Juvenile Offenses

The law handling juvenile offenses is found in the California Welfare and Institutions Code (not the Penal Code).  This is actually a good thing because the primary focus in juvenile law is “rehabilitative” not “punitive”.  As such, two juvenile programs in particular are worth being aware of.

The first program applies to many misdemeanor offenses (including DUI, theft, vandalism, and assault/battery) and provides that if the minor remains out of trouble for a six-month period while performing some community service, among other obligations, the case is terminated.  This first option does not even require the minor to admit the violation in order to be eligible to participate.  Another similar program applies to many felony offenses, and provides that if the minor remains out of trouble for a full year, while performing certain obligations, including community service, the case will be dismissed and sealed by the court.   This program will require the minor to admit the charge in the petition (complaint).

Having said this, minors who commit serious or violent offenses can still be dealt with severely.  They can be detained and removed from their home and family, they can be ordered into “suitable placement”, they can be ordered to attend “camp” (not like summer camp!), and finally they can be ordered to serve a significant period of years in the California Youth Authority.

Again, in juvenile law, the hope is that the minor can recognize the wrong in what he/she has done, correct their decision-making, and move forward in a positive manner.  Much evaluation of the minor will be assessed not only by the facts of the offense, but also by their performance (attendance and academics) in school and behavior in their own home!  Counseling, where applicable, will also play a prominent role in the assessment of a minor’s ability to change behavior.  Given the emotional toll and stress that a minor (not to mention his/her family) can go through before, during and after juvenile proceedings, a minor must have the opportunity to meet with an attorney who is familiar with juvenile law and most importantly, able to able to be an effective advocate for his client.