The juvenile justice court is dedicated to hearing criminal offenses by minors and status offenses. California juvenile court system has three types of courts. There is the juvenile delinquency court that addresses felonies and some misdemeanors—the open juvenile court which addresses infraction and low-level crimes (Shouse California Law Group, 2020a). Then there is the juvenile dependency court, which deals with neglected, abandoned, or abused children. The jurisdiction of the California juvenile court is for minors between the age of 12 and 17. In some cases, it applies to those under the age of 12, if the nature of the offense is of a serious matter, such as oral copulation, rape, sodomy, violence, the threat of bodily harm, or sexual penetration by force.
The case of 17-year-old Peter falls within the jurisdiction of the California juvenile justice system. There are specific procedures that the police may use in processing Peter’s case. The first thing step to be taken by the police would be to establish the nature of the crime committed by Peter. Based on the explanation provided in the case study, Peter has invested more than one offense that violates the state laws. The first offenses noticed by the police were traffic offenses, which include speeding, reckless driving, and driving under the influence (DUI). Speeding is an infraction and would, therefore, attract a speeding ticket. However, before issuing a speeding ticket, the police will ask for a driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance. All three are ticketable offenses, and since Peter is driving a stolen car, he would only be able to provide the driving license, which means he attracted two additional tickets. However, the police will cross-reference the information on the driver’s license with the one for the car’s registration. The police will identify the different name and registration address in the driver’s license and the car’s registration. Also, it depends on whether the car’s owner has filed a stolen car complaint that will enable the car’s registration plate to show up on the records of a stolen car.
Reckless driving and driving under the influence are more serious offenses that could earn someone jailtime. As a result, these offenses are considered misdemeanors. Such types of crimes attract harsher penalties and will cause the offender to be arrested on the spot and the car to be impounded.
Juveniles are taken to the juvenile hall. Once he reaches there, Peter’s fingerprints will be taken and match those found at the burglary scene. Burglary is a serious offense and considered a felony. Grand theft auto is can either be a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the value of the car and Peter’s criminal record. Since Peter is a first-time offender, the grand theft auto may be considered as a misdemeanor offense. In the end, Peter could be ticketed for speeding, failing to present a valid proof of insurance and vehicle registration. He will be charged with reckless driving, driving under the influence, grand theft auto, and burglary.
Because of the nature of Peter’s offenses, the probation officer may decide to keep Peter in the juvenile hall until a judge can look at his case (Shouse California Law Group, 2020b). Based on the nature of the crimes, there are four types of hearing that Peter may attend. The first one is detention hearing, where the judge will consider the quality of the offense, as well as Peter’s criminal record before deciding whether Peter will remain in the juvenile hall, pending the resolution of the case. The second type of hearing is the transfer hearing. Transfer hearing determines if the child will remain in the juvenile delinquency court or transferred to adult court. Not all people under the age of 18 are tried under the juvenile system. Minors who have committed some severe offenses can be tried as adults if they are 16 years and above. However, none of Peter’s crimes meet the 30 crimes listed in W&I code 707 (b) and will likely proceed to adjudication, which is the trial.
It is during the adjudication that the judge determines whether or not Peter had committed the said offenses. It is important to note that regardless of their financial status or position, Peter is entitled to legal representation. Therefore, if they cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided by the state. The procedure for the juvenile court follows the same process as the adult court, except the jury. Also, in the juvenile court, the judge does not pronounce a guilty verdict. Instead, the judge sustains or overrules the district attorney’s petition. If the judge sustains the petition, Peter goes to the disposition hearing.
It is in the disposition hearing where the judge will pronounce Peter’s sentence. The main goal of the juvenile justice system is to help the minor’s rehabilitation rather than deliver punishment. The judge looks at the nature of the crime, the defendant’s criminal record, and the age of the minor before coming up with a sentence. The sentencing options available to the judge include informal probation under Welfare & Institutions Code 725, a dismissal under W&I Sec 782, commitment to the Division of Juvenile Justice, formal probation at home, or formal probation at a country probation hub. Since Peter had fully admitted to the charges before his parents were contacted. Also, there is the evidence found in the back of the car he was driving, which would convince the judge to sustain the petition.
Based on Peter’s age, history, and gravity of the offense, he will receive formal probation because his felony charges require serious action. But since it was a non-violent crime, together with the lack of criminal record, the judge will be lenient. He will be required to meet up with the probation officer periodically, who will prepare a probation report and submit to the judge. He may be required to perform community service as part of his probation terms.
Shouse California Law Group. (2020a). Juvenile criminal defense in California. https://www.shouselaw.com/role-juvenile-court.html
Shouse California Law Group. (2020b). What is California juvenile court process? https://www.shouselaw.com/juvenile-court-process.html
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