Representing Juveniles In Delinquency Proceedings
Special juvenile delinquency court proceedings must be followed when misdemeanor or felony charges, called a petition, are filed against a juvenile under the age of 18 at a special juvenile delinquency court within a respective county. Each juvenile court deals exclusively with minor children. The different phases within the juvenile delinquency proceedings are set forth below.
It is imperative that you contact a juvenile delinquency defense attorney who understands the process and proceedings in juvenile delinquency court within San Mateo County, Santa Clara County, San Francisco County, Alameda County and Marin County, to help your minor child throughout each phase of the proceedings.
The Detention Phase
- The detention phase occurs only when an officer, including a probation officer detains a minor. When a minor child is arrested or taken into custody the court holds a “detention hearing” to determine whether or not the juvenile should continue to be detained pending the adjudication of his or her case.
- During this phase of the proceedings, the district attorney and the probation officer will provide the judge with recommendations on whether or not to detain the juvenile. It is important that the juvenile have a knowledgeable attorney present at the proceedings to counter any arguments or recommendations of further detention made by the district attorney or probation officer. The juvenile defense attorney can also offer the juvenile court judge alternatives to detention for the minor.
- During the detention hearing, the minor is arraigned, and dates are set with the court for future proceedings.
To Set Or Arraignment
- Depending on specific county procedures, an out of custody juvenile will attend a hearing called a “to set” or an “arraignment”. At this hearing the juvenile, through his or her defense attorney, will set future hearing dates, and undergo other formalities pertaining to the case such as waiving time, entering a denial of the petition and asking the court to take no further action in the case.
The Jurisdiction Phase
- The next step in a juvenile court case is called the “jurisdiction phase”. Within this phase, there are several different steps and procedures that occur depending on the county in which a juvenile’s case is heard. In some counties the first proceeding is called a pretrial conference.
- A pretrial conference is when the defense attorney and the district attorney negotiate the charges in the case. At this proceeding the juvenile can either admit the charges on the petition or continue to maintain his or her innocence and set the case for a “jurisdictional hearing.”
- A “jurisdictional hearing” is a court proceeding that is equivalent to a court trial in adult court. The rules of evidence must be followed at this hearing. The juvenile, through his or her defense attorney, can present witnesses and evidence on his or her behalf and is entitled to cross-examine the witnesses that the district attorney presents. This hearing addresses the merits of the petition requesting the court to exercise jurisdiction over the minor child as a ward of the court.
- If the allegations in the petition are not sustained by the trial court, i.e., the minor is found not guilty by the judge, the minor’s petition (i.e., case) is over.
- If the court sustains the allegations in the petition and agrees to exercise jurisdiction over the minor, i.e., finds the minor guilty of having committed the charges set forth in the petition, the minor moves into the next phase of disposition, i.e., sentencing.
The Disposition Phase
- The disposition phase occurs when the court finds that the juvenile committed the offenses listed in the petition. This final phase of the juvenile court process is called the “disposition hearing.” At this hearing, similar to a sentencing hearing in adult court, the juvenile court will hear and consider evidence as to the proper action to be taken in the case.
- At this hearing, the court will determine how to properly rehabilitate the minor, whether through probation, community service or therapeutic detention, i.e., juvenile hall, or all of the above.