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Juvenile Defense Process

Orange County, CA Juvenile Criminal Attorney

If your child or another family member is charged with a crime, seek the immediate assistance of a juvenile defense expert. Juvenile court cases are often complex and understandably scary for both adolescents and parents. At the Law Offices of Katie Walsh, our team is your advocate—guiding you through the court system and developing a legal strategy tailored to your best interests.

About the Juvenile Court Process

While criminal and juvenile law have many similarities, they are handled differently. Attorney Katie Walsh has handled criminal cases and juvenile cases from both sides: as a former district attorney of 10 years and a juvenile defense specialist. Today, Ms. Walsh focuses her practice on juvenile law to provide children and families with the best possible legal outcome in every situation.

Selecting a Juvenile Defense Attorney

Choosing a lawyer for your child’s case can be a daunting process. It is important to select a defense firm that is seasoned in juvenile court, not just criminal court. Understanding how juvenile court operates makes a major impact on the outcome of your child’s case. With this in mind, ask questions like these before you decide on an Orange County defense attorney:

  • How long have you practiced law?
  • When was the last time you had a case involving a minor? What was the outcome?
  • How much of your practice is dedicated to juvenile law?
  • What is your juvenile court record?
  • Will you be the attorney actually handling my case? Who else will be involved?

When your child or a loved one is in trouble with the law, call juvenile defense attorney Katie Walsh at (714) 351-0178. Your consultation is free, and our Orange County legal experts are committed to walking you through the legal process and mitigating your family’s legal risk.

The Basics of the Orange County Juvenile Court Process

  • Arrest. After being arrested, a minor can be cited and released or detained at Juvenile Hall. If your child is in custody, the district attorney must file a petition within 48 hours, or the child must be released.
  • Juvenile detention hearings. If your child is in custody, their first court date is called a detention hearing. During the detention hearing, the juvenile referee or judge will determine whether to detain your son or daughter pending adjudication of the charges. The referee or judge will consider input from the probation department, as well as from the juvenile deputy district attorney and juvenile defense attorney. They will consider these factors before making a decision:
  • Is it reasonably necessary to detain the minor for the protection of another’s person or property?
  • Is it a matter of immediate or urgent necessity that the minor is detained for his or her own protection?
  • Is the minor a flight risk?
  • Has the minor violated a prior court order?

Ways That Juvenile Criminal Law Differs From Adult Criminal Law

  1. Under California law, juvenile offenders do not commit “crimes.” They commit “delinquent acts,” which would constitute crimes if committed by an adult. The theoretical purpose of juvenile court is to rehabilitate rather than punish.
  2. Your child or adolescent loved one is not subject to a bail hearing. Instead, they must attend a “detention hearing.” During the hearing, the judge decides whether they should go to Juvenile Hall to await court proceedings, or whether they can return home with you.
  3. If the court doesn’t present your child’s attorney with sufficient documentation, the attorney can set a re-hearing (also called a “Dennis H.” hearing) to contest the basis of detention. The Dennis H. hearing includes your child’s defender and the probation officer who prepared the report, and the judge will make a determination about detention. During this process, the juvenile defense attorney can provide oral or written statements against the detention. Remember, the court can only detain a minor if there is a finding of them violating a prior order or escaping juvenile court or if they are considered a flight risk.
  4. Your adolescent, while accused of a criminal offense, is not entitled to a trial by jury. Instead, the judge decides whether a crime has been committed and determines your child’s sentence. The trial phase of a juvenile case is called a jurisdictional hearing. During a jurisdictional hearing, the judge hears evidence and determines whether the child is delinquent. The court may then take whatever action it deems to be in the child’s best interest. Outcomes range from picking up trash to spending time at the California Youth Authority (juvenile prison).
  5. If the judge finds that your child committed the crime in question, there is no conviction. Instead, the “petition” (similar to a “complaint” in adult court) is deemed “sustained.” This means that the child found to have committed a crime in juvenile court does not have to report that they have been convicted of a crime.
  6. Please note: Some cases, like murder, rape and carjacking, are deemed so serious that your child may be subject to a special hearing where a judge decides to transfer the juvenile case to adult court. If this occurs, your son or daughter will be treated like any other adult offender.

Transferring a Juvenile Case to Adult Criminal Court

There is no longer “Direct filing” of criminal charges against youth offenders happens in serious felony cases like murder, attempted murder, assault with firearms and other serious gang crimes. However, a youth can be transferred to adult court after a Fitness Hearing if the prosecution requests one. The death penalty is not available for juveniles who commit capital murder.

To be transferred to adult court, a minor must be 14 years or older under Welfare and Institutions Code Section 707(d)(2). This means that:

  • A minor was alleged to commit an offense punishable by death or life in prison if committed by an adult,
  • A minor was alleged to personally use a firearm in commission or attempted commission of a felony, or
  • A minor was alleged to have committed an offense like murder, arson, robbery, rape, molestation, kidnapping for ransom or other criminal attempts when the minor was previously found to be a ward of the court under a prior case. Direct filing may also occur if the charge was committed for the benefit of a street gang or while interfering with someone’s civil rights.
  • Once a minor is charged as an adult, they are subject to the same sentencing and enhancements as adults are, except the death penalty. Courts also conduct fitness hearings to determine if the minor is fit to be treated as an adult.

Hire Orange County Juvenile Attorney Katie Walsh Now

The law is changing, and more juveniles are being treated and punished as adults in spite of overwhelming evidence that juveniles are different than adults. The adolescent brain is not fully developed. Recent studies show that the decision-making part of the male brain, in particular, is not completely developed until age 25. Don’t take your chances with just any attorney. Trust Katie Walsh’s Orange County legal experience. Together, she and her team protect your rights and provide your still-maturing child with a rigorous, committed legal defense—no matter what the crime. Contact the Law Offices of Katie Walsh now: (714) 351-0178.

Juvenile Court Overview

Juvenile Defense Process

Client Reviews

I hired attorney Katie Walsh to help my son when he was found with a large amount of drugs on school campus. She got us through the Expulsion Hearing, and miraculously he can go back to school at the winter semester...

AR- parent of minor client

I hired Katie Walsh to have my felony convictions expunged. She was able to expunge my record within 6 weeks of me giving her all the information. Even though technically I had a probation violation, and therefore the...

AR, criminal client

My 16 year old son was charged with possession of Marijuana, HS 11357(b). I was very concerned about what would happen to him and how this would affect his future. I contacted Ms. Walsh and she assured me that everything...

CT, parent of juvenile client

My child was charged with Felony Penal Code 597(a)- Animal Cruelty. After hiring Katie Walsh, she got the charges reduced to a misdemeanor, counseling, and 40 hours of chores at home. We come back in 6 months and the...

DH - Parent of Juvenile client

I hired Katie Walsh to represent my son on sexual abuse allegations- P.C. 288(a) and P.C. 288(b)- they were Strike Charges. After negotiating with the D.A., she got all the strike charges dismissed, and got my son...

DR- mother of juvenile client

Katie Walsh was fantastic throughout this entire process! My 13 year old son was charged with two counts of lewd act on a minor, PC 288(a) and was in juvenile hall. After hiring Ms. Walsh, she GOT MY SON OUT OF JAIL and...

EG, parent of juvenile client

My 14 year old son was arrested at school for P.C. 311 (child pornography). My son had innocent and stupid nude pictures of himself and friends on his phone. Ms. Walsh was extremely easy to talk to, and made my son feel...

GK,TK, parents of juvenile client

Ms. Walsh was a life saver when I didn't know what was going on, or how to handle the situation. My young daughter was attacked at her middle school and was seriously injured. At a time when both the school and the...

HA, mother of 13 year old Victim Rights client

I hired Katie Walsh to seal my juvenile record of PC 288(a) (lewd act on a minor), after my request had been denied by a Judge and by the Probation Department. After speaking with Probation, the DA and the Judge at a...

JW, former juvenile client

I was charged with a Felony Conspiracy charge- PC 182. After hiring Ms. Walsh she got my charged reduced to a misdemeanor right away, and now I just have to do community service and in 6 months my entire case will be...

KP, juvenile client

Ms. Walsh was like a breath of fresh air throughout this entire process. I was uncertain about the outcome, but she told me everything would be ok- and it was. She had my juvenile record sealed within 3 months of...

LR, former juvenile client

Ms. Walsh got the judge to terminate my son's probation and seal his 2 juvenile cases (Penal Code 288(a) and Penal Code 242) even though he had violated my probation by picking up a new case. By getting his record sealed...

MB- mother of juvenile client

At a very difficult time in my life I contacted attorney Katie Walsh. I am a teacher and was being harassed/stalked by a parent at my school. I wanted a Restraining Order against this person. Ms. Walsh listened to me...

MB, restraining order client

My son was charged with Lewd Conduct, P.C. 647 out of Downey, CA. After hiring Ms. Walsh, she spoke with the District Attorney, Probation, and the Judge. Even though the judge was not pleased with the offer, she was able...

MG, parent of minor

It is with sincere gratitude that I send this recommendation As a parent of a child that was arrested on a Felony Domestic Abuse charge and over 2000 miles away I had to rely on friend of a friends word that you would...

MPF, mother of criminal client

I really liked having Ms. Walsh as my attorney. She visited me in Juvenile Hall. I was charged with four counts of Robbery (Penal Code 211). This was my 8th juvenile petition. Ms. Walsh got 2 of the robbery charges...

MU, juvenile client

I was arrested for a felony Domestic charge, PC 273.5(a). After I hired Katie Walsh, my entire case was dismissed. I never had to appear in court. I felt very comfortable with Ms. Walsh- she was easy to speak with...

NF, criminal client

Katie was instrumental in helping me with a criminal matter as an advocate for me and my children when I was a named victim in a DV case. She patiently and expediently addressed all of my questions and was an invaluable...


My daughter was pulled over arrested for having a Fake ID. After hiring Ms. Walsh my daughter did not have to plead guilty- which would have affected her license status. She did community service, completed a legal...


My 14 year old daughter was involved in an assault and battery- PC 240/242, in Irvine. After hiring Katie Walsh the case was not referred to Court. My daughter was able to complete a class and the case will be dismissed...

SG, mother a juvenile client

My son was charged with possession of Child Pornography P.C. 311.11(a) - a charge I did not realize a child could be guilty of! As parents were beside ourselves when we found this out, and contacted Katie Walsh. She...

SH- mother of juvenile client

From San Diego I contacted Ms. Walsh about sealing my juvenile record in Orange County regarding a Petty Theft charge. She was always very responsive to any of my questions, and consistently kept me updated. Even though...

XL, juvenile client

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