When a minor is accused of a criminal offense in California, that's when California's Welfare and Institutions Code Section 602 kicks in. WIC 602 (as some law professionals call it) lays out specific rules for the courts and law enforcement when dealing with any persons under the age of 18.
The entire system of Juvenile law is completely separate from the rest of California's adult criminal law. In fact, the WIC is not part of the criminal law system at all: it's part of California's civil law system. In adult law, the goal is to penalize or punish the offender. Under juvenile law, the goal is to rehabilitate the minor.
From Arrest to Release
As with other cases, Juvenile law cases begin with an arrest. But that's where the similarity ends. Once law enforcement notifies the probation department and the District Attorney’s office, the accused is not a "defendant," but a "minor." The same goes with all appearances in Juvenile Court. Again, this status is an important distinction from criminal law.
Minors are also not given bail. The initial hearing is called a “detention hearing.” The detention hearing gives Juvenile Court a chance to decide the disposition of the minor:
The decision is made while looking at the circumstances and seriousness at the time of arrest, the minor’s prior record history (if any) and the probation department’s recommendations.
If the case is not considered “serious” (where there are no major injuries or considerable loss of property), the attorney will negotiate a “654”, which is similar to a diversion. If such a negotiation can be agreed upon, the minor may simply be sentenced to perform 80 hours of community service work and ordered to stay out of trouble for a specified period of time. At that point, the court has the option to dismiss the case. If Juvenile Court decides - for any reason - that the case need a trial, the outcome is not decided by a jury, but in front of a judge only.
If the judge decides that a criminal penalty is required, the sentence is typically:
At the end of a juvenile case, your attorney will move to seal a juvenile record. Once the record is sealed, the record will no longer be made available to any potential employer, company or institution (including colleges), thus avoiding any adversity that an open record could cause.
Note that if any peace officer comes to question any minor regarding any accusation or case, you (as the parent or guardian) may require that you remain present during any such questioning. This right is similar to the right of an adult exercising his or her right to have an attorney present. Either way, you and your minor must not offer any statement unless you have an attorney’s advice.
Proper Defense, Effective Solution
The Law Offices of Stull & Stull has the utmost experience and expertise in juvenile law. Orange County Attorney Adam Stull previously acted as a juvenile prosecutor and handled nearly type of juvenile case in existence, including but not limited to murder, arson, burglary, theft, sex offences and driving under the influence cases, among others. We are very familiar with the restricted nuances involved in juvenile law cases.
Our familiarity extends to experience: how the probation department, district attorneys, and judges will react and what they may recommend or rule. juvenile cases gives the Law Offices of Stull & Stull the experienced advantage of being able to respond appropriately, as well as to propose lawful alternatives to juvenile penalties or sentences; which can otherwise end up being unnecessarily harsh or unjust.
If you have or know a minor who has been accused or involved in a juvenile offense, please contact our offices immediately so we may educate you and discuss available options for the minor.
Our initial consultations in juvenile cases are free and confidential.
The Law Offices of Stull & Stull has more than 45 years of combined criminal trial experience in Orange County as well as Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Kern, Tulare, Fresno and Ventura counties. The Law Office of Stull & Stull is based in Laguna Beach, California.