrested. Your child’s future could be ruined by a criminal conviction, so you should hire an experienced juvenile crimes lawyer immediately.
One of the first steps you should take is contacting an attorney who knows how a juvenile criminal case works. Your juvenile attorney can help you navigate this process successfully.
The Initial Contact
When police make contact with a minor, it can be very different than with an adult. Police have wide discretion on how to deal with someone who is under 18.
The police can choose to simply issue the minor a “warning.” In California, issuing a warning and then releasing the minor is referred to as a “counsel and release.”1 There is no follow up needed with the courts and nothing added to your child’s juvenile criminal record. The police can also detain the minor until a parent arrives to pick him or her up. However, if this happens, the parent will likely be issued a citation to appear in court with the child at a later date.
The police may, in the alternative, decide to hold the juvenile in custody. This results in a referral to a juvenile court, and is much more serious than a simple counsel and release.
Once the case is sent to juvenile court, the prosecutor has wide discretion. They may decide to dismiss the case or handle the case informally. In fact, about 45% of juvenile cases each year are handled this way.2
Depending on factors including the severity of the offense, the age of the minor, and the minor’s past record, the case could then go through formal proceedings. This begins with a filing of petition in the court, and an arraignment where the minor is formally charged.
At the arraignment, the judge will decide whether the minor should be held in custody or released while the case is pending. In the majority of cases, the minor is able to return home while awaiting future court hearings under specific conditions outlined by the court.
Once formal proceedings have begun, several outcomes are possible. First, the prosecutor may offer—and the juvenile may accept—a plea bargain. The judge could order the minor to attend a program, thus “diverting” the case but maintaining jurisdiction over the case until the program is completed. If the case does not resolve by way of “plea bargain,” the matter will go to a court trial. At the trial, both the prosecution and the defense will present witnesses and other evidence. The minor may choose to testify after consulting with his or her lawyer. The court will then make a finding of either guilty or not guilty.
If the court finds the minor not guilty, he is free to go and the case is over. However, if the court finds the minor guilty, the case will be continued for a “disposition hearing” (the equivalent of the sentencing hearing in adult court). At the disposition hearing, the judge will decide what the appropriate sentence is for the minor. This sentence can range from time in custody to probation under various terms and conditions.
Hire and Experienced Juvenile Defense Attorney
Protecting your child’s future should be your number one priority, and the first step in that process is hiring an experienced juvenile criminal defense law firm. At Wallin and Klarich, our juvenile defense attorneys have over 35 years of experience in successfully defending minors charged with juvenile crimes.
With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney can help you no matter your location.
Call us at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free telephone consultation. We will get through this together.