Anyone under 18 in the state of California is considered 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 likely not face adult court but 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 14 or older and has committed a serious crime. Some of the crimes that can place a juvenile in adult court are:
- Murder or attempted murder
- Carjacking with a dangerous weapon
- Assault with a deadly weapon
- Armed Robbery
- Assault with a firearm
- Other crimes involving guns
- Arson (mainly where people are directly put in danger)
- Drug crimes
- Escape from the juvenile detention center.
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 adult prison, is frightening for children and their parents. However, 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 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 individuals. If the assault and battery happened at school or park, the juvenile might be fined, sentenced, and/or ordered to attend counseling at the expense of their parents.
It is crucial to understand that juvenile crimes can be counted toward California’s Three Strikes Sentencing 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 attorney so that you can clearly understand the charges and consequences your minor child may be facing.
Arresting a Juvenile in California
If the police arrest your minor child for committing a crime in California, police are endowed with certain power to decide how to handle the child and where they end up upon arrest. The officer may:
- Record the arrest and release your child to go home
- Send the child to an agency that will care for and counsel them
- Bring your child back to the police station.
- Provide you and your child with a notice to appear, which you should read and follow
- Place your child in detention at a juvenile hall where he can make at least two calls: one to a parent, guardian, family member, or boss and one to an attorney.
A Notice to Appear Could Be Serious
A notice to appear usually demands that you go to the probation department of your local law enforcement and meet with a probation officer who will discuss your child’s situation with you. There are four courses of action the probation officer may take:
- Give your child a lecture and let them return home
- Let your child participate in a voluntary program for special classes, counseling, community service, or other activities. If they complete the program, court will not be required.
- Let your child go home and send their case to the district attorney, who will decide whether or not to file a petition to make your child go to court.
- Keep your child in detention and send the case to the district attorney. The DA will then file a petition (typically within two days of the arrest), and your child will have a hearing in court the next business day.
If a petition is filed, the case goes to juvenile delinquency court, and your child is officially charged with the crimes of assault and battery.
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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 given to the juvenile. In addition, the judge may order the minor to spend a period of time at a juvenile facility, a ranch, or the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). Alternatively, the child may be placed on probation with strict restrictions and guidelines.
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Juvenile Records in California
After 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 1, 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 entirely 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. Therefore, any requests to seal these records must be made separately to these organizations.
When a juvenile turns 38, their records must be destroyed unless the court has a “good cause” not to do so. However, there can be serious consequences to not having your juvenile record sealed, so it should be handled as soon as possible by an experienced juvenile criminal defense lawyer.
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 thousands 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
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 in 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 Minors 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
How Can I Help My Troubled Child Stay Out of Juvenile Detention?
Time in a juvenile detention center stops your child from committing further offenses, but it may not solve the underlying problems that cause them to act out. It is important to spend time understanding your child’s needs and dealing with the root of their behavior. Talking to your child should always be one of the steps you take to resolve their problems, but sometimes talking is not enough. If the child is unwilling to listen or open up about what drives their behavior, there are other things you can do.
Children and teens sometimes need to be engaged in other activities that help to divert their attention away from their internal problems or away from criminal activity. Other times, they may need to see or speak to someone who understands what they are going through.
Ways you can help a troubled child stay away from crime include:
- Using community-based services to help and engage the child
- Alternative education opportunities
- Mental health counseling
- Crisis intervention services
- Employment readiness training
- Trauma-focused or trauma-informed programs
- Sports and interest-based after-school activities
Learn More During a Free Consultation with a Criminal Defense Attorney Today
Juvenile minds are constantly growing and developing. And during this time, they often make mistakes that can significantly impact their lives. But unfortunately, a simple schoolyard fight can become a legal nightmare for minors 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 juvenile criminal defense lawyers.