Children under the age of 18 typically do not face adult court proceedings. Instead, minors who are accused of breaking the law must appear in delinquency court. During the delinquency hearing, minors are read out the charges they face. It is at this time that the court will consider the age of the minor, the severity of the allegations and whether the minor has a criminal record to determine what actions should be taken.
As a result of the delinquency hearings, the court can order:
- The minor to live with his or her parents or guardians under court supervision.
- Probation with mandatory placement with a relative, foster home, group home or institution.
- Attendance at probation camp.
- A sentence at the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Division of Juvenile Justice.
The consequences and penalties that can result from a juvenile crime are significantly different from adult court, but delinquency hearings should not be taken lightly. If your child has been arrested, it is important that you make an effort to appear at these proceedings. Your presence and support will help. It can also prove useful to provide evidence of your child’s accomplishments, such as report cards, participation in youth programs or proof of counseling services received.
The many potential hearings that you and your child should face together include the pre-trial hearing, the jurisdictional hearing, and the dispositional hearing. At the pre-trial hearing, it will be determined if the case can be handled without a trial. At the jurisdictional hearing, a judge will determine if the juvenile committed a crime. It is at this time that a lawyer can examine witnesses, object to evidence, present evidence, and argue the case in court. At the dispositional hearing, the judge will decide who is responsible for the minor’s care, treatment, and guidance.
There is a lot at stake in a juvenile case. It is important that the best interests of the minor are protected throughout the process. If someone in your family has a delinquency hearing, get an experienced Orange County criminal defense attorney on your side.