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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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