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Frequently Asked Questions About Juvenile Law

When your child is in trouble, talk to a juvenile law attorney to prevent your child from being taken into custody. At The Law Offices of Johnson & Johnson, our juvenile dependency attorney will defend your family's rights with zealous diligence in juvenile delinquency cases.

The Law Offices of Johnson & Johnson helps families throughout the Bay Area get through difficult personal and legal times. Our lead juvenile law attorney, Carin Johnson, has more than 20 years of experience handling juvenile delinquency proceedings.

Can I contact my child if he or she is arrested?

YES. If your child has been arrested, the first thing you need to do is find out why he or she was taken into custody and what needs to happen for the child to be released. An interview with a probation officer will happen immediately. This meeting (usually done by phone) is critical.

Most importantly, your child has the right to have an attorney present before he or she is questioned by law enforcement. It is vital to your child's welfare that an experienced juvenile attorney be present at any questioning to ensure their constitutional rights, and to prevent false or misleading statements from being used against your child.

What are the next steps after my child is arrested?

Contact a juvenile law attorney immediately. Your child runs a serious risk of being swept into the juvenile justice system if you do not have knowledgeable assistance from an experienced juvenile lawyer.

Following the arrest of a juvenile, a law enforcement officer has the discretion to release the juvenile to his or her parents, or take the child to juvenile hall. The county probation officer has the discretion to accept and "book" the child into juvenile hall or not – in which case, the disposition of the juvenile is left to the police. Unless the child was arrested for a serious or violent felony (burglary, robbery, violent battery, etc.), the police will often release the child to the parents.

What happens in Juvenile court?

The Juvenile court system is very different than “regular” courts. By law, all juvenile court proceedings are confidential and closed to the public. Only the parents, attorneys and probation officers are allowed. The allegations are formally presented to the court at a hearing called the Prima Facia in what is known as a "petition". If there isn’t enough evidence to detain the child, then the Court may dismiss the petition. However, this is a fairly low standard of proof, and many cases will proceed to a jurisdictional hearing.

What happens after the Court detains my children?

If the Court decides there is enough evidence in the petition to detain your children, then a type of trial known as a jurisdictional hearing is held. Your attorney at the Law Offices of Johnson & Johnson will advocate diligently, compassionately and completely for your child's presumption of innocence, while seeking to prove that the allegations are false or overstated, and that the probation department cannot prove its case. Several outcomes are possible after a jurisdictional hearing, including: dismissal of the allegations or return of your children with informal probation. If, however, the probation department meets its burden of proof, they will retain control over your child until a dispositional hearing. However, at all stages of the juvenile dependency matter, an experienced juvenile law attorney will aggressively advocate that the children remain in your custody despite court involvement.

At the dispositional hearing, the probation officer will present a recommendation to either commit the child as a ward to the juvenile justice system, supervised, or unsupervised probation. The dispositional hearing gives your juvenile law attorney another opportunity to argue for dismissal of the more serious allegations, for informal probation, and the return of your child.

Can My Child Be Tried as an Adult in Criminal Court?

RARELY. For most allegations of juvenile delinquency, the child will proceed through the juvenile justice system, where the rights and procedures are different from those in adult criminal court. However, if your child is charged with a particularly serious crime, such as a sexual offense, burglary, robbery, gang-related offense, or crime where a weapon was used, then the district attorney's office may argue for your child to be tried in adult criminal court, with the possibility of more severe penalties.

In all cases when a child is taken into police custody, parents should retain the services of an experienced juvenile law attorney as soon as possible. This is especially important when the child is accused of a serious crime.

We are available to consult with families throughout the San Francisco Bay Area on any legal matter related to education law and juvenile law, including juvenile dependency hearings and juvenile delinquency. Call us today at 925-952-8900.

For more information see the Juvenile Court section.