It is not unusual for a minor to commit a crime in California, but it is a big deal for a parent. Every parent expects their children to turn out well, go to school, finish college, and find a suitable job. But even as parents envision a good life for their teenagers, some lose direction and join the criminal world. When that happens, the law takes its course. But juvenile offenders in Los Angeles, CA, are not treated the same as adult offenders. Criminal cases involving minors are handled in the California Juvenile Justice System.
Parents are present throughout the legal process until a judge determines the minor’s case. Thus, it is essential to know your rights and what you can do to influence the outcome of your loved one’s case. At Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer, we will be with you from the beginning to the end of the legal process. We’ll protect your rights, advice, and guide you to ensure a smooth process and a favorable outcome of your loved one’s case.
A Brief Overview of California Juvenile Justice System
Minors are equally involved in crime as adults. A brief look at the history of this county shows an increase in crime among minors. However, California law is still very protective of children. Anyone below the legal age of 18 is considered a minor, hence incapable of making sound judgments. Therefore, they deserve another chance to correct their behavior if they are found to have committed a crime. Unlike the expectations of many people, teenagers are involved in both severe and minor offenses. Their manner of executing a crime is similar to that of adults. That is why it is necessary to take a juvenile offender through a legal process, similar to trials in an adult criminal court, to determine their case and the consequences of their actions.
Anyone below the age of 18 is typically under their parent’s protection. If they commit a crime, parents are equally impacted and the society within which the minor lives. The local communities still consider minors incapable of making huge decisions like organizing and executing crimes. That is why they do not hold juvenile offenders responsible for their actions literally. However, justice has to be served, especially for the victims. That is why offenders must go through a legal process, appear before a juvenile court judge, and have the judge determine their case.
Punishment for crimes committed by minors is not as severe as what adult offenders receive for the same offense. As previously mentioned, the juvenile justice system is more about rehabilitating the juvenile and not punishing them. Thus, the judge could choose to detain the minor in a juvenile hall, allow the youth to go home with their parents under strict conditions, or even let the juvenile go but with a stern warning. All these are based on the seriousness of the alleged offense.
Parents play a significant role in the juvenile justice system. A minor should be under the care and protection of their parent (s) or guardian. When a minor commits a crime, the parent(s) or guardian must be involved through the legal process.
As a parent, you enjoy several rights and privileges, which you could exercise to protect your loved one and ensure that the system only serves your child’s best interests. You might not be aware of all these rights or even how to exercise them. That is why you might need legal help and guidance from the start of the process to the end. An experienced criminal lawyer will advise, guide, and even fight by your side to protect the interests of your loved one.
Your Rights as a Parent in Juvenile Cases
Parents have a significant role to play in the lives of youngsters. Your protection, provision, and guidance are essential in keeping your loved one happy and satisfied. However, things do not always go as planned, and teenagers engage in wayward behavior and crime, regardless of their parent’s care and protection. When that happens, you have an additional responsibility in ensuring that your child receives the necessary support and guidance in correcting their behavior. Children deserve a second chance in life to reform and become the responsible citizens their parents and society, in general, had always envisioned.
When your loved one is a criminal suspect, your role in the juvenile justice system starts right after their arrest. You must accompany your child throughout the legal processes, including when they appear before a judge in a juvenile court. Nothing should happen to your loved one without your knowledge. You are also allowed by law to hire an attorney to represent your child’s interests right from the start of the process. It ensures that your rights and those of your loved ones are safe.
Here are some of your rights in juvenile cases:
Right to Information
As a parent, you are your child’s legal guardian. Therefore, you remain the legal representative of your child until they attain a legal age of 18 when they can represent themselves. In that case, you have the legal right to information on what will happen to your child. This right starts from the time of their arrest.
You have to know that the police have arrested your child. When the police receive information that your child has committed an offense, or they catch your loved one in the act, they must make an arrest, just the same way they do with suspected adult offenders. Based on the circumstances of the alleged crime, the police might release your child immediately or refer the case to a probation officer. They must inform the parent(s) or guardians that their child is in police custody during that process.
The police should inform you of every decision they make regarding your child’s case and prepare you for what could happen. Not knowing your loved one’s whereabouts or the facts of their case could be overwhelming for any parent. Remaining informed allows you to make decisions that could help your child’s case, like seeking legal counsel.
However, note that the police could question your child in your absence. But you can notify your child of the need to remain quiet until they have legal representation. The police will try to obtain as much information as possible to build their case against a suspected criminal, whether a minor or adult. That is why you might need the help of an experienced criminal attorney as soon as the arrest.
Right to Know Your Loved One’s Constitutional Rights
Everyone has their constitutional rights, which no one must violate. Adults are capable of protecting their rights, especially when going through a legal process. But children may not know or even understand their constitutional rights. Since they are still under the care and protection of their parents, minors would expect their parents to protect their rights against violation. That is why parents must know the legal rights of their loved ones to protect them even when children face criminal charges.
The fact that you are facing criminal charges doesn’t take your rights away, whether as a child or adult. The police know about this but would take every possible opportunity to infringe on your loved one’s rights to their advantage. For instance, the police will be quick to arrest and keep anyone caught in the act or suspected of violating the law. However, the law only allows the police to arrest anyone above twelve years old. A suspected offender of between 12 and 17 will go through the juvenile justice system. Anyone older than that is treated like the adult he/she is.
An arrest and dealing with the police, probation officers, and even a judge can traumatize a minor. Out of confusion, your loved one might say incriminating things against themselves or other people, which could worsen their situation. It becomes easier for a parent to protect and advise their children when they know their loved one’s constitutional rights. Here are some of the legal rights you should know about regarding your child:
- The police should only arrest if they have probable cause to believe that your loved one was involved in a crime.
- When the police take your child in custody, they must allow the child to make a phone call —This should happen before they start questioning the minor.
- Your loved one has the legal right to know their charges right from the beginning.
- Your child has a legal right to legal help, especially if evidence shows that their case might proceed to a juvenile court.
- Your loved one has the legal right to ask questions and cross-examine witnesses during hearings.
- They deserve to have the prosecutor prove their case beyond reasonable doubts — The judge cannot make the final decision unless everyone is convinced that the minor indeed committed the alleged offense.
Right to Confidentiality
No parent wishes for their child to crash with law enforcement officers. When it happens, it becomes a traumatizing issue for everyone close to the alleged offender. It could even affect the minor’s future, especially if it keeps coming up even after being rehabilitated. It could help if a legal issue involving a minor is treated with the confidentiality it deserves.
Society views criminality suspiciously, and people would be quick to judge you if you have a criminal background. Even if the allegations were untrue and a judge dismissed your criminal charges, the results would still be the same. A minor could be forced to live with the stigma for the rest of their lives. That is why parents have the legal right to demand confidentiality when their loved ones face criminal charges.
No one needs to know that your loved one is in police custody or is expected to appear before a judge. Juvenile courts are usually not open to members of the public. Therefore it is possible to keep the matter a secret, including the outcome of your loved one’s case.
Confidentiality promotes the integrity and reputation of a minor. Members of the public do not need to know the circumstances of your minor’s case. It will protect your child from a damaging reputation that could impact their future.
Right to be Present During Court Proceedings
When the police arrest a minor in California, they are likely to go through several court proceedings until the conclusion of their case. As a parent, you have the legal right to be present in all these proceedings. Your presence in the hearing could impact the case’s outcome and help your child in more ways than one. For instance, your child will feel your support, even if you will not do or say anything during the proceeding.
The first hearing your minor will attend after arrest will be the detention hearing. In this hearing, the judge will decide whether to keep the youngster in detention or allow them to go home with their parents/guardians before determining the case. If you wish to attend the hearing but may not make it on the set date, you have the legal right to petition the judge to change the dates to a more convenient date so you can be present. Your opinion will be required during this hearing, and the judge could decide based on that opinion.
A disposition hearing is another vital hearing you must attend to support your loved one. During this hearing, the judge will review evidence from the prosecution and defense to decide the case. You need to be there to ensure that your child’s rights are not violated and that the judge’s decision will be in the best interest of your loved one.
If your child is placed on probation, they will be required to attend a review hearing periodically. During this hearing, the judge determines how well, or otherwise, your loved one is doing. Their progress, or lack of it, could cause the judge to reconsider his/her earlier decision. For instance, if the minor is already doing well but was sent out of home, a positive report could compel the judge to send the child home under your care and protection.
The Legal Right To See Reports and Files Regarding Your Child’s Case
Court files are confidential but should not be kept away from a minor’s parents. As a parent, you have the legal right to see every document related to your loved one’s case, including case files and probation reports. That way, you will know the case’s progress and deduce what could happen after the case’s conclusion.
In addition to the minor’s parents, the following is a list of people that could access court files and probation reports regarding a juvenile offender’s case:
- The minor’s lawyer
- The police
- School officials where the minor attends
- City, state, and federal attorneys
- Child protection agencies
Through your lawyer, you could obtain copies of all documents regarding the case. Your attorney could also help you understand the nature of the case and the expected outcome.
Right To Take Your Child Hoe Before the Conclusion Of Their Case
The juvenile justice system involves several processes that could take several days, weeks, or even months. Judges cannot solve even a single case in a day. Thus, you might have to wait for a little longer before the judge determines your loved one’s case.
During that period, the judge might choose to keep the minor in detention or allow you to take him/her home, but under strict conditions. It depends on the nature of the underlying offense and the minor’s history of juvenile delinquency.
Soon after the arrest, your child will appear before a judge for a detention hearing, during which the court will decide whether to detain him/her or release the minor to the parents. You have the legal right to stay with your child until the conclusion of their case. If circumstances allow, the judge will order the minor to remain home and for you to ensure they make all court appearances without fail.
But in different circumstances, the judge may order the minor to remain in detention. For instance, if the youth is violent towards you or other family members, it might not be safe for you or anyone else to keep him/her at home. The judge might also order detention for the minor if they have previously violated a court order or escaped from juvenile custody.
Find an Experienced Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer Near Me
If your loved one is suspected of criminal conduct in Los Angeles, CA, they might have to go through the juvenile justice system for the judge to determine their case. It is essential to understand your rights in juvenile cases to protect your child. The help and guidance of an experienced criminal lawyer could make this easy for you. At Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer, we will be with you from the start of the process to ensure that none of your rights or those of your loved one are violated. We’ll also fight by your side for a favorable outcome of the case. Call us at 310-502-1314, and let us make the process smoother for you.