More Information On The Juvenile Delinquency Process
If your child is involved in a juvenile delinquency case that means he or she is accused of breaking the law. This section covers what happens after a minor is arrested, how the juvenile delinquency court process works, what your child’s rights are, and what your rights and responsibilities are as the parent (or guardian).
If your child is arrested, the police can:
- Make a record of the arrest and let your child go home.
- Send your child to an agency that will shelter, care for, or counsel your child.
- Make your child come back to the police station. This is called being “cited back.”
- Give you and your child a Notice to Appear. Read the notice and do what it says. It will give you a date and time you must appear in court. DO NOT FORGET THIS DATE! If you and your child do not appear, a warrant may issued for your child’s arrest and could further complicate your child’s case.
- Put your child in juvenile hall (this is called “detention”). Your child can make at least 2 phone calls within 1 hour of being arrested. One call must be to a parent, guardian, relative, or boss. The other call must be to a lawyer. 
If the police want to talk with your child about what happened, they must first tell your child his/her legal rights (called “Miranda rights”). These are:
- The right to remain silent.
- The right to know that anything he/she says will be used against him/her in court.
- The right to a lawyer – and, if you or your child can’t pay for a lawyer, the court will appoint one. [If your child doesn’t have a lawyer, talk to the public defender for advice.] 
- As a parent, while you may not be arrested or under suspicion, anything you say to law enforcement about your child may also be used against your child. For that reason, it would be best to talk to an attorney.
Your rights if your child is arrested:
- You have a right to have the police tell you as soon as this happens
- You have a right to know where your child is, and what rights he/she has
- Inspect the court file
- You have legal responsibilities as a parent (or guardian), including to:
- Attend hearings
- Follow court orders related to you and your child.
- You may have financial responsibilities to pay for damage or losses that your child caused. If the court orders restitution, you may have to pay the victim for the harm your child caused. This may include paying for property your child stole or damaged, medical bills, or lost wages.
- You may have financial responsibilities to pay for your child’s fees.  Unless you’re the victim, you’ll get a bill and must pay for your child’s lawyer, juvenile hall services (like food and laundry), and fees to keep your child in institutions. Note: Tell the court if you are unable to pay for these fees and costs. You may make a request to the court to waive court costs and fees but some of these fees may be difficult or impossible to waiver, like home monitoring or “ankle bracelets.” 
Read the Notice to Appear carefully. It will probably tell you to go to the probation department to meet with a probation officer. Go to http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/ to find the local probation department.
Four things can happen at the meeting. The probation officer may:
- Lecture your child and let him or her go home.
- Let your child do a voluntary program instead of going to court. The program could be special classes, counseling, community service, or other activities. If your child finishes the program, he or she will not have to go to court. You may have to sign a contract that says what the child has to do. The contract can last 6 months.
- Send your child home and send the case to the district attorney. The district attorney will decide to file a petition (papers that mean that your child will have to go to court) or not.
- Keep your child locked up and send the case to the district attorney. The district attorney will then file a petition, usually within 2 days after the arrest. Your child will have a detention hearing on the next day the court is open. The court is closed on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays. 
If a petition is filed in court, your child’s case will be filed in the juvenile delinquency court.
Along with the notice about the hearing, you may receive a copy of a petition – either a 601 Petition or a 602 Petition – filed with the court about your child. The petition says what your child is accused of, and asks the court to handle your child’s case. The notice tells you when and where to go for your child’s first court hearing – the detention hearing. Read on for a bit more explanation:
601 petitions are filed by the probation department and allege facts that are only illegal because the offender is a child. This includes things such as breaking curfew, skipping school, running away or disobeying parents. If the court finds a minor guilty of these offenses they will become what is known as a “status offender”.
602 petitions are filed by the District Attorney’s office and allege offenses that would be criminal if the minor were 18 years or older. This includes both felonies and misdemeanors. If the court finds the allegations to be true the child will become a “delinquent”.
During what is known as the fitness or waiver hearing, the court will determined whether the child is “unfit” for juvenile court. If so, he or she will be tried in adult court. Children can only be deemed unfit if they were 14 or older at the time of the alleged offense.
As the parent, you have a right to get a copy of the petition about your child, along with notice about your child’s first hearing – the detention hearing. (If your child is 8 or older, he/she should also get a notice.) If your child is locked up, you should get the notice at least 5 days before this hearing. If your child is not locked up, you should get the petition and a notice at least 10 days before the hearing. If the hearing is less than 5 days after the petition is filed, you should get the notice at least 24 hours before the hearing.
If your child is locked up for more than 2 days, he/she should have a detention hearing within 3 court days. At this hearing, the judge will decide if your child can go home before the next hearing.
There are seven different types of hearings your child may have in juvenile court. You must go to these hearings.
At these hearings, the judge will decide what’s best for your child. The judge may ask you questions, or you may be a witness in the case. If you can prove that your child listens to you and follows your rules, the judge may let your child go home with you.
Your child will get a lawyer who speaks for his/her interests, and the district attorney will speak for the state. You can ask to talk to the judge, but the court probably won’t appoint you a lawyer.
If your child speaks a language other than English, he/she has a right to an interpreter. You may be able to have one, too. If you need one, ask the court before the hearing date.
The court will consider how old your child is, how serious the crime is, and whether your child already has a criminal record. The court will then decide what should happen with your child. 
There are 7 kinds of hearings your child may have in juvenile court. You must go to these hearings.
Here are 7 types of hearings your child may have in juvenile court:
- Detention hearing: If your child is locked up for more than 2 days, he or she will have a detention hearing within 3 court days. (A court day is a day the court is open.) The judge will decide if your child can go home before the next hearing.
- The pretrial or settlement conference: In many counties, there is a court date to try to solve the problem without a trial.
- Hearings on motions: These are court dates to work out different things. Motion hearings can come up at any time during the case.
- Fitness or waiver hearing: This is a hearing to decide if your child will be tried as an adult. If the judge decides that your child is “unfit” for juvenile court, he or she will be tried in adult court. This will not happen if your child is under 14 years old when he or she committed the crime.
- Jurisdiction hearing: This is when the judge decides if your child committed the crime.
- Disposition hearing: If the judge decides your child committed the crime, there will be a disposition hearing to decide how to punish your child. This can be on the same day as the jurisdiction hearing. If the judge says your child did not commit the crime, there will be no disposition hearing.
- Review hearings: Sometimes there are hearings to see how your child is doing in his placement.
The juvenile delinquency court can make any of the following orders:
- That your child will live with you under court supervision.
- That your child must be put on probation, and must live in a relative’s home, a foster home or a group home, or an institution.
- That your child must be put on probation, and must be sent to a probation camp or ranch.
- That your child must be sent to the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) of the California Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). This means he/she will spend 30-90 days in a reception center, which will determine your child’s education and treatment needs. Then he/she will be sent to a correctional facility or youth camp.
How will the court make its decisions? What can the court decide to do?
The court will consider how old your child is, how serious the crime is, and the child’s criminal record if any. The court can order that:
- Your child live with you under court supervision.
- Your child be put on probation. He or she may have to live with a relative, in a foster home or group home, or in an institution.
- Your child be put on probation and sent to a probation camp or ranch.
- Your child can be sent to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Division of Juvenile Justice (also called “DJJ”). If your child is tried in adult court, he or she will be sent to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Division of Adult Operations (also called “CDCR”).
If your child is sent to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), he or she will go to a “reception center” for the first 30 to 90 days. The center will find out what education and treatment your child needs. Then your child will go a correctional facility or youth camp.
Find the DJJ’s reception centers online at the following website: http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/Juvenile_Justice/Facility_Locations/index.html.
Some children can legally be treated as adults in the criminal justice system.
If a child is 14 or older, his/her case can be sent to adult court for certain “serious” crimes, such as: Murder or attempted murder; Setting fire to a building with people in it; Robbery with a weapon; Rape; Kidnapping; Carjacking; Crimes with guns; Drug crimes; AND Escape from a juvenile detention facility.
If a child is tried in adult court, he/she can be sentenced to adult prison (CDCR). Depending on how old the child is when sentenced as an adult, and how long the sentence is, he/she may be allowed to stay at DJJ for certain parts of the prison sentence:
- If the child is under 16 when sentenced to adult prison, he/she will stay at the DJJ until he/she is at least 16.
- If the child is at least 16 when sentenced to adult prison, the judge can send him/her directly to adult prison. Or, if the child’s sentence ends before he/she turns 21, the judge can let him/her stay at the DJJ the whole time. If the child’s sentence ends after he/she turns 21, he/she will go to adult prison when he/she turns 18.
If your child’s case might be going to adult court, talk to a lawyer about what can happen. 
Maybe. Your child might be able to get some of his/her juvenile records “sealed”: After your child turns 18, he/she can file a petition to have the records sealed. Or, 5-6 years after the case ends, you can file a petition to do this. If the court approves the petition, all records of the case and the arrest will be sealed.
For more information on sealing juvenile records, speak to your family law facilitator, a lawyer, or contact the clerk at the juvenile delinquency court where you child’s case is being heard. For more general information on sealing juvenile records, see http://www.courts.ca.gov/28120.htm.
Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 627 et. seq. ↑
Cal. Penal Code § 859.5(g)(1). ↑
Cal. Welf & Inst. Code § 627. ↑
Cal. Welf & Inst. Code § 627.5. ↑
Cal. Rule of Court § 5.552. ↑
Judicial Council of Cal. “Restitution Basics for Victims of Offenses by Juveniles,” (2012), http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/restitution_basics_juvenile_web.pdf. ↑
In re Jeffrey M., 141 Cal. App 4, 1018 section 730.7 ↑
If your child is tried in adult court, he/she will be sent to the Division of Adult Operations of the CDCR. ↑