We stand with you, shielding your child from the harsh criminal justice system.
HOW ARE JUVENILE CASES HANDLED?
California juvenile defense is different from typical criminal cases. In the majority of cases, when a minor is accused of a crime the matter is handled within the juvenile delinquency system. The juvenile justice system recognizes that children can be rehabilitated and acts accordingly. Much of the system is focused on the best interests of the minor, working hand in hand with probation to rehabilitate instead of punish. Our goal is to explain behavior, put a minor's best foot forward, and help our clients receive the least severe punishment available.
In working within the juvenile system, we focus on outcomes to minimize the impact of the case on our client's future. We seek outcomes like diversion, deferred entry of judgement, and alternative sentences. These outcomes are more discrete and bring less of the stain of a permanent criminal record. We work to seal records, so the event won't hang over your son or daughter's future.
In serious cases when a fitness hearing is required, we work to keep your child in the juvenile delinquency system by presenting evidence and argument on these elements.
If successful, we then work to lessen the potential punishment your child faces if found guilty. These lesser punishments include probation, home detention, local facility placement, or camp commitment. The harshest outcome that the juvenile delinquent system can pass down is commitment to the California Youth Authority. This is outcome is still preferable to commitment in an adult facility
CAN A CHILD BE TRIED AS AN ADULT?
Yes, California law empowers (and in some cases, demands) the government to prosecute a child accused of a serious felony as an adult. A fitness hearing is held to determine whether the minor is "fit" to be tried within the juvenile system. Welfare and Institutions Code section 707 outlines the process through which the judge conducts a "fitness hearing".
In judging a minor's fitness for juvenile court, the judge will analyze the following five factors:
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 delinquent history.
The success of previous attempts by the juvenile court to rehabilitate the minor.
The circumstances and gravity of the offense alleged in the petition to have been committed by the minor.
HOW ARE THESE FACTORS JUDGED?
1. The degree of criminal sophistication exhibited by the minor.
This is a determination of whether the crime was a spur of the moment or calculated. Teenagers' brains are not fully developed, causing them to make bad decisions based on their inexperience or lack of judgment. The juvenile court looks more favorably on a minor who displayed a lack of judgment attributable to youth. The juvenile court takes a harsher view of a minor who weighed the consequences of his or her actions and decided to break the law.
2. Whether the minor can be rehabilitated prior to the expiration of the juvenile court's jurisdiction.
Typically, minors who are younger are thought to be easier to rehabilitate. For rehabilitative purposes, the juvenile court may exercise jurisdiction until a minor is 25 years old.
3. The minor's previous delinquent history.
The juvenile court is more likely to favor rehabilitation if it doesn't view the minor as "too far gone" done the path of delinquency.
4. Success of previous attempts by the juvenile court to rehabilitate the minor.
The juvenile court is more likely to favor rehabilitation if it views the minor as open to treatment.
5. The circumstances and gravity of the offense alleged in the petition to have been committed by the minor.
This element is largely self-explanatory. The court will weigh the nature of the crime and the details surrounding it. The court considers extenuating or mitigating factors in making its decision.