As many people know, Juvenile crimes are prosecuted differently than adult crimes. A person under the age of 18, when accused of a crime is prosecuted in juvenile court. We don’t call them criminal proceedings, rather we call them delinquency proceedings. Why is that? Well, Juvenile crimes in California occupy a peculiar terrain. Some might say that it is neither fish nor fowl. In essence, someone prosecuted under California law for a juvenile offense is both treated as someone who needs an Orange County lawyer to be protected and someone who needs to be prosecuted.
In recent years, and against the grain of what has happened in many other areas of criminal law, the courts have soften their approach on many cases. There was a time a decade ago when the district attorney would “direct file“ many charges in order to increase punishment against juveniles. What I have discovered as a juvenile crimes attorney in Orange County is with the advent of mental health evaluations scientific studies and a general, greater appreciation for the immaturity of the juvenile brain, the courts have taken a more holistic approach to dealing with juvenile crimes.
We now know that teenagers do not have the intellectual capacity to under stand the consequences of their actions. This relates directly to the concept of “mental state“. Does the person committing the offense understand the nature and consequences of their actions and do they have the ability to form criminal intent. There was a time in the past when children as young as 12 were being prosecuted vigorously and, many felt, punitively. But those children could not possibly understand the nature and consequences of their actions.
Children prosecuted in juvenile court are not treated as criminals, per se. The courts don’t even call it a criminal proceeding but a “jurisdictional proceeding“. The District Attorney does not seek a “guilty“ finding but rather a “jurisdictional finding. The goal of the court is to help the child, promote public safety and in many cases offer counseling, treatment and long-term guidance depending upon the child’s circumstances and family history. Fewer and fewer children are being locked up in Juvenile Hall in favor of this approach. The children who are locked up in Juvenile Hall are usually children who have committed violent offenses. As an ongoing debate, many believe that this has unfairly impacted certain minority groups because of their lack of opportunity in various aspects of their lives.
It’s important for parents to understand that their children have all the same rights as adults as well as the same responsibilities. What that means is that they have a right to remain silent if they’re being questioned by the police but they do not have the right to have a parent present during questioning. As an Orange County Lawyer, I have found that this is a very common misperception. It would seem strange to remind your children that they don’t have to talk to the police if there are questions, since this goes against the grain of respecting law enforcement and also suggests to the child that his or her parent thinks he or she is going to commit a crime. But it’s worth a basic civics lesson to instruct them about the law.
As a juvenile crimes attorney in Orange County, it is my practice to always argue to keep a child In juvenile court. We take a holistic approach to representation and seek out creative alternatives to custody and a punitive approach. Contact me at anytime to set up a confidential consultation. I am located near the John Wayne Airport in Irvine, California and handle juvenile criminal defense Matters across southern California.