In the State of California juveniles (persons under the age of 18) will generally have their criminal cases heard in juvenile court. Juvenile Court, in many ways, is very different than adult criminal court. Most notably, since the juvenile court system places strong emphasis on rehabilitation – juvenile offenders are much more likely to receive a penalty:
- Serving the community’s best interests
- Serving the minor’s best interests
- Focused on rehabilitation over incarceration
The differences between adult and juvenile court, and the remarkably different approach the two courts take to sentencing, mean a minor will almost always fare better if their charges are kept within the juvenile court system, rather than be upgraded to adult court.
Differences Between Adult and Juvenile Court
Along with different sentencing motivations, adult and juvenile courts share significant differences you will want to know about prior to your first appearance. While juvenile defendants share many of the constitutional protections afforded to adult defendants, several notable exclusions include:
- Juveniles DO NOT have the right to a jury trial – juvenile cases are decided by a judge.
- Juveniles DO NOT have the right to drug treatment in lieu of confinement.
- Juveniles DO NOT have the right to a preliminary hearing in felony situations.
- Juveniles DO NOT have the right to bail out of jail, or to be released on their own recognizance (OR) pending their case’s outcome.
Even though juveniles are not afforded many of the rights of their criminally accused adult counterparts, they still maintain the constitutional protections:
- Juveniles DO have the right to competent defense counsel.
- Juveniles DO have the right to protection against self-incrimination.
- Juveniles DO have the right to be properly notified of their charges.
- Juveniles DO have the right to confront and cross-examine the witnesses appearing against them.
Potential Outcomes in Juvenile Cases
In many juvenile cases the charges are either cleared completely, or resolved using one of two methods: Informal Probation and Deferred Entry of Judgement.
- Informal Probation is often used for the sentencing of minor juvenile offenses. Governed by California Welfare and Institution Code 654, informal probation is often casually referred to as “654” probation. Under this sentencing structure, minors are placed on informal probation for a designated time prior to admitting any wrongdoing. Juveniles who successfully complete their “654” conditions may earn a dismissal of the charges.
- Deferred Entry of Judgment (DEJ) is generally reserved for cases where there is at least one non-violent felony involved. Through the Deferred Entry of Judgment process, Juveniles avoid spending time in a detention center but must meet with a probation officer, pay any fees and fines, and complete any court-ordered programs. Probation under DEJ is considered formal probation, lasting between one (1) and three (3) years.
Juveniles who complete these programs without violating their conditions will have the benefit of a sealed court record and a fresh start having learned from their mistakes. In cases where these programs are not an option, or if the minor violates the conditions of their probation, incarceration in a juvenile detention facility may result or the case may be moved to adult court. Parents who can afford an attorney knowledgeable and experienced in San Diego juvenile law will help protect their child or loved one from their youthful mistakes, giving them a second chance.
San Diego Juvenile Law Attorneys
At the Law Office of David P. Shapiro, we know the juvenile court system. We understand how the prosecution builds a juvenile case, the tactics they will use against a minor, and how to successfully respond to the allegations. If your son, daughter, or a juvenile you know has been arrested or charged with a crime, you need skilled legal representation fighting on your side. Do not let the courts intimidate your child into accepting a plea agreement out of fear or inexperience with the juvenile system!
We want to talk to you about your case, help you understand the juvenile court process, and answer your questions. Contact the Law Office of David P. Shapiro today for your free consultation by calling 619-295-3555. We believe you deserve answers, and we are standing by to give them to you.