As any parent will tell you, raising children is difficult and every child will make mistakes – a lot of mistakes. Because your child lacks the same impulse control, maturity, and mental capacity as an average adult, these mistakes are inevitable, but it’s how you and your family deal with these lapses that will shape the kind of adult your child will become. When mistakes cross the line of typical childish behavior like cheating on a test or talking back, they can be charged as a crime. Depending on the severity of the offense, youthful offender dispositions can range from therapeutic rehabilitation, to placement in group homes, and even punitive incarceration. The effects of these situations can last a lifetime.
As a father himself, attorney Elliot Silver understands this and is here to help your family and child face anything that comes your way. There is no greater instinct than the natural need to protect your children.
Contact Silver Law Firm at (510) 995-0000 today to learn how an Oakland juvenile criminal defense attorney can best protect and defend your child.
Elliot Silver is a brilliant attorney. We hired him for my son’s case and the outcome was even better than we expected…he has built up a great rapport with those that work in the court system…I would definitely recommend Elliot to anyone in need of a brilliant criminal defense attorney who also displays human kindness.”
Common Juvenile Crimes
While juveniles can be charged with virtually any criminal offense, they often get in legal trouble for:
- Skipping school (Penal Code 270.1(a))
Under California law, your child is required to attend school between the ages of six and 18, unless otherwise exempted. If your child is consistently missing or skipping class, then the school can notify the authorities. This can go beyond a parent-child matter. Truancy can become an issue for parents and children.
- Marijuana possession (Health & Safety Code Section 11357)
Medical and recreational marijuana are legal in California. However, there are age restrictions (you must be at least 21). Teenagers cannot lawfully possess or cultivate marijuana. If they are caught with weed, they can be arrested and entered into the juvenile court system.
- Drug charges
If your son or daughter has been experimenting with harder drugs, then it is probably a matter of time before they are caught in possession of a controlled substance or unlawful prescription. This will certainly lead to charges and entrance into the juvenile justice system.
- Alcohol offenses (Business and Professions Code 25662)
Like marijuana, alcohol is legal for people 21 and older. People under 21 who are caught possessing, drinking, or trying to buy alcohol can be charged with an offense.
- Theft (Penal Code 484a & 488)
Unfortunately, many teenagers are tempted to shoplift or commit small acts of theft. If your son or daughter was caught stealing from a person or store, they will be charged with a theft offense depending on the value of the property.
- Sexting (Penal Code 311.4, 311.11)
With everyone having mobile phones these days, it is common for teenagers to send each other nude or sexual photos and videos. They may not think much about it, but since the senders are typically under 18, this constitutes child pornography. The creator, sender, and receiver could all face criminal charges.
- Vandalism (Penal Code 594)
It is illegal to destroy or alter property without permission. Vandalism, including graffiti or egging a house, building, or structure can lead to a misdemeanor. If the police believe it is linked to a hate crime or gang activity, your teen will face a felony vandalism charge.
Understanding the California Juvenile Court System
In California, accused offenders who are under 18 typically go to through the juvenile court system. This includes actions that would be normally be considered an adult crime, and actions that demonstrate a teenager’s irresponsibility but are not crimes for adults. However, adolescents over the age of 14 can be charged as an adult for certain serious offenses, including, but not limited to:
- Many other sex crimes
- Attempted murder
- Many weapons offenses
- Violent felonies
- Aggravated mayhem
- Voluntary manslaughter
The purpose of the juvenile court system is to review an adolescent’s behavior and determine an appropriate course of action, which may include traditional punishments such as incarceration, treatment or counseling, and removal from the home. While the system is far from perfect, there are greater aspects of sensitivity and flexibility within the juvenile system compared to adult courts. Regardless of the specifics involved, your child deserves top-notch legal representation to ensure they are not railroaded by a system that does not know your child the way you do or may not have your child’s best interests in mind.
Have you been charged with a crime? Contact Silver Law Firm today.
The Juvenile Court Process
The juvenile court process typically begins with an arrest. This can occur if the police catch a juvenile in a criminal act or if another authority notifies the police of an issue. Depending on the situation, the arrest may lead to your child’s release, with a warning or with a citation to appear in court at a later date. It is possible that the officers will take them to juvenile hall where they will meet with an intake probation officer.
During the juvenile justice process, your child will go through:
- A detention hearing to determine if they have to stay at juvenile hall while their case is going on. An experienced juvenile defense lawyer can fight for your child to be released and allowed to come home pending disposition of the case.
- A fitness hearing to determine if a significant case will stay in juvenile court or be moved to the adult system. If there is a question as to whether the case should go to the adult courts, a lawyer will help you and your child fight for the case to stay in the juvenile system.
- Jurisdictional Hearing is the juvenile court system’s version of a trial. Your child should have an attorney during this time. The judge will determine if there is enough evidence to sustain the petition. This is the juvenile version of being found guilty. If there is too little evidence, they will dismiss the petition. If the issue is for conduct that would not be a crime for an adult, your child will be declared a status offender. If the conduct would be a crime as an adult, then your child will be deemed delinquent or a “ward of the court.”
- A disposition hearing after the judge sustains the petition. The judge must determine the consequences of your child’s actions.
There is also the potential for your child to avoid adjudication, which could create a juvenile criminal record, or harsh consequences through juvenile plea bargaining. A lawyer can work with the judge to use a diversion program or informal probation to ensure there are consequences for your child’s actions and your child receives the help they need, yet they can avoid adjudication and a finding against them. Plea bargaining can also be used to avoid an overly harsh outcome upon the sustaining of the petition after jurisdictional hearing.
Having the responsibility of disciplining your own child taken away can be difficult for a lot of parents. The juvenile judges have a great deal of discretion in determining the sentence if your child has been found to have committed a criminal offense. While the goal is to help your child learn from their mistakes and correct their behavior, some of the possible consequences can be unnecessarily harsh and leave a permanent mark on their record and psyche.
Potential juvenile punishments include:
- Court supervision of your child
- Formal probation while living at home
- Formal probation with removal from the home to live with a relative, in foster care, in a group home, or in an institution
- Formal probation while living at a camp or ranch
- A sentence with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ)
Depending on the circumstances, an adolescent’s punishment can last for a few months or multiple years. You should speak with an attorney about your options.
Sealing a Juvenile Record
Depending on the offense, it may be possible for you or your child to seal the juvenile record. Having a juvenile record can severely hold you or your child back. If it is possible to get the records sealed, then it is like they never existed in the first place. This can be essential to getting financial aid during college, obtaining a job, getting approved for loans or rental properties, and more.
If a case was dismissed after Jan. 1, 2015 and did not involve a serious crime like rape or murder, then it may be sealed automatically after you or your child satisfactorily completes probation. However, if you or your adolescent’s case falls outside of that option, you must petition the court to seal the record. Contact Silver Law Firm to learn more about this possibility and what the process entails.
Our Juvenile Criminal Defense Attorneys Are Here to Help
If you are a parent and your child was arrested, contact Silver Law Firm right away. Whether they made an honest mistake, fell in with the wrong crowd, or have been falsely accused, your child needs highly-skilled and compassionate legal representation during the juvenile justice process. As a father and seasoned criminal defense attorney, Elliot Silver understands the desire to protect your children and the need to ensure that their rights are protected. Attorney Silver is here to always promote your child’s best interests and prevent them from being labeled a juvenile delinquent. If there is evidence against your child, we will strive to obtain a diversion program, avoid an adjudication against them, and vigorously pursue the most appropriate consequences so they can move on and put this unfortunate incident behind them.
Contact Silver Law Firm online, or call (510) 995-0000 today to schedule a free and confidential consultation.