The Juvenile Court Process In California

Juveniles are subject to a different criminal justice system than adults.

Any individual who commits a crime while under the age of 18 is subject to the juvenile justice system in California.

What Happens When A Juvenile Is Arrested?

Following the arrest of a juvenile, the police officers may choose between 4 different actions.

  1. Release the juvenile with no further action.
  2. Refer the case to the district attorney
  3. Release the minor with a request to return to the police with parent/guardian for further investigation
  4. A notice to appear before a probation officer

What Happens If The Child Is Taken To Juvenile Hall?

If taken to juvenile hall, which is operated by the probation department, a probation officer may elect to:

  1. Release the juvenile to the parents with a citation to appear in court.
  2. Release the minor to the home with a probation program to follow.
  3. Detain the juvenile and let a judge review the matter.

Are Both Misdemeanors And Felonies Handled In Juvenile Court?

Yes, the juvenile justice system handles misdemeanor and felony matters as well as status offenses.

What Happens If Charges Are Filed Against My Child?

There are two kinds of petitions that may be filed against the child by the probation department or prosecutor:

  • 601 Petition
  • 602 Petition

What Is A 601 Petition?

Filed by the probation department for a status offense.

If sustained, the child becomes a ward of the court (under its jurisdiction) and is considered a “status offender.”

What is A Juvenile Status Offense?

A status offense is one that can only be committed by juveniles such as curfew violations or truancy or chronic disobedience of their parents.

What Is A 602 Petition?

Filed by the prosecutor for offenses that would be crimes if committed by an adult.

If sustained, the juvenile becomes a ward of the court and is considered “delinquent.”

What Are Some Common Crimes Commited By Juveniles?

Under such minor offenses an informal probation disposition may be available for first time offenders under Welfare & Institutions code 6541 or 7252.

Which Court Hearings Will Be Part Of The Juvenile Court Process?

There are a number of hearings within a juvenile matter:

  • Detention hearing to determine if the child should remain in custody until the case is resolved. This is required if the child is not released after 2 days. The hearing is scheduled within 3 court days.
  • Fitness hearing to determine if the minor should be transferred to adult court or remain under the juvenile court’s jurisdiction.
  • Pretrial or settlement hearing.
  • Adjudication or Jurisdiction – the court hears the case at a trial to determine if the juvenile committed the offense.
  • Disposition – sentencing if the court sustains the petition (finds the minor guilty).
  • Review hearings – discusses the child’s progress

If an adjudication hearing ensues, the juvenile can be tried before a judge only. Juveniles are not accorded jury trials and the proceedings are generally not open to the public.

Sentencing, Disposition & Potential Penalties In Juvenile Court

While the adult system is geared toward punishment, public safety and rehabilitation.

The juvenile system is directed towards treatment and rehabilitation, though public safety is a consideration as well.

If your child is sentenced by a judge, the court has several sentencing options:

  • Community service
  • Diversion
  • Deferred entry of judgment
  • Informal probation
  • Formal probation–placement in a relative’s home, group home, residential treatment center or institution or probation camp
  • California Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) commitment

Are Parents Involved In Juvenile Dispositions?

These dispositions often require that the juvenile and parents participate in treatment or parenting programs. The juvenile must abide by a curfew and usually must submit to warrantless searches, random drug and alcohol testing and attend school without any unauthorized absences.

Can A Juvenile Be Tried As An Adult?

There are serious crimes that if committed by a person at least 14 years of age, requires that they be tried as adults.

There are 30 offenses under Welfare & Institutions Code 707(b) for which such juveniles can be tried as adults, including:

Change In Law Update

SB 439 was signed into law On September 30, 2018. This bill only allows the court to assume jurisdiction over a minor under 12 years old, if that child is charged with murder or rape, sodomy, oral copulation, or sexual penetration by force, violence, or threat of great bodily harm.

Who Decides If A Child Should Be Prosecuted As An Adult?

In such cases, the prosecution can file charges in juvenile court to determine the juvenile’s fitness. The issues in a fitness hearing that a judge will consider concern:

  1. The degree of criminal sophistication exhibited by the juvenile
  2. If the minor can be rehabilitated within the time allotted to the juvenile justice system’s jurisdiction (age 21 or age 25 if committed to the California Youth Authority)4.
  3. Prior criminal history
  4. If previous rehabilitation attempts were made
  5. Severity and circumstances of the offense

Circumstances Under Which a Prosecutor May File For a Fitness Hearing:

  • The minor is at least 16 and has committed any offense
  • The minor is at least 16 years of age and has been a ward of the court based on a prior felony offense and has committed at least 2 additional felonies since turning 14; in these cases the minor is presumed unfit for juvenile court

At What Age Can A Juvenile Be Tried As An Adult?

If the child is at least 14, the prosecution can file for a fitness hearing if the minor committed a crime for which an adult would be subject to death or life imprisonment, or personally used a weapon in committing a felony or committed any of the 707(b) crimes. If the latter, there must also be a showing of one of the following:

  1. Commission of a prior 707(b) offense
  2. Offense was gang-related
  3. Offense was a hate crime
  4. Victim was disabled or at least 65 years of age

Where the minor is presumed to be unfit and a prima facie case for unfitness has been made by the prosecution, the minor can offer evidence to show that he/she is amenable to treatment within the juvenile system, usually with the assistance of mental health testimony.

Minors who are at least 14 and commit murder with special circumstances or a violent or forcible sex offense must be tried in adult court.

How Does A Juvenile Conviction Affect Your Future?

A juvenile disposition can have adverse consequences when you become an adult. If you commit an offense while an adult, the court can consider any juvenile adjudication in determining your sentence.

Can You Receieve a “Strike” as a Juvenile?

If the juvenile offense was a 707(b) one, it could be a “strike” whereby a subsequent adult strike offense can double your sentence and a third subject you to life imprisonment. Sex crimes committed as a juvenile may require you to register as a sex offender and civil commitment if considered a sexual predator.

Can A Juvenile Record Be Sealed?

Offenses which are considered to be less serious may be sealed.

Note: California Senate Bill 190 lays out changes to costs for juveniles and or their parents/guardians including the following.

  • No longer responsible for the cost of a court appointed lawyer.
  • No longer responsible for the cost of appliction and administration fees for home detention.
  • No longer responsible for the cost of substance treatment or testing.

Hiring A Juvenile Defense Attorney

The Aizman Law Firm exclusively practices in California and specializes in criminal defense and DUI. We have a high level of experience with both Adult and Juvenile cases and understand how to fight them.

Hiring the right California Juvenile attorney5 is the absolute most important step in successfully fighting your case or helping your childs future. Contact the Aizman Law Firm at 818-351-9555 for a free confidential consultation and receive powerful representation.

Request A Free Consultation 818-351-9555 


  1. Welfare & Insitutions Code 654 WI – In any case in which a probation officer, after investigation of an application for a petition or any other investigation he or she is authorized to make, concludes that a minor is within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court or will probably soon be within that jurisdiction, the probation officer may, in lieu of filing a petition to declare a minor a dependent child of the court or a minor or a ward of the court under Section 601 or requesting that a petition be filed by the prosecuting attorney to declare a minor a ward of the court under subdivision (e) of Section 601.3 or Section 602 and with consent of the minor and the minor’s parent or guardian, delineate specific programs of supervision for the minor, for not to exceed six months, and attempt thereby to adjust the situation that brings the minor within the jurisdiction of the court or creates the probability that the minor will soon be within that jurisdiction. This section does not prevent the probation officer from filing a petition or requesting the prosecuting attorney to file a petition at any time within the six-month period or a 90-day period thereafter. If the probation officer determines that the minor has not involved himself or herself in the specific programs within 60 days, the probation officer shall immediately file a petition or request that a petition be filed by the prosecuting attorney. However, when in the judgment of the probation officer the interest of the minor and the community can be protected, the probation officer shall make a diligent effort to proceed under this section. []
  2. Welfare & Institutions Code 725 WI – After receiving and considering the evidence on the proper disposition of the case, the court may enter judgment as follows: (a) If the court has found that the minor is a person described by Section 601 or 602, by reason of the commission of an offense other than any of the offenses set forth in Section 654.3, it may, without adjudging the minor a ward of the court, place the minor on probation, under the supervision of the probation officer, for a period not to exceed six months. The minor’s probation shall include the conditions required in Section 729.2 except in any case in which the court makes a finding and states on the record its reasons that any of those conditions would be inappropriate. If the offense involved the unlawful possession, use, or furnishing of a controlled substance, as defined in Chapter 2 (commencing with Section 11053) of Division 10 of the Health and Safety Code, a violation of subdivision (f) of Section 647 of the Penal Code, or a violation of Section 25662 of the Business and Professions Code, the minor’s probation shall include the conditions required by Section 729.10. If the minor fails to comply with the conditions of probation imposed, the court may order and adjudge the minor to be a ward of the court.(b) If the court has found that the minor is a person described by Section 601 or 602, it may order and adjudge the minor to be a ward of the court. []
  3. California Welfare & Institutions Code Section 707(b). []
  4. California Welfare & Institutions Code Section 607 []
  5. Our juvenile defense attorneys represent clients in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Encino, Sherman Oaks, Burbank, Glendale, Lancaster, Long Beach, Orange County, Pasadena, Pomona, Torrance, Van Nuys, West Covina and Whittier, Ventura County, Riverside County County And San Bernardino County. We also represent clients facing charges in the following juvenile courthouses Eastlake Juvenile Hall, Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall or Barry Nidorf/Sylmar Juvenile Hall []

Leave a reply

Related Posts