In juvenile court or with juvenile criminal charges, the charges differ in that the proceedings are governed by the Welfare and Institutions Code, rather than the criminal procedures within the Penal Code.
There are significant differences in the way juvenile strikes are handled as well. This area of law is constantly changing, and it is important that you contact a criminal defense attorney that stays educated in this area.
Juvenile courts will handle charges of misdemeanors and felonies, of persons who committed the alleged offenses prior to turning 18 years old. The juvenile court will also handle juvenile driving under the influence cases. Juvenile felony crimes, if serious or violent felonies, committed when the juvenile was 16 years or older can also fall within California’s Three Strikes laws, making it critical to know how to handle the case in juvenile court. Welfare and Institutions Code §707(b) dictates what is commonly known as a juvenile strike, although there are other ways to find that a juvenile crime qualifies as a strike within California’s Three Strikes law. Some §707(b) offenses include: murder, arson, kidnapping, robbery, rape with force or violence or threat of great bodily harm, assault with a firearm or by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury, discharge of a firearm into an inhabited dwelling, carjacking, other crimes committed while armed with a firearm, etc. There are other ways for crimes to be considered juvenile strikes within Three Strikes, even if the crime is not listed within §707(b). Furthermore, there are enhancements which can elevate a crime from a felony to a felony strike, which is why it is important to hire a criminal defense attorney familiar with this area, the proceedings, and the path the case should take.
If faced with felony charges in juvenile court that does not mean that the prosecutors won’t necessarily send the case up to adult court. A “fitness hearing” can be heard by the juvenile court, which if not argued properly, can result in the case being sent to adult court where the potential for much more severe penalties can result. Furthermore, after being detained, the prosecutors may decide to conduct a “direct file”, immediately filing the case in adult court without a hearing. Therefore, it is important to quickly hire a criminal defense attorney who can also immediately open the lines of communication with the investigators and prosecutors in order to protect your son or daughter.
Knowing how to handle these charges and crimes is critical. We have knowledge, experience, and tremendous success in juvenile criminal court matters, and can help you and your family so that this incident does not create a lifelong problem.
You have rights. You should exercise those rights. And the only way to do so is to hire a criminal defense attorney who handles these cases properly.
Do not talk to police. Do not provide statements, even if you think they are statements which declare your innocence – they will only be twisted and used against you. First, consult with a lawyer.
Do not consent to a search of your person/residence/vehicle. Demand a search warrant.
Ask for your lawyer. These are your constitutional rights – exercise them!