Juvenile proceedings are initiated when someone who is 17 years old or under is accused of having committed a crime. The juvenile court is considered a civil rather than a criminal forum even though it adjudicates violations of criminal laws by minors. No finding of “guilty” in juvenile court, and no “conviction” within the meaning of the adult criminal laws.
A minor found fit for juvenile court does not have the benefit of the following rights, which are available to accused of a criminal offense:
No right to bail
No right to a jury trial, in case of an “adjudication” the court decides instead of a jury.
There is also no right to a preliminary hearing
In juvenile court the minor can have an adjudication against him based solely on the testimony of a accomplice. The only exception is if the accomplices testimony cannot be collaborated.
In an adult court there is a greater sentence exposure while in juvenile court the sentence can only be extended until the minor reaches the age of 25 years old. Once a minor is detained by a police officer, the police officer has four options:
- Reprimand and release the minor
- Release the minor and offer him or her to a community agency
- Release the minor and give them a citation which orders them to appear at the juvenile probation department
- Detain the minor in the custody of juvenile authorities
The probation officer also has many options to follow, in case the minor is detained and placed in juvenile proceedings. The probation officer may counsel the minor, and release the minor with no further action. The probation officer may refer the minor to a non-judicial agency and close the case after 21 days if no further action appears necessary.
The probation officer can place the minor on informal probation, refer the case to the prosecutor for filing, or probation can release the minor to his of her parents, guardian or responsible relative, the minor can also be placed on home supervision, or the minor can be detained in custody until he or she can go to court and have a hearing.
The probation officer, as well as the detaining officer, must advise the minor and his parents or guardian of the minor’s constitutional rights to remain silent and the right to counsel.
When a minor is detained and it is determined that he or she should be released, the minor must be released, the minor must be released unless: the minor has no parent or guardian, or any other relative who will be responsible for the minor; the minor has no home or is not being provided with the necessities of life; an immediate necessity is exist to detain the minor to protect him or her or the person or property of another; the minor has initiated a juvenile court order or the minor is physically dangerous to others because of mental or physical problem.
When a probation officer places a minor in detention, the minor has the right, at a detention hearing, to have the probation officer’s decision overturned. The court may only detain a minor if it finds a prima facie showing that the following conditions exist: the minor has violated an order of the juvenile court; the minor has escaped from a juvenile court commitment; it is a matter of immediate and urgent necessity for the protection of the minor or others; detention is necessary to ensure the minor makes the court appearances.
Arraignment in Juvenile Proceedings
Arraignment of the minor is held at the detention hearing, or at the minor’s first court appearance. The minor then through his counsel enters a plea. The case is either settled or proceeds to adjudication.
If the crime gets to a adjudication hearing, it is the same as trial in the adult court, but without a jury. When the adjudication is held and the decision is against the minor, the court has three basic choices it can make at the sentencing, or what is called the juvenile court, the disposition hearing.
The court if it finds there is no evidence to proof of the charges, can dismiss the case. The court can when it finds the there is sufficient evidence, place the minor on probation for up to 6 months without declaring the minor a ward of the court, and place the minor on probation with certain terms and conditions, the court could send the minor to camp for a specified period, or send him or her to the CYA (California Youth Authority). At the CYA, depending on the crime, the minor could be held until the age of 25.