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 you know a minor that 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.
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
The threat of serious jail time whether in a juvenile facility or an adult prison is a frightening prospect for children and their parents. Simmrin Law Group is an established Los Angeles criminal defense firm that can help you through this difficult time in your family’s life. Read on for more detail on how California approaches assault and battery cases for minors.
Assault, Battery and Punishments
Assault is when a person tries to harm another person at that current time. It is not enough to threaten someone with a future plan of harming them, there must be a present intent to do so. You can think of assault as the motions and words right before a battery. Battery is the term used to describe any violent or forceful contact with another person against their consent.
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 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 then the juvenile may be fined, sentenced and/or ordered to attend counseling at the expense of their parents.
As stated above, minors can be charged as adults if they are at least 14 years old and commit a serious crime such as assault with a deadly weapon or a sex crime. If a juvenile is tried as an adult they are looking at a potential adult prison sentence.
It is extremely important to understand that juvenile crimes can be counted towards California’s Three Strike Law which can lead to life imprisonment on the conviction of a third crime. Therefore, it is very important to speak to a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer so that you can clearly understand the charges and consequences your minor child may be facing.
Juvenile Court Procedures
Unlike adult criminal court, juveniles will be judged not by a jury but by a judge. The charges against the juvenile will be read out on the first court date. Here, the child can choose to admit or deny the charges. Then, at this point the case can be resolved, dismissed or negotiated to a plea deal. However, if none of these options have worked then 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. At this hearing the judge will issue a sentence for the juvenile. The judge may order the minor to spend a period of time at a juvenile facility, a ranch or to the Division of Juvenile Justice. Alternatively, the child may be placed on probation with strict restrictions and guidelines.
After a juvenile sentencing a minor may request that the court seal the juvenile record. This petition must be made within 5 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 level 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, that does not mean that the record is completely unavailable. This information will still be available to certain personnel and agencies such as the court, probation office and even schools.
The court may seal your record but the information may be available with other organizations such as any probation department the minor was assigned to. Any requests to seal these records must be made separately to these organizations.
Finally, 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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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. Reach out to us today for a FREE consultation with a criminal defense lawyer. Reach out to us today by filling out our free evaluation form or calling us at (310) 997-4688.