The juvenile delinquency court is for children who are alleged to have committed crimes prior to their eighteenth birthday. The goals of the juvenile delinquency system are rehabilitation of children and protection of the public. The majority of children who are charged with committing crimes and are not given a diversion program will have their cases heard in the juvenile delinquency court.
Typically, the child will be appointed a Public Defender at his/her first court appearance, where the attorney will provide the parent and child with the contact information for the office. Often the attorney will provide the child with an appointment date and time at their first court appearance. If this is not available for some reason, the parent or child must then call the Public Defender's Office to schedule an appointment with the child's attorney. In a juvenile delinquency action the attorney for the child is appointed to represent the child.
At the child’s appointment, the attorney will first meet with the child alone confidentially. The attorney will ask the child to tell the attorney what occurred leading up to their citation (ticket) or arrest. It is important the child tell the attorney everything about his/her case. Their conversation with the attorney is completely confidential and will not be revealed to the prosecutor, the judge, or the parents without permission of the child. The reason that the attorney meets with the child in a confidential setting without the parents present is for the child's protection to ensure that the child's version of events remains completely confidential. In addition, it can be difficult for a child to provide a true and accurate recitation of what occurred if his/her parent(s) are present. The attorney will then meet with the child and the parent(s) to discuss the options available for the child.
If your child has been charged in Juvenile Court in Yolo County, his/her case will proceed in the following manner:
If a police officer has probable cause to believe that a juvenile has committed a crime he or she can arrest the juvenile and bring them before a probation officer. However, the police officer in many instances is not required to arrest the juvenile even when they have probable cause. In this case he or she may also give the juvenile a citation (ticket) to appear later in front of a probation officer.
Meeting with the Child, Parent, and Probation Officer
After being arrested or receiving a citation the child will then be brought before a probation officer. The probation officer will interview the child and his family about the circumstances of family, school, and social history. The probation officer will also interview the child about the circumstances surrounding his/her arrest. The child has the absolute right to not answer the questions regarding the events surrounding his or her arrest and request to speak with an attorney before doing so. This is advised!
If the child has been arrested the probation officer in many instances has the ability to release the juvenile on a contract with rules the juvenile will have to follow.
The child’s first appearance in court is called the detention hearing. Parent and child will be advised of the charges and asked if the child has a private attorney, or will need the assistance of the Public Defender. If the child needs a Public Defender, he or she may request one from the court.
If the child is in custody the child's attorney may request that he/she be released from custody. The judge may release the child, release the child on a contract with certain rules that he or she must follow, or keep the child detained at the juvenile detention facility.
Typically the child must enter a plea at the detention hearing. A plea is when he or she enters a “Denial”, “Nolo Contendere” (No Contest) or “Admission.” The child's attorney can explain the differences to the parent and child. If the child enters a denial and he or she is in custody, the child has a right to a contested jurisdictional hearing (trial) in fifteen court days (not including weekends and holidays). If the child is not in custody, he or she has a right to a contested jurisdictional hearing (trial) within thirty calendar days.
If it is necessary to continue the child's case beyond that deadline in order to prepare his/her case, he/she may be asked to “waive time.” Waiving time is common for those clients who are out of custody as it allows the child's attorney more time to be flexible with schedules in setting future court dates and appointments. If the child agrees to waive time, he/she is not giving up his/her right to have a contested juvenile hearing (trial) just the right to have one within the time period required.
Uncontested Jurisdictional Hearing
After the child has discussed his/her case with his/her attorney, the child's attorney will discuss the case with the District Attorney and the Court to see whether an agreeable resolution can be reached. The purpose of the uncontested jurisdictional hearing is simply to determine if a resolution can be reached short of proceeding to contested jurisdictional hearing.
Contested Jurisdictional Hearing
This is the trial. In California, with one limited exception, in juvenile court, juveniles do not have a right to a trial by jury. As such, the judge will decide whether or not the allegations have been sustained (proven). At the contested jurisdictional hearing, your child is presumed innocent and the charges cannot be sustained unless the District Attorney has proven each element of each offense by proof beyond a reasonable doubt. If the allegations are not sustained (not proven) your son or daughter's case ends. If some or all of the allegations have been sustained (proven) your son or daughter's case will proceed to disposition.
This is the court proceeding where the judge will decide what consequence will be imposed as a result of the sustained allegations. The probation department will interview the parents and the juvenile prior to the disposition hearing. It will write a report and make a recommendation to the judge as to what the probation department believes appropriate consequence should be. Ultimately, the judge will decide what consequence will be imposed.
Questions or comments?
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Last Updated: 10/2014