UNDERSTANDING JUVENILE COURTS IN California
When a young person runs into trouble with the law in California, whether guilty or not, the standard justice system most Americans know is not the one employed. Juvenile courts operate with many different structures and guidelines, often leaving it up to parents to ensure their child is properly protected.
Martens Law Firm represents accused children and their parents. Contact us today.
Protecting the Rights of Your Child
Many parents are surprised to learn that police in California are allowed to question a child without a parent present, or without their knowledge or consent.
Police, including those in Visalia, are also allowed to use deception or lies to solicit information from suspects, no matter their age. This particular practice has caused many innocent adults to inadvertently walk their way into a confession. With children, it can be an even more dangerous situation.
Children are often simply not equipped with the tools or understanding to face such challenges alone, and as a result, can be more easily manipulated toward an outcome. This means it's up to the adults in that child's life to make sure they have the proper legal representation.
About the Juvenile Delinquency Court
Juvenile Delinquency Court in California handles misdemeanor and felony charges against minors, as well as certain truancy violations. Cases are adjudicated through a series of hearings, with the ultimate decision of what happens to the child being left up to a judge. There are no jury trials in juvenile court.
Dispositions are used in lieu of sentences and can range anywhere from probation to a stay in the California Youth Facility, where the state houses its young offenders. Convictions in juvenile court, technically called “sustained petitions,” do still count under California's 3-Strike Rule.
Realizing that any criminal conviction can remain with a child throughout their entire lifetime, many parents recognize the need to protect their children from even the remote possibility of a prosecution.
When an underage defendant finds their name on the docket at the Juvenile Justice Facility in Visalia, it's a serious matter. Most parents in that situation would approach their child's first hearing with a high level of uncertainty about what happens next. Those proceedings are held in Room 2 at the J.J.F. at 11200 Avenue 368 in Visalia.
Adult vs. Juvenile Court
In the juvenile court system, there's no guarantee that a defendant will receive bail or be released to the custody of their parents, even under non-serious charges.
Adults in the criminal justice system are prosecuted for committing crimes, whereas minors face delinquent acts. While children do have the right to be represented by a private attorney in juvenile court, it is the parent's responsibility to make such arrangements. Likewise, parents are expected to make the requests for any records on the matter to remain sealed, something not automatically applied to juvenile cases.
Parents have many responsibilities if their child is facing juvenile court, none more vital than being there for that loved one. It can be a confusing and overwhelming process, one that many parents have felt tempted to let play out to its natural conclusion. This, however, could prove a critical error.
Some parents might also be encouraged to let their child simply take their licks, or as they say, “face the music.” While the process might be viewed as a potential life-lesson to be learned, that's an incredibly risky prospect when the stakes are so very high.
Speak with a Lawyer Before Trusting the Police
Parents have frequently mistaken well-meaning police officers or prosecutors as actually being on their side when the reality is that these individuals are still officers of the court, and are sworn to uphold their duty. Given the opportunity, they can and will use anything said by a defendant, no matter their age, to further the prosecution of their case.
Many people believe wholeheartedly that it's best to always cooperate with law enforcement under all circumstances. Likewise, many believe that innocent people simply do not find themselves on the wrong side of the law. Unfortunately, that is not always the reality of the justice system we have, even when it comes to children.
By circumstance, misidentification, or even just by association, many good kids have been swept up simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Unfortunately, the system is ill-equipped to distinguish between good kids or bad, or the circumstances that lead them there. Instead, it simply processes the names with little regard for the lives affected.
This is why it's so vital for parents who have a child facing juvenile charges to refer to a lawyer. Having proper representation can be a crucial choice, even in seemingly minor cases.
What Should You Do if Your Child Is Facing Juvenile Court?
Remain calm and gather as much information as you can, then retain an experienced juvenile defense lawyer as soon as possible. Do not allow law enforcement or others to convince you that there's no need for proper representation.
Having an advocate in your corner can be a powerful force, and a solid attorney can take many steps toward improving your child's outcome early on. This might include reaching out to the appropriate D.A. or probational officer to address concerns before the official petition is filed.
They can attempt to have charges dismissed or reduced, as well as argue for the child's release. Public defenders, when used, are not assigned until after a petition has been filed, meaning they are unable to help map out an early strategy.
It's important for parents to remember that a charge is by no means an indication of guilt. It's also true that there are no guarantees that the outcome of a case will be fair or just. Countless young people have found themselves trapped in an indifferent system, often through little or no fault of their own.
Fresno Juvenile Criminal Defense Attorney Protecting Your Child's Future
A criminal conviction, wrongful or not, can easily impact whether a child makes it to college, or limit their options in terms of certain careers. In other words, mistakes made during the juvenile court's process can, unfortunately, linger on for a lifetime.
Contact a Visalia criminal defense lawyer at our firm if your child has been charged or is being investigated in Fresno or Visalia for criminal offenses today.