The Key Differences Between Juvenile Court and the Criminal Justice System

Facing criminal charges is a serious matter, whether you are a juvenile or an adult. There are significant differences, however, between juvenile court and Orange County adult court. While the adult criminal justice system serves to prosecute and penalize individuals for breaking the law, juvenile court tends to provide more opportunities for rehabilitation.

Here are a few of the many differences between juvenile court in Orange County and the adult criminal justice system:

  • There is no jury trial. In adult court criminal cases, defendants have the right to a trial by jury. There is no jury present during juvenile cases. Instead, there is a judge or a bench officer who will hear the case.
  • There is no bail. You cannot simply remove your child from juvenile hall by posting bail. Only the court can decide whether or not your child should be released.
  • The terms are different. Juveniles are referred to as minors and not as defendants. The list of charges against juveniles is called a petition and not a complaint. Instead of trials, juvenile court cases involve adjudications or jurisdictional hearings.
  • Parents or guardians will be involved in the proceedings. During adjudication, the judge may speak with the parents or guardians about the child’s behavior. The answers given by the parents could alter the decisions of the judge.
  • Juvenile court is closed to the public. One of the main differences between juvenile and adult court is the child’s right to privacy. With exceptions for serious cases involving strike offenses, juvenile court hearings are closed to the public. Only family members are permitted in the court, which allows juveniles to protect their reputation. It is even possible in some cases to have juvenile records sealed so that future employers will not see past mistakes.
  • Probation options are available. Instead of jail or prison, juveniles may face detention or probation. The court may choose to maintain jurisdiction over the minor, but that is not nearly as harsh as incarceration.

It is important for families involved in juvenile court proceedings to work with an experienced Orange County juvenile crime defense attorney who will ensure that the case remains in juvenile court. The decisions you make during this critical time can have a significant impact on the future of your child.

David A. Stein is skilled criminal defense attorney with a track record of obtaining very successful outcomes for his clients.  If you have been accused of a crime or need help with any criminal matter, contact our law offices today at (949) 445-0040 for a consultation or contact us online by email here.