SAN DIEGO JUVENILE Attorney: EXPERT DEFENSE For Minors ACCUSED OF Crimes
I am San Diego juvenile lawyer Peter M. Liss, and I can help you. I have personally defended hundreds of juveniles (minors under the age of 18) who have been arrested and charged with criminal offenses. Some of the most commonly charged juvenile crimes include:
- Driving offenses (Including reckless driving, hit and run and driving without a license)
- Drug crimes (Including drug sales and possession)
- DUI (Including DUI with accident and driving under the influence of drugs)
- Gang crimes (including drive-by shootings and carjacking)
- Property destruction (including arson and vandalism)
- Sex crimes (including sexual assault, child molestation and child pornography)
- Status offenses (including alcohol possession, marijuana possession and truancy)
- Theft (including shoplifting, burglary, robbery and joyriding)
- Violent crimes (including assault, battery and weapons charges)
I am often retained by parents and grandparents to represent a child charged with committing a crime. If you need a juvenile defense attorney near you, please call me today for a free consultation at my Vista law office or my more centrally-located office in Carmel Valley. You will receive top representation for a reasonable fee.
About the Juvenile Justice System in CA
It is important to realize that criminal charges against minors are handled drastically different than those against adults. For example, there is no bail in juvenile courts, although minors may be released to their parents in many cases. Additionally, minors do not have the right to trial by jury, but instead will be convicted and sentenced exclusively by the judge hearing the case. That being said, minors do have the right to a lawyer and it is particularly important that you work with someone who has experience working in the juvenile court system. In fact, hiring a good lawyer is one of the most important things you can do to help your child after they have been arrested.
How the Juvenile Legal System Works
Minors are tried in the California juvenile court system. Juveniles may be picked up by the police either for “juvenile delinquency” (committing a crime) or a “status offense” (age-related offenses such as truancy or minor in possession charges). Only those over the age of 12 can face criminal charges, except in cases involving rape or murder. While there are many courthouses in San Diego County, the only juvenile court in this jurisdiction is located next to the juvenile detention facility near the interchange between the 805 and 163 highways.
The Juvenile Court system has five steps: 1) the filing of petition 2) intake 3) the fitness hearing (if applicable) 4) adjudication and 5) the disposition hearing
Filing of Petition
The filing of petition is simply the juvenile equivalent of filing charges against an adult offender. The petition may request for the juvenile to be charges to be filed in adult or juvenile court.
When the court receives the petition from the District Attorney, they ask the probation department to prepare an initial report on the defendant. This is when the intake process starts. In juvenile court, the warrant process is usually limited to juveniles who violate probation or miss their court appearance. Most minors are not detained in Juvenile Hall but released to their parents pending the filing of charges. If they don’t have a stable residence or are accused of a more serious offense, some minors are detained immediately or later arrested once the investigation is complete.
At the time of arrest, an intake officer (a juvenile probation officer) provides a summary of the police report, the juvenile’s school and criminal record and comments from the parents as to how the juvenile is doing. Within 48 hours of the time a minor has been arrested (excluding non-court days), the court must hold a detention hearing (the juvenile court equivalent of an arraignment), to review the recommendations of the probation officer. If this hearing does not occur within 48 hours, the minor must be released into the custody of his parents.
When a juvenile is brought in for a detention hearing, she cannot post bail. Instead, the judge will decide whether she will be released to her parent’s custody or kept in the juvenile detention facility. Before the detention hearing, the probation department will prepare a report making recommendations to the judge regarding whether to release or detain a minor. The judge ultimately has the final say in the matter and his opinion will be based on both the defendant and the crime in question.
Minors are usually detained in one of two locations, Juvenile Hall -next to the Juvenile Court or in East Mesa near the Mexican border. Unlike adult prisoners, they will not be detained in a county jail.
If a child over 16 commits a very serious offense, such as rape, murder, arson or kidnapping, the court will hold a “fitness hearing” to decide whether the child should be tried in the adult criminal court system. In most of these cases, your juvenile justice lawyer will work to ensure the case is held in juvenile courts as sentencing generally is not as severe for minors. This is particularly beneficial for those charged with sex crimes as a teen who receives probation in a sex crime will not be required to register as a sex offender.
The adjudication process is the resolution of the defendant’s case. This can involve a plea bargain, like adult offenders might make with a prosecutor, or it could mean a hearing with a judge. Juveniles do not receive jury trials and their guilt will be determined by the judge, but they can still defend themselves against the charges with a skilled defense attorney.
If the judge decides a minor is guilty of a crime, he will then schedule a disposition hearing, which is like a sentencing hearing in the adult courts. At this hearing, the prosecution and defense attorney will both present arguments regarding what they view would be the most appropriate sentence for the juvenile. The ultimate goal of the juvenile justice system is to rehabilitate minors, not punish them, and the judge will consider what she believes is the most appropriate way to teach the teen a lesson and remedy any wrongs incurred by the victim.
What Rights Do Juvenile Offenders Have?
Minors Can be Questioned Without Their Parents
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 like an adult, the juvenile has the right to refuse to talk to the officers.
Juveniles Have the Right to an Attorney
If a juvenile is 15 years old or younger, the police must provide a lawyer to consult with the juvenile before questioning. The lawyer will typically advise the minor to invoke the right to remain silent and not talk to the police. When a teen over 16 finds himself being questioned by police, he should ideally only answer questions related to his identity and request to speak with a lawyer.
Rights of Teens Who Have Been Detained
When detained, a minor has the right to call her parents and a lawyer. Parents are often left alone in the interrogation room with their child, but few people are aware that their conversations may be recorded in these rooms and these discussions can be used as evidence. If you and your child are in an interrogation room together, wait to speak to them about the crime until your lawyer is present or you leave the station when your child has been released back into your custody.
Search and Seizure of Minor’s Possessions
Minors should also decline a search of their possessions. Outside of a school setting, police must have probable cause or consent in order to search a minor’s personal property such as a backpack or his pockets. On school grounds, things can be a little more confusing as school officials and police officers can search a minor’s locker, pockets or backpack if they have reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. It is important to note that while this is a lesser standard of proof than probable cause, it still requires a reasonable suspicion that the student has violated a school rule or law, so random locker searches are not permitted.
If a teacher, principal, police officer or other authority figure aside from a legal guardian searches a minor’s possessions without reasonable suspicion or the juvenile’s permission, the search could be in violation of the child’s rights and any resulting evidence may be withheld from the adjudication hearing.
Sentences for Juvenile Offenders
The penalties for juvenile offenses are largely the same as those adults may face, but the juvenile court system is overall oriented towards rehabilitation rather than punishment. 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. Teens are sometimes also subjected to specialized penalties, including the loss of driving privileges or the delayed ability to obtain a driver’s license for crimes such as driving under the influence or possession of alcohol.
Maximum Penalties for Juvenile Offenders
The potential penalties can be severe depending on the charges in question; a child under age 16 can be incarcerated until age 21, and a child over 16 until age 25. Minors charged as an adult can face the same penalties as adults, including life sentences, though they cannot be sentenced to death. It’s worth adding that if someone over 16 is tried in adult court, they will still be held in a juvenile facility until they are 18.
Diversion Programs Allow for a Clean Criminal Record
The upside is that many minors are eligible for diversion programs that may rely on alternative sentences such as counseling, outreach programs, community service, “scared straight” programs and house arrest. The biggest benefit of a diversion program though is that upon completion, the charge will not show up on a person’s criminal record –something particularly important for juvenile offenders who are just starting out their lives. In fact, many financial aid programs are unavailable to those with certain criminal offenses on their record.
Your Juvenile Attorney Matters
With all of this in mind, it is easy to see how important it is to obtain a skilled juvenile court lawyer as soon as possible to obtain the best results under the particular facts and law of the child’s case.
Juvenile Record Sealing
Juvenile court determinations are not convictions but are what’s called a “true finding.” A true finding and record of the detention and arrest can be sealed upon completion of juvenile probation or a diversion program. You do not need a lawyer to file a motion to seal in these cases.
When A Juvenile Court Attorney is Required to Seal Records
If a juvenile is not sentenced to probation or fails to complete probation or the terms of a diversion program, the teen’s record can be sealed upon the age of 18. This process is not automatic and does require a motion to be filed. There are some limited circumstances where a record cannot be sealed. This includes cases where the minor was convicted of a violent crime or some sex offenses.
What Does it Mean to Have a Record Sealed?
Sealing the record means the conviction will not appear on background checks and cannot be used against the individual when seeking employment or housing. There are only limited circumstances where a sealed record can be viewed and eventually the physical records will be destroyed.
As Your San Diego Juvenile Lawyer, I Can Help You By
- 1 Advising you and keeping you updated at all times on your case status
- 2 Negotiating to have children released to their parents, rather than sent to juvenile hall, immediately after arrest.
- 3 Interviewing witnesses and police
- 4 Gathering evidence supporting child’s defenses
- 5 Making court motions. These may include motions to suppress illegally seized evidence and motions to exclude improper testimony.
- 6 Arguing against transferring the child’s case to the adult court system.
- 7 Evaluating all legal defenses available in the child’s case for the adjudication hearing (the trial). These can include insufficient evidence, innocence, lack of a criminal intent, and other defenses
- 8 Seeking reduction of charges (when available)
- 9 Representing the child at the juvenile adjudication hearing (trial) or in a plea bargain, or representing the child in adult criminal court if the case is transferred there
- 10 Presenting the best legal defenses for the child’s’ case
- 11 Seeking alternative sentencing to locked confinement, or the shortest confinement sentence available. Alternative sentences (available in some cases) can include probation, restitution, assignment to community service, placement in a halfway house or foster care, or placement in a training school
Other Benefits To Hiring Me for Your Teen’s Defense
Two Convenient Locations, One Dedicated Lawyer
My two juvenile defense attorney offices offer free parking and are located in Vista and San Diego, conveniently just off the 78 highway and 5 freeway near the 805 merge, respectively. Thanks to my 24 hour a day live-answering service I promise that all calls will be answered no matter what time you call because I know when you have a criminal defense emergency, you want to talk to someone right away. I assure that when you contact my law office, you will receive a prompt response so you have the support you need throughout your case. I also promise to personally handle your entire case and not hand off your criminal defense to a lower associate in my office.
35 Years Experience; Proven Track Record
I have over 35 years experience in law, and have handled cases in a wide range of practice areas ranging from shoplifting all the way to murder. I am highly experienced in my field and have personally, successfully defended hundreds of juveniles. My degree comes from the top-rated University of California, Berkeley Law School. I guarantee all clients will receive top quality representation at reasonable rates and I accept all major credit cards.
Protect Your Child, Call Today
If you are a parent or grandparent of a child who has been arrested, please call today to schedule a free consultation. Your child’s future could be at stake; please call.