An arrest or detention by law enforcement officers is a traumatic and stressful event, especially for a child who is not familiar with the law and the criminal justice system. It can be a confusing and worrying moment to the parent as it is to the child because you don't know what to expect or the possible consequences of the offense.
If the police do not release the child to your custody shortly after the arrest, then he/she may have to undergo the juvenile court process, which might result in a lengthy commitment to the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). DJJ detention centers or facilities have tough regulations just as adult correctional facilities, and it's a discipline or disposition you would not wish for your child who has a chance to reform while in your custody.
Knowledgeable and reliable attorneys at Orange County Criminal Lawyer can help you understand the role of legal bodies like DJJ. We can also help your kid fight his/her delinquent act charges through every juvenile court process or procedure for the best possible outcome.
Understanding the Division of Juvenile Justice
Crimes or delinquent acts that minors commit usually vary in severity and sophistication. Just like in an adult, when it comes to sentencing, the juvenile court judge will order a sentence or disposition according to the severity of the defendant's wrongdoing or delinquent act.
In the juvenile justice system, the judge has the authority to order any reasonable sentence or disposition that can discipline and rehabilitate the minor to be a productive citizen. Formally known as the California Youth Authority (CYA), the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) is a rehabilitation and detention legal system designated for serious juvenile delinquents.
DJJ correctional and rehabilitation facilities are typically locked institutions, which can have the same impact on your child as an adult prison. DJJ facilities can provide education and rehabilitative treatment to a minor until he/she turns the age of 25.
A juvenile court has a wide variety of disposition options, ranging from informal probation to confinement in a DJJ detention center or facility. Your child's wrongdoing or delinquent act does not have to come down to confinement in a DJJ detention center, regardless of the circumstances surrounding the offense.
Among all disposition or sentence options the judge has, placement in a DJJ detention center is the most severe disposition or sentence a child could face for a sustained juvenile petition against him/her.
Unlike an adult prison, the goal of confining your child in a DJJ detention center is to provide treatment, education, and counseling to him/her and also help him/her adapt better productive lifestyles to become a law-abiding citizen. Most juvenile delinquent cases will end with informal probation.
A well-informed criminal defense attorney familiar with the juvenile court can convince the court intake officers or the prosecutor to settle the minor's case informally through a diversion program. Do not hesitate to contact an attorney immediately when the police arrest your child or once you receive a message that your child is in custody.
What to Expect in a DJJ Detention Center/Facility
Typically, commitments to the DJJ system are severe and long. Once the judge orders this type of sentence for your child, he/she will be subject to intensive programs which are specifically designated to rehabilitate, educate and treat him/her.
Once your child arrives in a DJJ detention center, he/she will undergo an assessment procedure to determine the right program for him/her. Below are some of the considerations for assigning programs to juvenile offenders in a DJJ detention center/facility:
- The child's age
- The child's educational needs
- The child's maturity level
- The child's risk and treatment needs
- Circumstances and nature of the underlying delinquent act
At the DJJ detention centers, minors must attend school on a full-time basis. Even when your child completes high school education, he/she may have to undertake vocational training or college programs while at the DJJ detention center.
At the DJJ detention center, your child might also qualify for a paying job like food preparation, landscaping, or even janitorial work. In addition to the core programs that your child will undertake while at the DJJ facility, he/she must also participate or undertake a special program that will address his/her specific individual needs, for example:
- Drug substance abuse treatment
- Victim awareness activities
- Sexual behavior treatment
- Behavior and anger management programs
- Mental health residential programs
You can visit your child in a DJJ facility if you want as long as you don't pose a threat. You must also comply with required visiting guidelines regarding allowable items, dressing, and the number of visitors you decide to bring along with you.
Qualifications for Child Commitment to a DJJ Detention Center/Facility
Not every child with a sustained delinquency petition against him/her is subject to commitment in a DJJ detention center. Since 2012, the juvenile court should order placement of a minor in a DJJ detention center only if he/she is a ward of the court, which means the court is in charge of the minor's custody, control, and treatment.
Typically, the judge will order placement of your child in a DJJ detention center if he/she is a ward of the court, and the recent delinquent act charges against him or her is a:
- Sex offense listed under section 290.008(c) of Penal Code
- Serious crime listed under section 707 (b) of the Welfare and Institution Code (WIC)
Some of these serious delinquent acts which will make your child subject to a commitment or confinement in a DJJ facility include:
According to Penal Code 261 PC, you commit rape when you use fraud, force, or threat to convince another person to engage in non-consensual sexual intercourse with you. The law considers all sex offenses, including rape, to be crimes of moral turpitude. That means any person guilty of the offense will be subject to harsher penalties to deter other people with those kinds of behaviors.
Penal Code 261 specifies the crime elements that the prosecutor must prove in court to prove the allegations against the defendant are true. To convince the juvenile court judge that rape allegations against your child are true, the prosecutor must demonstrate the following elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The minor had sexual intercourse involvement with another person
- The other person was not his/her wife or husband
- The sexual intercourse was non-consensual
- The minor was able to accomplish the act by use of force, threat, fear of bodily injury, fraud, or violence.
Under certain circumstances, the juvenile court judge will sustain a delinquency petition against the minor for violating rape law under Penal Code 261 if the other person or victim was incapable of consent. People incapable of consent include:
- Someone with a mental disorder
- An intoxicated individual
- Unconscious person
Apart from confinement in a DJJ detention center, a sustained juvenile petition for rape can also lead to lifelong sex offender registration duties. When law enforcement officers arrest or detain your child due to rape allegations against him/her, you should talk with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to assess the case and build legal defense strategies.
A credible attorney might be able to counter rape charges against the minor by raising several defense arguments like consent between both parties, which is a viable and acceptable legal defense.
Robbery is also a common crime with minors, but most of them are unaware of the possible consequences they can face for the offense. According to Penal Code 211 PC, robbery involves the use of force or fear to take another person’s property or asset from his/her person or immediate presence without the owner’s consent.
For instance, a minor can be liable for violating robbery law under Penal Code 211 PC if his/her acts involve:
- Drugging another person with the intent to steal his/her possession while he/she is unconscious
- Breaking into a house and the residents are inside to steal their personal property by causing the fear of physical harm or injury.
A sustained delinquency petition against a child following robbery allegations can make the judge order placement of him/her in a DJJ detention center or facility. However, a reliable attorney might influence the judge's decision during disposition or sentencing hearing to consider a less severe disposition that does not involve commitments to the DJJ.
Ensure you contact a criminal defense attorney if your child is in police custody for a robbery charge or allegations to fight for his/her best interest and legal rights through every juvenile court procedure.
Because fire is destructive and often causes death, the law treats arson as a severe felony offense. Penal Code 451 PC makes it unlawful for a person to intentionally and maliciously burn or procure material for burning forest land, structure, or property.
During an adjudication hearing, the prosecutor must prove the following elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt to convince the judge that arson allegations against the child are true:
- The minor did burn a structure, forest land, or property
- The minor's actions were willful and intentional
Note, even a simple burning of a piece of wood is enough evidence to make your child accountable for arson under Penal Code 451 PC. For the sake of this law, a "structure" could be a tunnel, bridge, building, or even a public tent. On the other hand, a "forest land" could be any of the following:
- Cut-over land
Apart from confinement in a DJJ detention center, the minor might also be subject to registration duties as an arsonist when the judge sustains a juvenile petition against him/her. You will need a reliable criminal defense attorney's services by your child's side to challenge the prosecutor's evidence during the adjudication hearing to achieve the best possible outcome.
The Duration of Confinement in a DJJ Detention Center/Facility
Before the juvenile court orders placement of a minor in a DJJ detention center, the judge comes up with the maximum confinement duration or period. The minor's term in the DJJ detention center should not be more than the duration an adult would spend in the adult prison for the same offense's commission.
It is upon the juvenile court judge to determine the maximum amount of time the child should spend in the DJJ detention center. During the disposition hearing, the juvenile court judge will consider the minor's delinquency history and sophistication of his/her current delinquent act to determine the maximum duration he/she should spend in a DJJ detention center.
Typically, if the court orders placement of your child in a DJJ detention center for the commission of a non-WIC 707(b) delinquent act, you should expect him/her out of there:
- At the age of twenty-one years, or
- After two years, or whichever occurs later
On the other hand, if the court orders placement of your child in a DJJ detention center for engaging or participating in a WIC 701 (b) delinquent act like murder, rape, or robbery, you should expect his/her discharge or release to occur:
- At the age of twenty-three, or
- After two years, or whichever occurs later
The only exception to this rule is when a minor is liable for the commission of a delinquent act that would necessitate more than seven years imprisonment as an adult. In that case, regardless of whether the delinquent act falls under WIC (b) offenses or not, your child must be out of the DJJ detention center:
- At the age of twenty-five years, or
- After two years, or whichever occurs later
Note, the juvenile court has the power or authority to modify the minor's conditions of confinement in the DJJ detention center if the current programs he/she is undertaking do not benefit him/her.
After release from DJJ, the minor will be on parole, and a department of DJJ known as The Board of Juvenile Hearings (BJH) will:
- Oversee the minor
- Create annual reviews
- Conduct initial case reviews
- Conduct DJJ parole consideration proceeding or hearing
- Conduct discharge hearings
The BJH must review your child's case within 45 days of confinement in the DJJ facility. It is also in charge of scheduling parole consideration dates, which can happen within one year or less for non-severe delinquent acts. For most severe delinquent acts, including manslaughter, it could take up to seven years.
The BJH must also review every delinquency case at least once a year to establish or determine whether there is a need to change or modify the existing juvenile court orders. If your child appears rehabilitated, the BJH has the discretion to release him/her at any time.
When they release your child from the DJJ on parole, the juvenile court and the probation department will be in charge of supervising him/her.
Other Disposition Orders That Do Not Involve Commitment to the DJJ
The juvenile court judge has several disposition options when he/she sustains a delinquency petition against the child. During the sentencing stage or disposition hearing, which may happen shortly after adjudication hearing or trial, your child's attorney can influence the judge's disposition decision to consider a less severe disposition option.
There are several less severe disposition options that a judge can consider that will not involve a commitment to the DJJ detention center as long as it's for the child's best interest and the community will be safe. Some of these disposition options include:
If your child's delinquency case is non-serious or non-violent, a reliable criminal defense attorney might be able to convince the judge that informal probation will benefit him/her. Your child can be eligible for informal probation and diversion under section 654 or 725 of the WIC if:
- It is his/her first-time offense.
- The case against him/her is non-violent, for example, vandalism or trespassing.
Under section 654 of the WIC, your child's attorney can help him/her seek a diversion of the case to probation before an actual delinquency petition filing occurs in a juvenile court. The probation will not last more than six months, but the minor has to comply with the required probation's conditions such as:
- School attendance
- Enrolling in a counseling session
- Abide by a curfew
- Drug testing
Placement in a Juvenile Probation Camp
As a sentence or disposition option following a sustained delinquency petition against the child, the judge can also order him/her to attend a juvenile probation camp. The main goal of juvenile probation camps include:
- Reintegrating the child into his/her society or community
- Reuniting the child with his/her family
- It fosters the development of the child’s social and behavioral skills
For the ultimate goal of rehabilitating your child and making him/her a productive citizen, his/her assigned probation camp will provide the services below:
- Educational services
- Mental health lessons
- Vocational or technical training
When the juvenile judge finds your child's placement in a juvenile probation camp will be beneficial according to his/her attorney's argument, the length of stay he/she will be subject to might be three, six, or nine months. In contrast to the duration your child could stay in a DJJ detention center, this disposition order would be best for your child if the dismissal of the charges against him/her is impossible.
Placement in a Foster Home
After sustaining a delinquency petition against your child, the judge has the authority to craft any reasonable disposition that he/she finds right to the child. However, the judge may sometimes require input from you as the child’s parent, his/her attorney, and the probation officer to develop or craft an appropriate disposition.
Under particular conditions, the judge may order the child’s removal from his/her parents’ custody at home and order a suitable placement or placement in a foster care/home. That would be possible if:
- The child is a chronic or continuing truant
- You are not able to provide the child with proper educational and maintenance needs.
- The child’s welfare and wellness necessitate the removal of him/her away from your custody.
Once the juvenile court orders removal of the child from your custody for placement in a foster home, the county probation department will determine a suitable foster home for him/her. Below are some of the options the county probation department has when it comes to determining a suitable placement or foster home for your child:
- Staying at group care homes or treatment centers
- Staying in resource family or foster homes
- Living with extended family members
Note, when the court orders placement of the child in a foster home or suitable placement away from your custody at home, the setting or environment he/she will live or stay must be:
- Able to meet your child’s rehabilitative and treatment needs to become a law-abiding and productive citizen.
- Safe and least restrictive
When your child faces a possibility of confinement in the DJJ detention center, which comes with severe commitments, a reliable and experienced delinquency attorney will know from his/her case’s facts and circumstances.
That is why it is essential to contact an attorney as soon as you receive a message or call that your child is in police custody for an alleged delinquent act. A reliable attorney might convince the juvenile court judge to dismiss the case or reduce the charge to a less severe delinquent act that does not require confinement to a DJJ detention center.
Find a Juvenile Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
Although juvenile delinquency courts are lenient to offenders than adult courts, a sustained petition against a child can still significantly affect his/her life and future. Ensure you speak with a credible and reputable juvenile defense attorney who can present viable legal defense arguments to fight for your child’s best interest and legal rights to avoid possible harsh disposition orders like commitment to the Division of Juvenile Justice.
At Orange County Criminal Lawyer, we might be able to influence the judge’s disposition order following a sustained delinquency petition against your child for the best possible outcome like placement in a foster home or informal probation. Call us now at 714-262-4833 to discuss your child’s delinquency case with our caring and experienced defense attorneys.