The California Juvenile Court System is meant to address matters regarding the juvenile law, which includes things like juvenile justice and delinquency processes (Cicourel, 2017). The juvenile court is unique from the adult court system in several ways. These courts are concentrated more on rehabilitating the minors so that they can develop moral values that match well in the society. The juvenile court is used to determine whether a minor should be judged as a delinquent, and the verdict is made based on the offense and the minor’s circumstances (Siegel & Welsh, 2014). The court undertakes a detailed analysis of the minor’s offense before making a wise and final decision. Therefore, when a minor is judged delinquent, the judge does not impose a sentence. There is a procedure for the initial review of each case in most juvenile court systems.
Often, the juvenile delinquency cases refer to the criminal charges as result of a child violating the criminal law. In a closer examination of California’s juvenile court system, it is clear that these courts are meant to ensure public safety and other protections (Shoemaker, 2017). Further, the juvenile court systems pursue to offer care and guidance to juvenile law offenders. Any treatment from the juvenile court should focus on the child’s interest and circumstances. The offenders should be held accountable for their behaviors, and it should be appropriate for the minor’s conditions. For instance, if punishment is offered, then it should be consistent with rehabilitative goals. Because of that specific focus of the juvenile court system, California’s Juvenile Court System provides for escalating reactions to crimes of increasing severity.
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Types of Juvenile Cases
There are three central kinds of juvenile cases. First, the minor delinquency cases involve juveniles whose criminal actions would be deemed crimes, if they were adults. However, the juvenile punishment and entire process in juvenile crime courtrooms vary from the adult criminal courtrooms. Second, the juvenile dependency cases, which are addressing issues where juveniles have been neglected or abused by parents or guardians. Such cases are meant to protect the minor’s safety. Third, the status offense cases, which comprises of status crimes that apply to minors, for example, underage drinking.
California’s Juvenile Court System Process
When a Californian child commits a criminal offense, and the police officer has adequate evidence that a juvenile has committed a crime, the minor is taken into temporary custody. This is the initial stage of the juvenile court process. On some occasions, things might work out right for the juvenile, and the police officer releases this minor with a simple reprimand or strong warning. There are several rights which should be observed when a minor offender is being interrogated by a police officer over the committed crime. However, the police can refer the juvenile to the probation department, where he or she might be detained in the juvenile hall, and the police will file a petition against the child. The petition in a juvenile court is similar to the one that can be filed in an adult court system. Consequently, a probation officer from the probation department may initiate an investigation, which can be done either through formal application or own initiative, to have a petition filed against the offender with a presence of enough evidence confirming the offensive actions.
The intake officer at the probation county department will interview the minor and will decide if he or she is going to be sent home with an excerpt indicating to report back in court at a later time. Also, if the minor will be allowed to go home with a punishment program that does not require the minor to go back to court, and if the child will be kept in the juvenile hall until the case has undergone a full trial process. However, it is essential to know that a juvenile has a right to an attorney whenever he or she has been detained. At the probation department, both the minor and their parents are guided on the right to remain silent. Further, it is a right for the child to have a counsel present during the interrogation process, and in situations where the minor cannot afford a counsel, it is their right to have counsel appointed for them.
California’s Juvenile Court Hearings
When a minor has been referred to juvenile hall, the probation officer has the freedom to “book” the juvenile or not. After a booking has been made, the officer or the district attorney will decide whether to place a petition with the Juvenile Court claiming that the juvenile has committed an offense. If the request is accepted, the minor will remain in custody at the juvenile hall as he or she awaits the results of the juvenile court process. The juvenile petition is meant to request the court to declare and give a verdict on the minor’s offense (Emerson, 2017).
Detention hearing. Excluding non-judicial days, a typical petition for any minor held in custody in the juvenile hall must be filed within forty-eight hours of detention. It is mandatory that a detention hearing must take place by the end of the following judicial day after filing of the petition. The hearing is meant to evaluate if the offender is to stay in custody pending resolution of the case. Throughout the court process, a trial officer or counsel will be assigned to the minor to review the case and offer directions on how the to proceed; because this is their job. Among the duties of this probation officer include investigating social history of the juvenile and compile a social study that will be used by the judge for the sentencing of the minor.
Jurisdiction hearing. A juvenile is only entitled to a jurisdiction hearing in the presence of a judge and not a jury trial. During this hearing, the court will analyze the report compiled by the probation officer about the juvenile’s social history, medical records, or psychiatric reports. Further, the evidence provided by the probation department attorney and the minor’s attorney should be considered by the judge before determining whether to sustain the filed petition if it is true.
Disposition hearing. This takes place after the juvenile’s petition has been sustained and the minor is adjudged a delinquent of the juvenile court. The court will make use of the social history report and other relevant documents that are recording evidence about the sentencing in determining where to dispose the minor (Bartollas, Schmalleger & Turner, 2017). Some of the options for the juvenile placement include formal or informal probation under the supervision of punishment in the society, committed to a minor camp, or committed to California’s Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ).
Fitness hearing. The hearing is meant to evaluate if the minor’s case will be addressed in the juvenile courtrooms or be transferred to an adult court system. A minor offender can be charged in an adult court when the type of the crime is particularly severe. Further, when the juvenile is fourteen years and above of age and is accused of committing specified violent crimes, or when the district attorney has the discretion to file cases in adult court, without judicial review directly. On some occasions, a minor might be convicted in adult court, and the type of sentencing is the same as the one an adult can receive for the same offense. Further, when a minor has been sentenced in the adult court, he or she can be transferred to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Division of Juvenile Facilities or the state prison, if the minor is sixteen years or older.
Finally, a comparison based on the constitutional rights for a juvenile in the juvenile justice system and an adult in the criminal justice system indicates that the minor lacks a right to bail or to a jury trial. It is beneficial for a guardian or parent to have a lawyer to defend the minor during the case proceedings in the California juvenile court system. Further, according to Chesney-Lind and Shelden (2013), it is essential to acknowledge the existing juvenile rights such as a right to remain silent, and the right to have a counsel before any interrogation. It is the juvenile’s right to be served with a copy of the charge or petition and a right to engage with witnesses and ask any worrying questions.
Bartollas, C., Schmalleger, F., & Turner, M. G. (2017). Juvenile delinquency. Pearson.
Chesney-Lind, M., & Shelden, R. G. (2013). Girls, delinquency, and juvenile justice. John Wiley & Sons.
Cicourel, A. (2017). The social organization of juvenile justice. Routledge.
Emerson, R. M. (2017). Judging delinquents: Context and process in juvenile court. Routledge.
Shoemaker, D. J. (2017). Juvenile delinquency. Rowman & Littlefield.
Siegel, L. J., & Welsh, B. C. (2014). Juvenile delinquency: Theory, practice, and law. Cengage Learning.