Los Angeles Juvenile Crimes Defense Lawyer
Occasionally, a minor will run into trouble with the authorities. If your child is under 18 years old, they will most likely be tried as a minor. However, it’s important to note there are some serious criminal offenses, such as murder, rape, or kidnapping, where they may be charged as an adult. The California Juvenile Court System is often complex with its own set of rules and regulations. For example, there is no bail in the juvenile court process. It’s much different than the adult criminal justice system. In the state of California, the juvenile system is designed in theory to focus on rehabilitation over incarceration. However, the legal rights of juvenile offenders are the same as adults. They have the same right to disclosure of criminal charges and a legal defense, but the juvenile system does not have jury trials. Likewise, if your child is arrested for a crime, they should politely decline to answer any questions without a criminal lawyer. It’s possible to be cooperative within reason without giving incriminating statements that will be used against them later in court. Any juvenile arrested in Los Angeles County needs to insist on having their parents or an attorney present before answering specific questions about the allegations against them. Your child’s legal trouble can range from simple petty theft or the possession or alcohol or marijuana, to more serious charges involving robbery or violence. Sometimes, a minor will get arrested for conduct that was undertaken in youthful fun, like a prank. Unfortunately, these charges can have serious and long-lasting consequences for a minor if not handled correctly. Potential consequences include negative impacts on college admissions, job prospects, enlisting in the military, and possibly even prison. In many cases, the substantial collateral damages that juvenile delinquency will cast on your child can only be seen in advance by an experienced juvenile crimes defense attorney. Your child’s future is at stake and you will need a skilled lawyer who knows how to get the best possible outcome in juvenile delinquency court.
Defending in all Los Angeles County Juvenile Courts
If your child had been charged with a crime, it is necessary to hire an attorney with extensive experience in juvenile criminal defense. Attorney Michael Goldstein, is a board member of the Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC), a leading advocate and very respected organization in the Juvenile Justice area. At Goldstein Law Group, we specialize in defending minors accused of any type of criminal offense in the Los Angeles County Juvenile Court System. This includes the Sylmar Juvenile Court, Compton Courthouse, Inglewood Juvenile Courthouse, Eastlake Juvenile Court, Los Padrinos Juvenile Courthouse, and Lancaster Courthouse. Our juvenile defense lawyers work aggressively and can provide pre-filing intervention in an attempt to persuade the prosecutor from filing formal charges in juvenile court. If misdemeanor or felony charges have already been filed against your child, our attorneys will attempt to secure their release at the Juvenile Detention Hearing.
Common Juvenile Crimes
In Los Angeles County, there are a wide range of criminal offenses for minors, but the most common include:
- Theft crimes
- Consumption of alcohol
- Driving under the influence
- Speeding or reckless driving
- Assault and battery crimes
- Marijuana possession
- Drug possession, drug sales and transportation
- Gang crimes
- Vandalism and graffiti
- Gun possession
- Sex crimes
- Solicitation of prostitution
- Murder and attempted murder
As stated above, while the California juvenile system is suppose to focus on rehabilitation rather than incarceration, it does not always work out that way. In some cases, the Los Angeles County prosecutor could pursue a more aggressive approach and seek harsh legal penalties. An important factor in their decision is the age of your child and criminal history. Again, minors charged with a crime don’t have a jury trail. Their case is decided entirely by the judge, but the prosecutor still has the burden to prove all the elements of the crime. By law, any minor who has been arrested and taken into custody has to appear in juvenile court within 48 hours. If your child has been arrested, you need to consult with a Los Angeles juvenile crimes defense lawyer at our law firm immediately. Our attorneys will make an attempt to have your child released at the detention hearing where the judge will make a decision on whether to release your child or remain in custody. The judge’s decision is typically based on several factors, including flight risk, nature of the crime, and prior criminal history. The next step in the juvenile court process is a fitness hearing.
What is a Fitness Hearing?
In some juvenile cases, the Los Angeles County prosecutor can request a fitness hearing, where the judge will decide whether a minor is fit for the juvenile court system or whether they should be tried as an adult, since they allegedly committed a California’s Welfare and Institution Code 707(b) offense. The judge will examine several factors, including the serious nature of the offense and whether the minor is likely to benefit from the rehabilitative services of juvenile delinquency court. Of course, the minor’s criminal history and current age will also play a major role in the decision. If the judge determines the minor won’t benefit from the rehabilitative services, they will get transferred to an adult court.
What is a 602 Proceeding?
Under California Welfare & Institutions Code Section 602, minors arrested for a crime who are less than 18 years old at the time of the offense will typically to go to juvenile court. These are commonly known as a “602 proceeding.” It’s important to note there are no guilty or not guilty decisions in California’s juvenile court system. If the juvenile court judge decides your child reasonably committed the crime, beyond a reasonable doubt, they will sustain the petition filed by the district attorney. If they make your child a ward of the court, it means they are taking responsibility for control and treatment. As stated above, there is no jury and the judge hearing your child’s case decides their fate in juvenile court. However, there are certain serious offenses that will automatically, or have the possibility, of getting tried in an adult court.
Crimes for Minors 14 and Older Tried as an Adult
Under California law, there are circumstances where your child allegedly committed a crime that will automatically get tried in an adult court. There are other serious offenses where they can be tried as an adult, such as those crimes listed under California Welfare & Institutions Code Section 707(b). These offenses include:
- Murder with special circumstances
- Rape with force, violence or threat of great bodily harm
- Forcible sexual penetration
- Lewd and lascivious acts on a child under 14 with force
- Sodomy or oral copulation by force
- Arson causing great bodily injury
- Attempted murder
- Assault with a firearm
- Discharging a firearm into an occupied building
- A felony offense when the minor used a weapon
- A violent felony crime of street gang sentencing enhancement
- Voluntary manslaughter
Prosecutors have the discretion as to how to handle to 707(b) offenses. They can file directly in the adult court or they can request a fitness hearing to let the judge decide.
Under California Welfare and Institutions Code 654, your child’s case might get diverted to informal probation before a petition filing occurs. If your child is granted informal probation, they don’t admit wrongdoing and their charges will be dismissed if they successfully complete the program. Your child can be a ward of the court, but still be allowed to serve their probation at home. In other cases, your child could be placed in foster care, group home, juvenile hall, or in a Los Angeles County probation camp. The terms set by the judge for information probation will typically include anything that is reasonably necessary to rehabilitate your child, including:
- Mandatory school attendance
- Counseling for substance abuse
- Community service
- Restrictions on who they hang around
- Restitution to the victim
- Graffiti removal
If you need assistance in understanding the terms of juvenile probation in Los Angeles County, call our law firm.
Sealing Juvenile Records
If your child was convicted of a juvenile crime and successfully served their sentence, once they are 18 years old, they can file a petition with the court to seal or destroy the record of their conviction and sentence. The decision on whether to grant the petition is typically based of the specific juvenile crime and the length of time passed since sentencing. Clearly, getting your child’s juvenile record sealed or destroyed can be vital to their future opportunities.
Contact a Los Angeles Juvenile Criminal Lawyer
If you child has been accused of committing a crime, they need an experienced Los Angeles juvenile criminal defense attorney to defend them. At Goldstein Law Group, we will closely examine the specific details in order to determine their best legal options. We will negotiate with the prosecutors to help your child receive rehabilitation rather than incarceration. Contact us at 323-461-2000.
Overview of ARC’s Policy Work
California Proposition 57
California Proposition 57 Fact Sheet
California Senate Bill 260
Fair Sentencing for Youths
Governor Jerry Brown Signs SB 261
Governor Brown Signs Criminal Justice Reform Legislation
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