Juvenile Courts Are Different
HandelontheLaw.com Staff Writer
While some crimes committed by juveniles (people under the age of 18 years) mirror crimes committed by adults, California’s Juvenile Courts have aims and processes differing from those of adult courts. Juvenile Courts focus on educating, counseling and rehabilitating offenders rather than punishing them; consequently, the processes and “punishments” serve those aims.
The Juvenile Court processing consists of 4 basic hearings: detention; fitness; adjudication; and disposition. A Detention Hearing, to which the minor is entitled within 48 hours after arrest, determines whether the juvenile will be released to a responsible adult (normally parents) or must remain in custody during the case. A Fitness Hearing determines whether the juvenile should be tried within the juvenile court system or as an adult and is based such factors as: how criminally sophisticated he/she seems; his/her criminal/delinquent history; whether there will be enough time to rehabilitate him /her while the court has jurisdiction; the results of prior rehabilitation attempts; and the current offense charged. California’s Proposition 21 allows minors to be tried as adults depending on such factors as the minor’s age, the crime charged, and whether the minor is a ward of the State. The Adjudication Hearing is the equivalent of a criminal trial, with the same burden of proof but decided by a lone judge or commissioner rather than a jury. The Disposition Hearing is the proceeding in which the judge issues his/her decision and/or sentence. If the judge finds that the minor has committed the offense, the judge has a variety of sentencing options open to him/her, depending on the seriousness of the offense and other circumstances, including: probation, which can impose conditions such as attending school, obeying a curfew, paying restitution, etc.; probation camp; foster home; group home; juvenile hall; and the Division of Juvenile Justice (think “children’s prison”). Finally, Juvenile Court differs from adult court in that the juvenile offender’s record can be sealed or destroyed for a fresh start, depending on several circumstances. As you can see from the rather complicated processes and aims of Juvenile Court, you should consult/retain an attorney experienced in Juvenile Justice as soon as possible to guide you through the system.
DO’S AND DON’TS
DON’T wait to consult/retain an attorney experienced in Juvenile Justice.
DO understand that the Juvenile process consists of 4 hearings for: detention; fitness; adjudication and disposition.
DO attempt to have your record sealed or destroyed if you were a juvenile offender.
By Kathy Catanzarite
Note from HandelontheLaw.com: This article is to be used as an educational guide only and should not be interpreted as a legal consultation. Readers of this article are advised to seek an attorney if a legal consultation is needed. Laws may vary by state and are subject to change, thus the accuracy of this information can not be guaranteed. Readers act on this information solely at their own risk. Neither the author, handelonthelaw.com, or any of its affiliates shall have any liability stemming from this article.