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Juvenile Delinquency Matters

Juveniles are defined as minors, under the age of 18. Juveniles are treated differently from adult offenders and while many juvenile offenses such as shoplifting, receiving stolen property, assault, etc., parallel adult offenses, the penalties could often be more severe. Other offenses such as breaking curfew and truancy are unique to juveniles and would not be illegal if the person was over the age of majority.

There are separate courts, institutions, and rules governing the juvenile process; and generally the juvenile court system will make every effort to rehabilitate the child rather than choose incarceration. Only in extreme cases such as murder, kidnapping, arson and rape will a juvenile be tried as an adult. The courts may hold a "fitness hearing" to decide whether or not to transfer the juvenile to the adult court system.

The court will base its decision based on the following factors:

  1. The seriousness of the offense
  2. The child's criminal sophistication
  3. Previous offenses
  4. Previous attempts to rehabilitate the offender
  5. The court's belief that future attempts at rehabilitation will be unsuccessful

Even though many of the laws governing juveniles differ from adult laws, the rights of juveniles are the same.

  1. You must be read your Miranda rights if you are placed under arrest
  2. You have the right to have an attorney present during questioning
  3. You have the right to know the exact charges prior to going to court
  4. You have the right to protect yourself against self-incrimination
  5. You have the right to confront your accuser and examine any witnesses
  6. You have the right to appeal the court's decision
  7. You do not, however, have the right to a jury trial in juvenile court.

If you find yourself in a situation involving law enforcement, it is extremely important to remember the following:

  1. You do not have to submit to a search unless you have actually been placed under arrest. If the police ask you for permission to search -- respectfully decline.
  2. Do not resist arrest
  3. Do not volunteer any information
  4. Do not answer any questions other than your name, address and phone number
  5. Call your parents immediately
  6. Insist that your parents and an attorney be present before answering any questions
  7. Do not discuss your case with anyone other than your attorney

Most importantly, never attempt to represent yourself in court. Your rights must be protected even though you are a "juvenile". Call an attorney who is experienced in the intricacies of juvenile law and make sure you get expert representation before proceeding.

All juvenile crimes, either felony or misdemeanor, are very serious charges and can carry life changing consequences. If you or someone you know has been arrested, or is being investigated for a crime, you need advice from an experienced California criminal defense lawyer. Protect your rights and your freedom.


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