When a child is accused of committing a crime in California, the ensuing legal proceedings can be vastly different from those that would occur if an adult were charged with the same offense. This is because the law takes into account that juveniles, by definition, are not yet adults and may not have the same level of culpability or understanding that an adult does.
Juvenile classification in California
In California, a juvenile is defined as any person under the age of 18 years. They are typically tried in juvenile court. However, there are situations where they would be charged as an adult. For example, if they commit a crime like murder or if the judge believes it is in the best interest of public safety for them to be tried as adults.
Differences in court proceedings
When adults break the law, they are accused of committing a crime; however, when a juvenile does, they are often accused of a delinquent act. This is because the law views children as being capable of rehabilitation and therefore focuses on reforming them rather than punishing them.
As a result, juvenile court proceedings are typically much more informal than adult criminal proceedings. For example, there is no jury in juvenile court, and the judge will often make decisions based on the best interests of the child rather than following strict legal rules.
Additionally, records for juvenile crimes are typically sealed, which means that the public or potential employers cannot access them. This is done to protect juveniles from the stigma that can come with having a criminal record.
Differences in potential sentences
Juveniles who are found guilty of delinquent acts can be subject to a variety of different sentences, including:
- Community service
- Placement in a juvenile detention center
The specific sentence that a juvenile will receive will depend on the severity of the crime, the child’s age, and their prior criminal history. In most cases, juveniles are not sentenced to time in adult prisons, but they can be if they commit serious offenses.
It’s important to remember that juvenile cases involve the entire family. The parents or guardians can help provide appropriate support or guidance to the child. For example, they can help the child follow through with their criminal defense attorney’s advice.