Like many states, California tries minors separately from adults. Anyone under the age of 18 at the time of the offense will be tried in this court system, although the crimes and penalties are largely the same as those faced by adults. It is important to realize that juveniles can be sentenced to the maximum sentence just as easily as an adult can, meaning even a misdemeanor crime can result in up to a year of confinement in a juvenile detention facility. A juvenile convicted of a felony can be confined up until the age of 25.
In serious felony cases, minors over the age of 14 can be tried in adult courts, meaning sentences can go all the way up to life imprisonment for homicide.
While many people think police need the permission of a parent before questioning a minor, that is not the case in California. Police can visit a school and question a minor without a parent’s permission, but the juvenile has the right to refuse to talk to the officers and to decline a search of their possessions.
While the crimes and punishments may be the same in both juvenile and adult courts, there are a few differences between the two systems. Juvenile courts do not perform trial by jury or offer bail. Although bail is not offered, a San Diego juvenile lawyer can argue for a child’s release into parental custody. At the end of the trial, the judge will make his verdict about the minor’s guilt, not a jury.
Unlike adult court systems, which are intended to serve as punishment for crimes, juvenile court systems are intended as a means for rehabilitation. For this reason, juvenile courts offer many options to preventing the minor from having a criminal charge on his or her record and a number of options to help the minor avoid prosecution altogether. An experienced San Diego juvenile attorney can opt for a diversion program, a case dismissal and the sealing of criminal records based on a specific client’s needs. If your child has been accused of a crime, please call experienced Vista criminal lawyer Peter M. Liss today at (760) 643-4050.
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