A parent's worst nightmare is to learn that something bad has happened to their child. The teenage years, especially, can be trying for both parents and children. When a parent gets a call that their child has been arrested, the first reactions are fear, anger and disbelief.
The most important thing a parent can do when their child has been arrested or accused of a crime is to immediately call an experienced criminal law attorney.
Long Beach criminal law attorney Matthew Kaestner has three decades of experience handling juvenile court matters involving both felony and misdemeanor charges. His experience began during an assignment as a juvenile court prosecutor in the late 1980's. He has well over two decades on the defense side. Mr. Kaestner's victories in juvenile court include a “not guilty” verdict at trial of a minor charged with attempted murder, a complete exoneration of a minor charged with four counts of robbery and the dismissal of many other serious felony charges.
Mr. Kaestner is a certified criminal law specialist with extensive experience handling juvenile cases. Call Mr. Kaestner directly at (562) 437-0200 when you need immediate attention. To follow is a brief review of the juvenile court process.
THE JUVENILE COURT PROCESS
Any person who has been arrested, juvenile or adult, should demand a lawyer prior to questioning by the police and thereafter remain silent. Both guilty and innocent persons must have legal counsel make any statements to the police.
After an arrest and possible interrogation, the police obtain the arrested minor's information, and the minor is usually photographed and fingerprinted.
When the officers are done processing an arrested juvenile, juvenile, they have several options. A minor can be "counseled and released," without requesting a criminal filing by the district attorney, or they can request that charges be filed. The police can release the juvenile to a parent or guardian and cite the minor to appear in court in the future, or the minor can be detained.
If a decision is made to detain the minor, the county probation department is contacted and the minor is turned over to the probation department for detention at the juvenile hall.
Within three business days (72 hours) of the arrest, a minor who has been detained is required by law to be brought before a Superior Court Judge for a hearing if the charge is a felony or certain misdemeanor offenses. If the charge is a non-violent misdemeanor and the minor is not then on probation, he must be brought to Court within 48 business hours of his arrest. Continued detention of the minor requires a judge to make certain findings justifying continued detention.
As of November of 2016, because of Proposition 57, a district attorney who wishes to prosecute a child older than 13 years for a violent felony, must file a transfer motion in juvenile court. A child who is 16 or 17 is eligible to be transferred on any felony offense. The prosecutor must prove to a judge, that the minor is “unfit” for juvenile court by a preponderance of the evidence concerning 5 criteria.
Juveniles charged in the juvenile court cannot post bail and have no right to receive bail. However, at a minor's first court appearance, the judge must hold a detention proceeding. At this hearing, the Juvenile Court Judge will review a detention report prepared by the probation department. After reviewing the report, the judge should receive any information from the minor's parents and the minor's legal counsel in favor of either detention or release.
A minor's parents have a right to attend the detention hearing and all other hearings in Court. If the minor's parents aren't properly notified and don't attend the detention hearing, they can apply for another hearing in writing and are entitled to have the Court hold another detention hearing within 24 hours.
A Juvenile Court Judge should release a minor unless the Judge makes a finding that further detention is required to insure the safety of the minor or the safety of other persons or property. When a juvenile is detained, he is entitled to a speedy trial (called and "adjudication") on the accusation (called a "Petition") within 15 court days of the minor's first appearance in juvenile Court.
If the prosecutor cannot present evidence to convince the judge that the petition is true within that time, the petition must be dismissed. A juvenile prosecuted in juvenile court IS NOT entitled to a jury trial. Only the judge determines whether the minor committed the crime charged.
A juvenile who was not detained on the petition and who was released prior to his first appearance in court is also entitled to a trial but not within 15 court days.
At the juvenile trial, if the District Attorney presents evidence to convince the trial judge that the charges are true, beyond a reasonable doubt, the petition is "sustained." If the petition is sustained the minor is declared a ward of the court. Many cases that don't charge a serious crime usually end without an adjudication. Many times defense counsel and the prosecution reach a plea bargain and the case is settled.
A juvenile who's been charged with criminal offenses in a juvenile petition, can receive any one of seven possible dispositions. The most lenient result is informal probation called "654 probation." (See Welfare and Institutions Code section 654.) "654 probation" allows the juvenile to remain in his parent's home with conditions monitored by the probation department.
654 probation does not require an adjudication nor that a petition be sustained. The minor simply enters into a temporary probation. If the minor does well for six months, probation is terminated and the case dismissed. If the minor isn't successful, the juvenile proceedings can be resumed and another sentence imposed. 654 probation does not require any admission of guilt on the part of the minor.
A second possible disposition is called deferred entry of judgment or DEJ. DEJ, unlike 654 probation, requires that the minor admit some or all of the allegations contained in the petition. If the minor fulfills the obligations of DEJ, the case is dismissed, usually within 6 months to a year. The minor's obligations under DEJ, usually include school attendance with passing grades and good citizenship, good behavior at home, and no new arrests. If the minor doesn't fulfill his obligations under DEJ, the admission of guilt stands and the minor is then placed on formal juvenile probation.
A third possible disposition on a sustained juvenile petition is called home on probation or HOP. HOP allows the minor to return home under the wardship of the probation department and court. The juvenile's progress is supervised by the probation department. The probation department will monitor school attendance and citizenship, behavior at home, and any community service and counseling that is ordered by the Judge.
A fourth disposition is "suitable placement" in a foster or group home. Suitable placement is usually only ordered when the minor's home environment is not good or the minor, for other reasons, has had a relationship break down with his parents.
A fifth disposition available in a juvenile case is placement in a probation department run camp. Juvenile camps are often referred to as "boot camp." In reality these camps are locked facilities for minors who have been found to commit serious offenses or who have repeated violations of probation. At probation camp, minors must attend school in a structured and regimented environment. Juvenile camp is either short term or long term camp usually varying between six months and one year.
A final disposition, usually reserved for very serious offenses or repeated failures on probation, is a commitment to the California Youth Authority (CYA) now known as the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). DJJ is usually used by the Juvenile Court as a last resort. DJJ is a branch of the adult California Department of Corrections. DJJ is, in essence, a prison for juvenile offenders. Minors sent to DJJ are held for a period of time based upon a matrix. The matrix sets a release date based upon the nature of the crime, the offender's history and based upon the offender's behavior in DJJ. A typical term is anywhere from 14 to 26 months.
Juvenile court can maintain jurisdiction over a juvenile until the age of 26 years. Jurisdiction and CYA parole usually ends, however, before the age of 26. Lengthy wardships into the mid-twenties are rare and only occur when a minor sent to CYA has repeated parole violations. More information about DJJ can be found at the California Department of Corrections website. [Read more]
Juvenile court jurisdiction usually ends when the minor completes probation or reaches the age of eighteen. A minor who has had a sustained juvenile law case can petition the court to seal his entire juvenile record. This can occur when the minor reaches the age of eighteen or has probation is terminated, whichever comes last. A sealed juvenile record is inaccessible to almost everyone and is eventually destroyed.
For a further information concerning juvenile law matters from an attorney with over 30 years of experience handling juvenile and other serious criminal law cases, call Long Beach Criminal Law Specialist Matthew G. Kaestner directly at (562) 437-0200.