What Is the Juvenile Criminal Justice Process in California?

Adolescence can be a bumpy journey where minors often learn to navigate the world by making mistakes. Unfortunately, some of the choices they make can break the law and result in an encounter with police. When juveniles are charged with a crime, they must go through a criminal process. Minors have the same rights as adults, but because juvenile courts are concerned with rehabilitation as opposed to punishment, the system might be a bit different.

The Arrest Process

If a person under 18 years of age is suspected of committing a juvenile crime, the police can make an arrest.

Depending on the facts of the incident, after the arrest, the child may be:

  • Reprimanded and sent home
  • Sent to an agency that provides care and social services
  • Required to return to the station
  • Given a Notice to Appear
  • Placed in juvenile hall

If the police decide to interrogate the juvenile about the incident, as with an adult, they must inform them of their Miranda Rights. This warning lets the child know that they do not have to answer the investigator’s questions, and they can request to have an attorney present.

In California, if a person 15 years of age or younger is arrested, before police can question them, they must first speak with an attorney.

Notice to Appear

The Notice to Appear lets the child and their parents know the next steps in the process. Typically, the document will have a date and time to meet with a probation officer. Their role is to determine how to proceed with the case.

At the probation meeting, the child could:

  • Receive a lecture from the officer and be sent home
  • Be ordered to participate in a voluntary program instead of being sent to court
  • Have their case forwarded to the district attorney, who will determine if a petition should be filed to take the matter to court
  • Be kept in detention until they attend a court hearing

Juvenile Court

Generally, a person under 18 years of age will be sent to juvenile court. Judges, as opposed to juries, hear these types of cases. If the evidence proves beyond a reasonable doubt that the minor committed the offense, the judge will sustain the district attorney’s petition, meaning that the child is found responsible for the crime.

Depending on the circumstances, if the petition is sustained, the child could be:

  • Placed on informal probation and must comply with specific terms to have their case dismissed
  • Put on a deferred entry of judgment, which requires the minor to admit guilt, but the charges will be dismissed after successfully completing the program
  • Placed on formal probation which can be done at home or a camp
  • Committed to the Division of Juvenile Justice, which is the most severe type of sanction in juvenile cases

Adult Court

Under some circumstances, a child’s case could be transferred to adult court. Typically, this happens when a person 16 years of age or older commits a serious or violent crime.

Offenses that could land a minor in adult court include, but are not limited to:

Call The Law Office of Brian C. Andritch for a Free Consultation

If your child was charged with a crime, it’s imperative to get skilled legal help right away. Our lawyer has over 18 years of experience and served as a deputy district attorney. With a unique understanding of both sides of the law, and having practiced in juvenile and adult courts, we can provide the dedicated and aggressive representation you and your child need to fight charges.

To discuss your case with our team, call us at (559) 484-2112 or contact us online.