A youth – someone under the age of 17 (although each state defines it differently) – who commits a misdemeanor or felony in California is typically charged as a juvenile defendant. Their criminal case is then held in the juvenile justice system. There are exceptions, of course. A youth may be charged as an adult depending on the seriousness of the crime or a juvenile's criminal background. If that happens, the penalties are more severe.
At Law Offices of Vivian N. Szawarc, our juvenile defense attorney in Los Angeles understands that more so than anyone, juveniles need a strong defense. Their entire futures are at risk, especially in terms of employment and education. If you are a parent, contact us today at 888-666-8820 to schedule a free initial consultation – keeping your child's record clean and making sure their futures are not at risk is imperative.
Common Juvenile Crimes in California
Juvenile crimes are those committed by someone under the age of majority. The specific age of majority under criminal law varies between states, although it is often 17 years of age.
Generally, juveniles can be charged with the same offenses as adults. Common offenses committed by juveniles include:
- Shoplifting or petty theft
- Violent crimes, such as assault
- Possession of drugs or alcohol
- Sexual offenses
The main difference between the two systems is the sentencing options available to the court. The juvenile justice system emphasizes rehabilitation. It offers alternative sentencing options such as counseling or education programs and sends defendants to a juvenile detention center rather than a jail or prison.
Juveniles Tried as Adults in California
When a juvenile defendant commits a crime, they are usually then tried as a juvenile. In certain circumstances, however, their case can be transferred to the adult system.
The specific criteria for this vary between states. Relevant factors may include:
- The type and extent of the offense
- The seriousness of the allegations
- Any aggravating circumstances (for example, the use of a weapon)
- Whether the defendant understood the criminality of their conduct
- Whether the defendant is a repeat offender
The decision to transfer a juvenile case to the adult system can be made automatically as a result of the relevant legislation or at the discretion of the prosecution or judge. And once a juvenile defendant has been tried as an adult, any future charges will also be dealt with in the adult system.
When a juvenile case is dealt with in the adult system, the defendant is exposed to harsher penalties usually reserved for adults. It also excludes them from other sentencing options, such as counseling or education programs offered to juvenile offenders.
Collateral Consequences of a Conviction in Los Angeles for a Juvenile Offense
In addition to the penalty imposed by a court, there can also be collateral consequences for defendants convicted of juvenile offenses.
A criminal conviction can disrupt a defendant's schooling, especially if they serve time in juvenile detention. A conviction can also affect their access to education more generally. Some schools may not accept students with a criminal record and many colleges ask applicants to disclose any juvenile convictions.
While many people believe juvenile criminal records “disappear” once someone becomes an adult, this isn't the case in many states. For example, potential employers and landlords often have access to juvenile records when running background checks. The armed forces also require applicants to disclose any juvenile convictions.
Law enforcement and courts may also access juvenile records when dealing with an adult offender, which can increase both the category of offense they are charged with and the severity of their sentence.
Convictions for certain offenses as a juvenile may also require a defendant to register as a sex offender or restrict them from owning a firearm well into adulthood.
Your Rights for Juvenile Arrests in California
Both minors and their parents or legal guardians have rights when a minor is arrested California or is asked questions as a witness in a criminal matter. Parents and legal guardians also have rights. When a right is violated, this violation can be used as part of your defense strategy. This is in part why it is critical to speak to a juvenile defense lawyer in Los Angeles as soon as possible.
Your Child Has Rights
The U.S. Constitution as well as most state constitutions outline certain rights for each person, whether a juvenile or an adult. These rights include but are not necessarily limited to:
- The right to be free from any unreasonable search and seizure
- The right against self-incrimination
- The right to refuse any questioning
- The right to an attorney during police questioning
Further, when a minor is detained or arrested, the police typically have an obligation to contact a parent or legal guardian, or at least make a reasonable attempt to do so.
Parents Have Rights
As a parent or legal guardian, you have rights in cases where your child has been arrested or detained by the police. Three such rights include:
- The right to be present with your child during questioning
- The right to know the reason your child was arrested or detained
- The right to have or retain an attorney for your child
As a parent or guardian, it is always in your child's best interest to remain calm. You can request to see your child at any time while the child is in police custody.
Contact a Juvenile Defense Attorney in Los Angeles Today
We know that as a parent – and for that matter as a minor – you will have many questions and even more worries and fears during a criminal case. At Law Offices of Vivian N. Szawarc, our juvenile defense lawyer will sit down with you to explain everything you need to know and keep you informed during the process.
If your child is facing criminal charges as a juvenile, get expert legal counsel to ensure they are treated fairly through the criminal system. Any mistakes could have long-lasting impacts on your child's life. Call 888-666-8820 to schedule a free initial consultation with our juvenile defense attorney at Law Offices of Vivian N. Szawarc today.