Los Angeles Juvenile Crime Defense Attorneys
The juvenile justice system
Most minors who are charged with crimes are prosecuted in juvenile court; however, a minor could be prosecuted as an adult in cases involving aggravated felonies with special circumstances. The juvenile justice process begins similarly to the adult criminal justice process, with an arrest and notice to appear in juvenile court for arraignment. While there are similarities, there are also differences. Juvenile arrestees do not have a right to bail; however, they often will be released back into the custody of the parents or guardians after completion of booking and processing. In other circumstances, a juvenile offender may be held in custody in “juvenile hall” pending arraignment if a prior record exists or the offense is an aggravated felony. Juveniles often lack the ability to fully understand the consequences of their actions due their lack of maturity. For this reason, we believe it is inappropriate for a juvenile offender to be held to the same standard as their adult counterpart and suffer the same consequences. A juvenile criminal record can affect a minor’s future and therefore, we believe penalties with an emphasis on rehabilitation, such as diversion or deferred entry of judgment (DEJ) programs are more appropriate than just punishment. Common juvenile offenses are vandalism, theft, possession of marijuana, minor in possession of alcohol, and underage DUI.
Takakjian & Sitkoff, LLP has defended juvenile crimes since 1987. Prior to opening our private criminal defense practice, our criminal defense attorneys were deputy district attorneys in the juvenile court. We understand how important your involvement in your child’s case is to its successful outcome and we advise you on the steps you should take throughout the process. We share your goals — achieving an outcome that ensures your child’s educational and professional ambitions will not be adversely affected by a poor decision made as a youth.
The juvenile court process in California
Police officers have the discretion to book a juvenile offender into a juvenile hall or to release the child to her or his parents. Juvenile defendants also have a right to a trial; however, the matter would be heard and decided upon by a judge in a bench trial, not a jury trial. Your interest and involvement in the proceedings is a crucial aspect of the process. Although you may not be a defendant, the environment you create at home, as well as any proactive measures implemented after learning of your child’s arrest will be taken into consideration by the court. Furthermore, you must appear at all hearings, at which the judge may ask you questions regarding your ability to enforce the orders of the court.
Diversion and Deferred Entry of Judgment programs
The juvenile court system focuses on reform and rehabilitation, unlike the adult criminal justice system, which mainly emphasizes punishment. In each of our juvenile criminal defense cases, we seek out the input of psychologists, therapists, and counselors to ensure our clients receive the most appropriate and beneficial treatment. For example:
- Your child might enter a court approved drug treatment program even though the charge he or she faced was theft related. While the program maybe designed to help juveniles facing juvenile drug crimes, if the root issue was substance abuse, drug treatment and therapy might be more appropriate than theft prevention counseling.
- Likewise, your child may be diverted into alcohol treatment and drunk driving awareness programs in response to an underage DUI or minor in possession charge.
- In juvenile cases involving a violent crime, such as assault and battery, assault with a deadly weapon, or domestic violence, a court approved anger management program would be ordered.
Our goal is to achieve outcomes that result in our juvenile clients receiving the proper rehabilitation and most importantly, a dismissal of all charges after successful completion of the terms set forth by the court.
Juveniles charged as an adult
Juveniles 14 years or older can be tried as adults in cases of serious crimes — such as murder, attempted murder, rape, arson, mayhem, armed robbery or kidnapping to name a few. Although Prop . 21 allows prosecutors to file a criminal complaint against a juvenile directly in adult court depending on the offense, it is more common for the matter to be heard in juvenile court at a “fitness hearing” where the judge in juvenile court decides after considering arguments both from the prosecutor and juvenile defense attorney. If charged as an adult, your child would be subjected to the same procedures and sentencing exposure as an adult criminal defendant.
More information regarding the juvenile court process
To learn more about the juvenile justice system, call Takakjian & Sitkoff, LLP at 888-579-4844 or contact us online. During your free initial consultation, we will provide you with a detailed overview of each of the possible scenarios and options, as well as advising you as to what proactive steps you should be taking. We are available 24/7 to help you.