When a minor under 18 allegedly commits a crime in the state of California, their case will be handled through the juvenile court system.

The same laws apply to unlawful acts by a juvenile as well as an adult, but the procedures and penalties for juvenile crimes are significantly different from an adult criminal court.

For instance, in a juvenile proceeding, there is no jury to decide guilt or innocence and the process is much less formal in front of the judge.

Also, in a juvenile delinquency court, a trial is known as an “adjudication hearing,” and only the judge decides if the minor committed the crime and whether they should be punished.

I have many parents calling me because their children have been arrested or they’ve been cited in court.  They’ve been sent into the Sylmar Juvenile Court, which controls the San Fernando Valley as far as juvenile cases go.

If you or your child or minor has received a notice to appear in the Sylmar Juvenile Court or they’ve been arrested and are in custody and ready to appear, that means they’ve committed some sort of a crime in the San Fernando Valley and the bottom line is, they need help.

Our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys will provide a closer look below at the juvenile process after an arrest.

Notification to Probation Department

What typically will happen if the person gets cited into court, is that first, the probation department will get notification of the activities of whatever the crime is that the juvenile or minor was involved with.

Then they’re going to decide whether the case is heard in court or whether they’re going to intervene and utilize one of their programs to resolve the matter.

If the probation department gets involved and there’s no case filed in the Juvenile Court, that’s a much better scenario for your loved one than them having to appear in the Juvenile Court in the San Fernando Valley.

This is something that can be dealt with by your attorney if you have a loved one who’s been cited into the Juvenile Court or who has been arrested and has a case, get somebody like me who’s been doing this nearly 30 years and has a lot of experience with exactly how to handle the case; who to contact; and what type of a strategy to employ.

Send Case to Juvenile Court

If the probation department does not handle the matter and they send the matter into the Juvenile Court, then you’re in a position where the judge will hear the case.

The District Attorney’s office in the Sylmar Juvenile Courthouse will file criminal charges against your minor.

You’re entitled to have an attorney there with your minor and the judge will first address whether or not your loved one is going to be taken into custody and held during the pendency of the case for the safety of themselves and the public, or whether it is a scenario where they can be released.

Sometimes with an ankle bracelet so the court can track their movements.  Other times, they’re going to be released just home on probation with you with certain terms and conditions that they have to abide by.

Then there will be an appearance in court, at which time the charges will be given to the minor.

The discovery will be given to the attorney, which is the paperwork and evidence that the prosecutors have and then typically we’ll order a probation report where the probation department will:

  • interview the parents,
  • interview the minor,
  • look at the charge, and
  • write a report for the judge for the next court date and suggestions as to what they think the punishment should be should the minor choose to plead guilty or admit the petition.

Also, the District attorney’s office will weigh in at the time of the next court appearance to say what they think, and then, of course, your attorney gets to say what they have to say and try to work something out so either the minor is defended if they’re innocent; if they’re guilty try to work something out to protect their criminal record.

You don’t want your minor to take a conviction that can’t be taken off their record.  When we talk about taking something off a minor’s record, we’re talking about what’s called a Motion to Seal and Destroy a record.

If that’s granted, then no one will be able to find it, including the police.  That’s typically the ultimate goal when you’re talking about a juvenile case where someone has to admit or acknowledge that they’ve done something criminal.

Common Juvenile Crimes in California

There are numerous types of misdemeanor and felony crimes that are committed by juveniles in the state of California, including:

  • Penal Code 594 PC – vandalism and graffiti,
  • Penal Code 594.6 PC – possessing graffiti tools,
  • Penal Code 459 PC – burglary,
  • Penal Code 602 PC – trespassing,
  • Penal Code 484 PC – petty theft,
  • Penal Code 487 PC – grand theft auto,
  • Penal Code 240 PC – assault,
  • Penal Code 211 PC – robbery,
  • Penal Code 459.5 – shoplifting,
  • Vehicle Code 10851 VC – joyriding,
  • Minor in possession of alcohol or marijuana,
  • Weapons charges,
  • Gang-related crimes,
  • Sexting.

When a minor is arrested, they will appear in a juvenile court under a petition, such as the following:

  • 601 petition—alleges “status offenses,” which are crimes only minors can commit, such as truancy and breaking curfew. If sustained, the juvenile will be categorized as a “status offender.”
  • 602 petition—under Welfare and Institutions Code 602, these are similar to misdemeanor or felony charges if they were an adult. If sustained, they are classified as a “delinquent” and made a “ward of the court” which means the court will take responsibility for control and treatment of the minor. Only the judge will now determine a disposition deemed most suited to rehabilitate the child.

Defending Juveniles in Los Angeles County

Juvenile cases can carry bad punishments and also bad results, as far as your future record.

If your child is under investigation or arrested for a crime, you will need legal help from a criminal defense lawyer with experience handling minors.

Under California Welfare and Institutions Code 654, your child’s case might get diverted to informal probation before a petition filing occurs.

If granted informal probation, your child won’t admit wrongdoing and the charges will be dismissed after completing the program.

Get an attorney right away.  You’ve come to the right place.  I worked for the District Attorney’s office in 1992 and in 1993 I worked for a Superior Court Judge as his right-hand man.

In 1994, I started doing juvenile cases and helping people just like your son and daughter help their records and move on to live a prosperous life.

Hedding Law Firm is based in LA County and offers a free case evaluation at 213-542-0940.