Call today at: (559) 443-7442

California Juvenile Court Process

The California juvenile justice system is very different from the state’s adult justice system. Within the adult court process, the focus is predominantly on finding and punishing wrongdoers. When an adult acts in a way that is against the law, the court system wants them to pay their debt to society. In the California juvenile court system, however, punishment is only a limited part of the process. Rehabilitation, education, social services, and prevention are much more important. The point of addressing adolescents’ delinquent or criminal behavior is to catch problems early and prevent that behavior from occurring again.

If your child has been picked up by the police or has been booked into a juvenile facility, contact a Fresno juvenile attorney from Michael McKneely, Criminal Defense Lawyer right away. Attorney Mike McKneely is prepared to fight for what is best for your son or daughter. Facing a petition as an adolescent can be scary, and the outcome can have a profound effect on their life. Attorney McKneely will strive to obtain the best possible outcome in your child’s case so that they receive the help they need, and retain a future full of freedom and options.

Call Michael McKneely, Criminal Defense Lawyer today at (559) 443-7442 for a free and confidential case consultation.

On Overview of the California Juvenile Court Process

An adolescent may become involved with the California juvenile justice system if they are picked up by the police, or if an adult calls the police or social services regarding an issue. A police officer may give the teenager a warning and then release them, take them to a local services provider, or take them to a juvenile detention facility to enter them into the court system.

If a teen is taken into custody, they can expect:

  • Meeting with a probation officer- If a juvenile is taken to a detention facility, they will meet with a probation officer. This official will determine whether to book the teen into the court system or not. If booked, the juvenile is taken into custody at the detention center until a custody hearing. If they are not booked, they are usually released back into their parent or guardians’ custody.
  • Possibility of informal petition- Once the juvenile is booked into the system, the probation officer determines whether to put the teen through informal probation – which is up to 6 months of supervised probation – or to file a petition, sending the teen’s case through the juvenile court system. Informal probation is only available in certain circumstances and can include a number of conditions, including counseling, drug or alcohol treatment, community service, and more. This is more likely an option for a first-time, non-violent offense.
  • A petition (charges)- When a probation officer or district attorney files a petition, this is like a prosecutor filing charges against an adult. It is the very beginning of the California juvenile court process. If a teen has yet to meet with an attorney, now is the time to do so. Every adolescent has the right to an attorney during the juvenile court process. If you are a parent of a teen that may be in trouble, contact Michael McKneely, Criminal Defense Lawyer as soon as possible.
  • Detention hearing- If the teen is being held in juvenile hall, then there will be a detention hearing to determine if their continuous detention is appropriate, or if they should be released to a parent, guardian, or care facility. There is no bail process in the juvenile court system. However, your child’s detention at a facility must be consistently reviewed. They cannot be held indefinitely.
  • Fitness hearing- If the adolescent is 14 years or older and has been detained for a serious or violent offense, then the district attorney may ask the juvenile court to send the teen’s case to California’s adult court. Whether the teen should remain in the juvenile court system or go to the adult court is decided at a fitness hearing.
  • Pretrial conference- In some areas, the juvenile court system encourages pretrial conferences, which enable the teen’s lawyer and the district attorney to negotiate a resolution to the case without going to trial. At this time, the teen’s attorney may ask for informal probation, enabling the teen to avoid being adjudicated as delinquent while receiving appropriate consequences for their conduct.
  • Jurisdiction hearing- At a jurisdiction hearing, a judge reviews the probation officer’s report, any other findings regarding the teen, and the district attorney’s evidence of the juvenile’s conduct. This is essentially the teen’s trial, and adolescents do not have the right to a jury trial. The judge determines whether the petition is true, and if so, it is sustained. Finding a petition is true is similar to finding the teen as guilty of the alleged conduct. If it is not true, then the petition may be dismissed.

    If the petition is sustained, then the juvenile may be adjudicated as delinquent or a status offender. Delinquent means the teen did something that would be illegal if they were older than 18 years. A status offender means the teen did something that is inappropriate, such as skipping school, but would not be illegal if they were an adult.

  • Disposition hearing- This is the juvenile’s sentencing hearing. The judge will review all of the factors of the case to determine the appropriate consequences of a teen being deemed delinquent. This could require informal or formal probation, foster care, a juvenile ranch or camp, or confinement at a California Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) facility.

An Adolescent Should Have a Fresno Juvenile Defense Lawyer

Just like adults who are facing criminal charges, teenagers who have had a petition filed against them have the right to an attorney. The probation officer who handles the teen’s case does not represent them. While probation officers may recommend what is best for the adolescent, they are not there to protect the teen’s rights or fight for leniency. The district attorney represents the state’s interests, not the teen’s. The only way an adolescent has someone to fight for them is to work with an experienced local juvenile defense attorney.

Attorney Mike McKneely understands the significant differences between the adult and juvenile court system. He knows the ins and outs of the juvenile court process and the best ways to obtain the services a teen needs, instead of a harsh punishment.

Let an Experienced and Knowledgeable Fresno Juvenile Lawyer Help

It can difficult to admit your child is in trouble and needs legal help. The thought of hiring an attorney might make it all too real. However, when your child has had a petition brought against them, you need to face this difficult situation quickly.

By calling Michael McKneely, Criminal Defense Lawyer right away, you have an experienced lawyer ready to fight for the best possible outcome for your child right away. Attorney Mike McKneely will seek informal probation or another alternative to a delinquency adjudication as soon as possible. If delinquency is a likely outcome, then attorney McKneely can strive to obtain your child the most appropriate penalties that disrupts their education and family life as little as possible.

For more information on how Michael McKneely, Criminal Defense Lawyer can help you, call (559) 443-7442 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

COVID-19 Notice: Our firm is open and available to help. We are all being impacted in different ways, but we will all get through this together.Learn More