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Juvenile Delinquency Law & Defense

Juvenile Delinquency court handles criminal matters involving defendants that were minors at the time of their alleged criminal offense. A minor, for purposes of juvenile delinquency court, means a person under the age of eighteen (18).  if a person commits a crime as a minor but the crime is not discovered until the defendant is over the age of seventeen, but under the age of twenty-one, the defendant may still be tried in juvenile court. Juvenile delinquency court hearings are confidential and parents are allowed to attend the hearings.

Note: A juvenile delinquency hearing is sometimes called a 602 Hearing. 602 hearing refers to Welfare & Institution Code Section 602, which controls the legal procedures related to juvenile delinquency hearings.

There is no jury that decides the fate of the minor in juvenile court; rather, a judge makes decisions regarding the minor’s sentence, if any. Essentially, when a minor is accused of committed a crime he or she might be sent to juvenile delinquency court in order for a judge to determine what should happen to the minor.


In some juvenile delinquency cases, a probation officer may formulate a plan of rehabilitation so that the defendant may avoid criminal prosecution. If a probation plan is not available in light of the seriousness of the minor’s crime then the juvenile delinquency court will handle the matter and the defendant and prosecutor will attempt to negotiate a sentence for the minor. In deciding what sentence of rehabilitation the minor should suffer the court and/or attorneys will consider certain factors, including, the seriousness of the crime, the minor’s age, the minor’s criminal record (if any), the remorse of the minor, and the likelihood that the plan of rehabilitation will be followed by the minor, and more.

Court Supervision: In lower level crimes the court, or a juvenile delinquency probation officer may allow supervision of the minor. Supervision options can include supervision while the minor continues to live at home with his or her parent(s), in a foster home, or even while the minor is in an institution.

Ward of the Court: When the court sustains a petition against the minor the minor becomes a ward of the court. A ward of the court simply means that the court has primary responsibility for overseeing the minor’s rehabilitation and/or punishment sentence. A minor can be a ward of the court while the minor continues to live at home under probation supervision.

Probation Sentence: A minor may be placed on probation instead of being sentenced to jail. A probation sentence carries conditions to remain on probation (and out of jail). The condition of probation can include attend school, work, serve community service, attend road camp, and more.


In more serious cases, a judge can order the minor to serve a sentence in juvenile hall (Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ)). Youth offender are housed at Juvenile Hall based on age, gender, classification of crime, special needs, treatment needs, and more. Juvenile Hall is designed to rehabilitate a delinquent child. To satisfy this purpose, the Division of Juvenile Justice offers education classes, medical treatment, substance abuse counseling classes, sex offender rehabilitation counseling, and more.

Note: If the minor was tried as an adult and convicted he or she will serve any incarceration in the Division of Juvenile Justice until he or she reaches the age of eighteen (18); thereafter, the minor will be transferred to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDDR).

DEJ & Diversion: Sometimes, a court will allow the minor’s criminal arrest and/or conviction (sustained petition) to be completely dismissed if the defendant completes a probation-type sentence. These alternate sentences schemes include Deferred Entry of Judgement, where the minor’s guilty plea is set aside if he or she successfully completes a probation sentence, and Diversion, where the minor’s case is diverted (avoided) before he or she even pleads guilty, so long as the minor completes certain conditions (i.e. attend school, work, stay out of trouble, etc.).

Minor's Rights: A minor has most, but not all, of the same constitutional rights that would apply if the minor had been arrested as an adult. A minor has the right to remain silent and the right to know that anything he or she says may be used against him or her. A minor also has a right to know that he or she may have an attorney present during any questioning of him or her by law enforcement and that if the minor cannot afford an attorney the government will provide one for him or her at no cost. In addition, a minor has a right to receive a copy of the charges leveled against him or her, a right to hear and cross-examine witness, a right to be timely arraigned and brought to trial, and more.

Note: A minor under the age of fifteen (15) may not waive his or her Miranda rights outside the presence of his or her attorney. Also, a parent has the right to know that his or her child is in custody as soon as reasonably possible.

Post Juvenile Detriment: Three Strikes Law and Sex Offender Registration applies to juveniles convicted of strike or sex offenses, respectively. In other words, if a minor is convicted of a strike offense in juvenile delinquency court, then the juvenile will still have that strike on his or her criminal record after the juvenile delinquency court no longer has jurisdiction of the matter. This is true even if the minor’s juvenile record is sealed. The same is true for sex offender registration as the registration period can last longer than the juvenile delinquency court has jurisdiction of the minor.

Transfer: The juvenile delinquency court judge may transfer a case to adult court (Prop 57). A transfer to adult court is allowed when the judge determines that a juvenile, who is over the age of thirteen (13), and who is charged with certain violent offenses, should have his or her case transferred to adult court under the circumstance. The circumstances the court will consider in a transfer case include the sophistication of the crime, the age of the defendant, the minor’s criminal history, the minor’s attempts at rehabilitation, and more. Crimes that are transferred to adult court are only the most serious of criminal offenses, including: murder, carjacking, arson, attempted murder, armed robbery, violent escape from jail, torture, mayhem, kidnapping, assault with a firearm, drive-by shooting, and more.

Note: If the prison sentence will end before the minor reaches the age of twenty-one (21) the juvenile delinquency court judge may allow the defendant to serve his or her incarceration in the Department of Juvenile Justice for his or her entire sentence; however, if the minor’s prison sentence will not end by the time he reaches his or her twenty-first (21st) birthday then the judge will order the defendant to transfer to adult prison at his or her eighteenth (18th) birthday.

To learn more about juvenile delinquency court, including defenses to crimes committed by minors, contact our legal team today for a free consultation. Call today!


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