Juvenile cases work much the same way as adult criminal cases, but there are some unique differences.
Procedurally, the case begins when the probation department makes a recommendation to the District Attorney’s office about which charges should be filed. The district attorney then prepares and files a wardship petition under Welfare & Institutions Code section 602. The petition is the equivalent of a criminal complaint, and contains allegations of crimes.
At the initial hearing, the equivalent of a criminal arraignment, the juvenile is informed of the nature and consequences of the allegations, and denies or admits the allegations. The court will then set future court dates, which give the defense attorney and the prosecutor an opportunity to negotiate a resolution.
If the charges are serious enough, and if your child is old enough, the juvenile court can transfer the case and have your child prosecuted as an adult.
The jurisdictional hearing is equivalent of a trial, but in juvenile court the minor is not entitled to a jury and the hearing is presided over by a judge. If the prosecution fails to prove its case, the allegations are not sustained and the case is over.
If the prosecution proves its case, the judge will make a “true finding” and determine that the allegations of wrongdoing are sustained. After a true finding, the court holds a dispositional hearing and can order the juvenile to participate in a probation program. In very serious cases, the court can order the minor to stay at juvenile hall, camp, or even the California Youth Authority.
Michael Hernandez is an experienced juvenile crimes defense lawyer in San Diego with the dedication and experience you need. Contact our San Diego criminal defense firm today for a free consultation for your childs defense.