When your child, below the age of the majority (18 years), is charged for committing a crime in Los Angeles, CA, you will need to attend an arraignment hearing in Juvenile court. In juvenile cases, the arraignment hearing is known as the detention hearing. This is when a minor appears before a judge for the first time. In this case, bail is not an option, although the judge has the discretion of deciding whether a minor can go home or must remain in Juvenile custody until a case is determined. At Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer, we specialize in juvenile delinquency cases and can provide invaluable legal counsel.

One of the key reasons to involve an attorney during the early stages of a case is that it is not guaranteed that a judge will release a minor after the detention hearing. We can provide the legal representation you need if your child is detained. In this case, we will request a re-hearing, especially if a judge‘s decision to detain a minor is grounded on questionable evidence. We can help convince the judge otherwise to ensure you have peace of mind as we prepare for the rest of the legal processes.

Detention Hearing overview

Persons under the age of 18 are considered minors. As such, they often don’t go through the usual legal system and are instead sent to a Juvenile Delinquency Court if accused of a criminal offense. This court operates under a unique set of procedures and policies, ensuring that penalties for violations are more corrective than punitive.

If you have never set foot in court before, taking your child through the juvenile court processes may bound to be intimidating. Knowing what to expect can help alleviate some of the stress.

Here is what you need to know:

What is a Detention Hearing?

The detention hearing is when your child will appear before a judge for the first time. This is when the judge will decide whether your child can go home under “home supervision” while the case is underway or they have to remain in juvenile hall. If your child is released, the court may set a strict set of terms and conditions that must be followed to the latter. Sometimes, the conditions of release may involve strict curfew rules or mandatory wearing of a monitoring anklet.

The good news is that prosecutors hardly ever seek to detain minors when it comes to juvenile cases unless this is necessary. The idea of having a juvenile justice system in the first place is to help minors and dissuade them from delinquent ways. Detaining them often seems counterproductive to this goal, meaning that a judge will only choose to detain a minor when this is the best possible solution.

No Right to Bail

It remains imperative to understand that, unlike adults, minors have no right to bail. While adults can post bail to secure their release from jail as they await trial, whether your child can go home or not will highly depend on the outcome of the detention hearing.

A juvenile delinquency attorney can request a rehearing if a judge decides to detain a minor during the detention hearing. Sometimes, it is possible to convince the court to release a child, especially when the detention decision is grounded on unreliable evidence. You need a skilled attorney to help cast doubt on the decision to send your child to juvenile hall.

Detailed Detention Hearing Timelines

Usually, the DA (District Attorney) must file a juvenile delinquency petition within 48 hours following the arrest of a minor. However, the timeline for a detention hearing will depend on the nature of the offenses a minor is accused of committing.

For instance, this hearing may occur within 48 hours from when a minor is sent into the juvenile hall if a case involves a non-serious or non-violent offense. On the other hand, the detention hearing may happen within 72 hours of a minor being accused of committing a misdemeanor or felony involving violence. You must note that these timelines only include court days and not holidays or weekends.

As the parent of a detained minor, you should receive the detention hearing notice as soon as possible once the DA files a juvenile delinquency petition against your child. This is stipulated under California rules of court, Rule 5.482. If you don’t receive the notification and fear not being present during the detention hearing because of inadequate notice, you can always request another detention hearing within 24 hours.

If the judge opts to detain a minor in juvenile hall, a lawyer can request the court for a rehearing, also known as a Dennis H. hearing. This hearing will happen within 3 to 5 court days, depending on the availability of key witnesses whose testimonies need to be heard.

If you don’t request a rehearing or the judge’s decision remains the same after a hearing, your child will have to remain in juvenile detention until the date set for the next court hearing. Minors don’t go through a trial but have a right to a jurisdiction hearing, also referred to as an adjudication hearing.  This hearing typically takes place within 15 days following a minor’s detention. While there is no jury, your child will be entitled to many of the same protections and rights awarded to adults in the usual criminal justice system.

What to Expect During the Detention Hearing

During the detention hearing, a minor is “arraigned.” Here is what typically happens during the hearing:

  • The minor is informed of the charges.
  • An accused minor is informed of their constitutional rights
  • The defendant enters a plea

Minors in the juvenile court system also have rights. They have the right to:

  • Seek legal counsel from an attorney
  • Not self-incriminate
  • Present evidence
  • Cross-examine witnesses testifying against them
  • Subpoena witnesses

Even though minors are expected to enter a plea, this doesn’t mean they enter the usual “guilty” or “not guilty” plea. Instead, this they can:

  • Admit the accusations (plead guilty)
  • Deny the accusations (plead not guilty)
  • Opt not to contest (plead no contest)
  • Deny the accusations on the grounds of insanity (use insanity defense)

Factors Affecting a Judge’s Decision to Release or Detain a Minor

Even though California laws are firmly against detaining minors pending an adjudication hearing, a judge may find it fit not to release a minor because of certain factors.

These factors may include:

Flight Risk

Even though minors are not entitled to bail, they must promise the courts to return to answer their charges. Before a judge can allow your son or daughter to go home, they need assurance that they will not consider escaping or dodging court hearings.

So, how is flight risk determined in juvenile delinquency cases?

A minor can be considered a flight risk based on their past actions or history of fleeing from juvenile detention. If a judge opts to deny release based on this, there is much a criminal defense attorney can do to persuade the court otherwise. For instance, the expert may argue that they were successfully rehabilitated despite the accused past actions and are no longer a flight risk.

Protection of a Minor

In juvenile court, just like in adult court (mainly during family law issues), a judge must decide based on a minor’s best interests. That said, a judge may deny release if a child’s home environment is not considered safe. It could be that the home environment or a minor’s social life is perceived as a critical trigger to their criminal activities. If the court is not assured of releasing a minor into a safe environment, a judge may decide to keep the accused in juvenile hall.

Danger to the Society

Another factor a judge must consider is whether a minor is a danger to other people or their property. Often, detention is perceived as the best option when a child is accused of committing a heinous offense against another individual. A judge will likely send your child into juvenile custody if they are charged with sex crimes or violent crimes. Children with a history of violence are also less likely to be released into home supervision.

History of Violating Juvenile Court Commitments

If this is not the first time a child is being arraigned in juvenile court, a judge must consider their history of adhering to court commitments. Minors who have violated court orders in the past or failed to attend court hearings may be doomed to spend time in juvenile hall pending the adjudication hearing.

There are numerous defenses an attorney can use to increase the odds of your child being released into your custody before their case is determined. For instance, if a judge denies release because your child is a danger to society, your lawyer may table evidence proving otherwise. Even if your child is being accused of a grave or violent offense, they may still be released if your attorney prevents offensive attacks from probation during the detention hearing or rehearing.

It remains imperative to understand that the outcome of the detention hearing can set the tone for the rest of the juvenile criminal process. This is the first hearing, and if it is handled correctly, the rest of the hearings are also likely to yield favorable outcomes. Hence, it is in your best interests not to underestimate the importance of working with a skilled criminal defense lawyer right from the start.

Understanding the Role of Probation during the Detention Hearing

Numerous professionals play significant roles in California’s juvenile justice systems. Apart from prosecutors and criminal defense lawyers, probation offers also play a fundamental part in determining the outcomes of juvenile delinquency cases.

You should expect the involvement of county probation officers in just about every phase of your child’s case. During the arrest phase, a minor will meet with a probation officer after an arrest is made by the police. The probation officer will interview the child once they are taken to juvenile hall.

Juvenile hall is somewhat similar to the county jail, but it is specifically meant for minors. Such detention centers are run by the county probation department. In Los Angeles, there are three juvenile halls run by the Los Angeles County Probation Department Detention Services Bureau.

They include:

  • Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall & Court
  • Barry Nidorf/Sylmar Juvenile Hall & Court
  • Eastlake Juvenile Hall & Court

After the first interview with a probation officer, the expert could decide to:

  • Release a minor to go home under strict probation program rules meant to address an offense’s “root cause” (California’s W&I Code Section 654—diversion program).
  • Release a minor to go home or to an ideal placement under the agreement that they will return on a specified date to meet with a juvenile court judge.
  • Detain a minor in juvenile hall pending a detention hearing

It remains imperative to understand that county probation officers are tasked with making recommendations to a judge or district attorney. Their recommendations play a significant role in dictating how a case is handled. Moreover, probation officers are also tasked with supervising minors placed on probation.

A probation officer can recommend the maturity and capabilities of an accused minor and their attitude and that of their parent or guardian. The authority can also make recommendations whether:

  • The DA (District Attorney) should file a petition and kick start a case against a minor
  • An accused minor is “fit” to go through a trial in the juvenile justice system.
  • The conduct of an accused minor involved violence or a threat of violence against another person or their property
  • A minor should be subjected to formal court action based on their conduct at home, school, or within the community.
  • The court-ordered disposition is desirable based on the facts of a case.

The probation officer must be present during the detention hearing and provide the court with a detailed report with recommendations. Bear in mind that the officer is tasked with investigating a case and the conduct, social issues, and criminal history of a minor. In juvenile court, the word of a probation officer is deemed the bible’s truth, meaning that a judge may deny the release of a juvenile based on the expert’s recommendations.

Even probation officers are humans and prone to error. Sometimes, they may misrepresent the facts of a case and fail to provide an accurate report. If this happens and your child is sent to juvenile court after a detention hearing, a skilled attorney can provide invaluable assistance. Your child may be released into your custody if your lawyer can prove that the probation officer’s report had certain inaccuracies.

Understanding The Roles of a Minor’s Parent/Guardian during the Detention Hearing

Under usual circumstances, parents have the right to decide on all matters regarding their child’s welfare. However, things are a bit different when a minor faces criminal accusation proceedings in California juvenile court. In this case, the child has the right to make the final decisions. While it is common for conflicts to arise between the decisions of a child and those of a parent, parents still have a significant role to play to ensure their loved ones enjoy the most favorable outcome.

So, what roles can you play as a parent to help your child in juvenile court?

First, you must ensure you are present during all court hearings. Take the time to help your child understand their case’s immediate and future consequences and how they can ensure their matter is resolved in the best way possible. Most importantly, explain the role of their attorney in mitigating the direct and collateral consequences of the accusations they face.

During the court process, the court may need your views on your child’s overall conduct. Your testimony may play a vital role during all phases of the case, including the detention and jurisdiction hearing. It is in your best interests to seek legal counsel before deciding how to give your testimony in court.

When a delinquent child finds themselves brushing shoulders with the law, it is normal for a parent to feel disappointed or downright angry. Depending on a child’s delinquent history, you may even want the court to teach them a lesson. Even though you may not want your loved one to have a criminal record, you may think it is harmless to have them detained in juvenile hall pending the adjudication hearing.

Well, the juvenile hall is not so different from the county jail. The conditions there are not the most pleasant, not to mention that your child may have to mingle with other delinquent kids who may be older or even dangerous. Sometimes, the aftermath of staying in the juvenile hall may be detrimental to the welfare and behavior of a loved one.

That said, avoid making hasty decisions. The best way to achieve the best outcome is to seek the counsel of an experienced criminal defense lawyer. The expert will guide you on what to say and perhaps propose the safest ways to “teach your child a lesson.”

Find a Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer Near Me

If your child is accused of a juvenile crime, we can provide invaluable legal counsel and representation.  The juvenile justice system in Los Angeles, CA, is complex, and it is crucial to have an attorney in your corner right from the detention hearing. At Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer, we understand what is at stake and can implement the best defense strategies to ensure your loved one is freed from juvenile hall. Contact us now at 310-502-1314 for a free and confidential consultation.