Anyone under the age of 18 in the state of California is considered to be a minor in the eyes of the law. Unfortunately, children are not exempt from getting in legal trouble. One of the most common ways juveniles get in trouble with the law is by getting into physical altercations.
If a minor has been involved in a fight, they may be charged with assault and/or battery. As a minor in California, your child will most likely not face adult court but instead may have to attend juvenile court. The charges for assault and battery are the same regardless of age.
Crimes That Can Put a Minor in Adult Court
In some rare cases, minors can be tried as adults. This occurs when the accused child is at least 14 or older and committed a serious crime. Some of the crimes that can place a juvenile in adult court are:
- Carjacking with a dangerous weapon
- Assault with a deadly weapon
- Assault with a firearm
If a juvenile is tried as an adult, they are looking at a potential adult prison sentence. The threat of serious jail time whether in a juvenile facility or an adult prison is a frightening prospect for children and their parents. With an experienced criminal defense attorney by your family’s side, you can get help through this difficult time.
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Assault, Battery, and Punishments in California
Assault is when a person tries to harm another person at that current time. You can think of assault as the motions and words right before any violent or forceful contact with another person against their consent, also known as battery. Both assault and battery can range from a misdemeanor to a felony depending on the severity of the injuries and other additional factors.
An assault can become a felony charge if deadly weapons are involved or if the harm was done to a peace officer, EMT, or other protected individual. If the assault and battery happened at school or at a park, the juvenile may be fined, sentenced, and/or ordered to attend counseling at the expense of their parents.
It is extremely important to understand that juvenile crimes can be counted towards California’s Three Strikes Law, which can lead to life imprisonment on the conviction of a third crime. Therefore, it is very important to speak to a criminal defense lawyer so that you can clearly understand the charges and consequences your minor child may be facing.
Juvenile Court Procedures in California
Unlike adult criminal court, the verdict for a juvenile will be given not by a jury but by a judge. The charges against the juvenile will be read out on the first court date where the child can then choose to admit or deny these charges.
At this point, the case can be resolved, dismissed, or negotiated to a plea deal. If none of these options have worked, the case will go onto a jurisdiction hearing where each side will present their case. In some cases, there may be a separate request for a fitness hearing to decide if the minor should be tried as an adult instead.
Following the jurisdiction hearing, the judge may issue a ruling immediately or set another date for a disposition hearing where a sentence will be issued for the juvenile. The judge may order the minor to spend a period of time at a juvenile facility, a ranch, or the Division of Juvenile Justice. Alternatively, the child may be placed on probation with strict restrictions and guidelines.
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Juvenile Records in California
After a juvenile sentencing, a minor may request that the court seal the juvenile record. This petition must be made within five years of the offense or when the minor turns 18, whichever happens first. Offenses considered less serious and dismissed before January 1st, 2015 will be automatically sealed by the court as long as probation has been satisfactorily completed.
Usually, misdemeanor crimes are sealed. Crimes where the juvenile was tried as an adult will not be sealed unless it meets the requirements for expungement. Even when a juvenile record is sealed, it does not mean that the record is completely unavailable.
The information may be available to other organizations, personnel, and agencies, such as any probation department the minor was assigned to, the courts, and even schools. Any requests to seal these records must be made separately to these organizations.
When a juvenile turns 38 years old, their records must be destroyed unless the court has a “good cause” to not do so. There can be serious consequences to not having your juvenile record sealed so it should be handled as soon as possible by an experienced lawyer.
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Restitution and Fines for a Minor Charged With Assault and Battery
The juvenile may be ordered to pay restitution to the victim and a fine to the court, especially if they were tried and found guilty as an adult. These fines can amount to hundreds (if not over a thousand) of dollars.
Additionally, the parent or guardian of the minor with assault and battery charges in California can be found jointly and severally liable for these costs. They may be required to pay the fees if their child cannot. If the parent or guardian cannot afford to pay these fees, they can work with an attorney to show the court their inability to pay.
A Minor’s Rights During a Juvenile Court Case in California
The juvenile court system is very different from the adult court system. A minor with assault and battery charges in California does not have all the same rights as they would within the adult courts. However, they still have many rights, which should be protected and promoted by a juvenile criminal defense attorney. The minor has the right:
- To counsel
- Against self-incrimination
- To cross-examine witnesses
Parents or guardians also have rights during the process, including the right to:
- Notice of juvenile proceedings
- Be present during juvenile proceedings
How a Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help a Minor With Assault and Battery Charges
With legal help, a minor with assault and battery charges against them will get the legal counsel they deserve and have their allegations thoroughly reviewed with them. Together a lawyer and the minor will determine the best course of action. An attorney will fight to:
- Avoid transfer to the adult court
- Have the case dismissed
- Win the jurisdictional hearing
- Get the child out of detention and have them home during the case
- Focus the judge on the child’s best chance of rehabilitation
- Have the minor stay at home during their penalty, if they are found guilty of the charges
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Juvenile minds are constantly growing and developing. And during this time, they often make mistakes that can greatly impact their lives. A simple schoolyard fight can turn into a legal nightmare with charges of assault and battery.
If your child or another minor you know has been charged with assault and battery in California, Simmrin Law Group may be able to help. Reach out to us by filling out our free evaluation form or giving us a call today for a FREE consultation with one of our criminal defense lawyers.