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Juvenile Crimes

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The criminal justice system by itself can seem scary enough.  Now imagine if you were a child.  Arrested, transported to juvenile hall, waking up in a mysterious room, crying out for a parent or guardian to come save you. 

According to the California Department of Justice, in 2018 52 percent of all juvenile arrest were for misdemeanors with 37 percent being for felonies.  Eight out of ten juveniles were referred to the county juvenile probation department.  Of those, more than 55 percent a petition was filed in juvenile court.  Of those that entered the juvenile justice system, more than 60 percent were made wards of the court.

If your child has been arrested or charged with a crime in juvenile court, you don’t need just a regular defense attorney.  You need an attorney familiar with the juvenile court process and procedures.  Many criminal defense attorneys will spend their whole careers in adult court, never taking a single juvenile case.

At the Law Office of Kevin Ballard, you have the experience of a former juvenile prosecutor on your side.  Kevin worked as the principal juvenile prosecutor, handling all juvenile matters from petty crimes up to including sexual assault and gang activity.  The first goal is to keep your child out of custody and back home so that they can get their life back on the right path.  Contact Kevin today to help secure your child’s future.

Juvenile Court System

While juvenile court may take place in the same building as adult court, there are many differences that apply.  The overarching theme of juvenile court is that the court is designed to be rehabilitative rather than punitive.   To help facilitate this, the juvenile court system falls under the civil law rather than the criminal code.  There are no juries in juvenile court, only judges and the proceedings are closed to the public.

How a Juvenile Case Starts

Juvenile cases, like adult cases, will in most cases start with an arrest.  Like an adult, a juvenile will be arrested and either cited at the scene or transported to juvenile hall.  Depending upon the county, the police will either forward a report to the district attorney or the police will forward the report to the probation department where a juvenile probation will review the report and make a recommendation.  A probation officer will then meet with a juvenile prosecutor at the district attorney to discuss the case and decide on the course of action.

Generally, the district attorney will make one of four decisions. They can decline to do anything, they can request probation do informal probation monitoring (where probation will monitor your case), they can file a 601, or then can file a 602 petition. Each of these will be discussed below.

In the meantime, if your child has been arrested, they will have either been released or detained in juvenile hall. If your child is detained in juvenile hall, either on a misdemeanor or a felony, the petition must be filed within 48 hours of the arrest (not including weekends or holidays).  If the petition is not filed within 48 hours, your child must be released.  However, the petition may still be filed at a later date.  Once the petition is filed, your child will be brought to court within one day if it is a felony or 48 hours if it is a misdemeanor.

Transfer to Adult Court

In order for a case to go to Adult Court, the minor must be a minimum of 16 years old at the time of the offense.  While most cases will remain in juvenile court, if the minor is alleged to have committed a crime as described in Welfare & Institutions Code section 707(b), the prosecutor can request a “transfer hearing” where the court will have decide whether the minor should be transferred to adult court.

In doing so, the court will look at five factors:

  1. The degree of criminal sophistication exhibited by the minor;

  2. Whether the minor can be rehabilitated within the time allotted to the juvenile justice system (age 25 if committed to California Division of Juvenile Justice or age 21 if not);

  3. The minor’s previous delinquent history;

  4. The success of any previous attempts to rehabilitate the minor; and

  5. The circumstances and gravity of the offenses alleged in the petition.


There are 30 listed offenses outlined in W&I Code section 707(b):

  1. Murder

  2. Arson of an inhabited building or causing great bodily injury

  3. Robbery

  4. Rape with force, violence or threat of bodily harm

  5. Sodomy by force, violence of threat of bodily harm

  6. A lewd or lascivious act on a child under 14 with force, violence or threat of great bodily harm

  7. Oral copulation by force, violence or threat of great bodily harm

  8. Forcible sexual penetration

  9. Kidnapping for ransom

  10. Kidnapping for purposes of robbery

  11. Kidnapping with bodily harm

  12. Attempted murder

  13. Assault with a firearm or destructive device

  14. Assault by any means of force likely to produce great bodily injury

  15. Discharge of a firearm into an inhabited or occupied building

  16. An offense as outlined in penal code section 1203.09 on a person age 60 or older, blind paraplegic, quadriplegic, confined to a wheelchair and the disability is reasonably known

  17. An offense as described by penal code section 12022.5 or 12022.53, known as California’s “use a gun and you’re done” law which imposes additional penalties for the use of a gun in a crime.

  18. A felony offense in which the minor personally used a weapon as described in penal code section 16590, which prohibits the manufacturing, selling, and/or possessing certain weapons.

  19. Felony persuading a witness or felony bribery of a witness.

  20. Manufacturing, compounding, or selling one-half ounce or more of a salt or solution of a controlled substance specified in Health & Safety code 11055(e).

  21. A violent felony, as defined in subdivision (c) of Section 667.5 of the Penal Code, which also would constitute a felony violation of subdivision (b) of Section 186.22 of the Penal Code.

  22. Escape, by the use of force or violence, from a county juvenile hall, home, ranch, camp, or forestry camp in violation of subdivision (b) of Section 871 if great bodily injury is intentionally inflicted upon an employee of the juvenile facility during the commission of the escape

  23. Torture

  24. Aggravated mayhem

  25. Carjacking

  26. Kidnapping for purposes of sexual assault

  27. Kidnapping during a carjacking

  28. Drive-by shooting

  29. Exploding a destructive device with the intent to commit a murder

  30. Voluntary manslaughter.

Juvenile Court Process

In the juvenile court system there are five distinct hearings that may take place over the life of a case. 


These are:

  • Detention Hearing

  • Arraignment

  • Transfer Hearing

  • Jurisdiction ("Adjudication") Hearing

  • Disposition Hearing


In most cases however, only three of these will occur.  These hearings are not the only court proceedings however, as there are also additional proceedings that may take place.  The first of these hearings, the Detention Hearing, will be a minor’s first appearance if they are detained in juvenile hall.  At the Detention Hearing, the court will decide whether the minor should be released into the custody of their parents during the pendency of the case or remain in juvenile hall.  The court will look to decide whether the minor is likely to return to court, public safety, and seriousness of the offense.

If your minor is detained, the Detention Hearing will also occur at the same time of the Arraignment.  At the arraignment, a defense attorney will either be appointed or a private attorney may appear.  The court will read the petition and the minor will either “admit” or “deny” the petition.  The court will then set the case for a further hearing where the decision to either resolve the case or be set for a Jurisdiction Hearing.

In between these hearings, the court will order the probation department to prepare a report.  The probation department will interview the minor’s family and friends and obtain information about the minor’s home life, family, health, school, and friends.  This report will then be provided to the prosecution, the court, and the defense attorney prior to the next hearing for review.

At the re-hearing, the prosecutor and defense will work to negotiate a settlement of the case. Ultimately if no agreement can be reached, then the court will set the matter for adjudication (trial.) An adjudication is an absolute right and will take place in front of a judge, not a jury. 


At the adjudication, the minor can subpoena witnesses, cross-examine witnesses, and present a defense. At the adjudication, the level of proof required of the prosecution will be dependent on the petition filed.  If the prosecution has filed a 602 petition, the prosecutor must prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.  If the prosecution filed a 601 petition, the case may be proven only by a preponderance of evidence. At the end of the adjudication, the court will either sustain the petition finding it true or find the petition not true and dismiss the case.

If the petition is found true, or the minor admits the petition charges, then the court will move to a disposition hearing.  Prior to the disposition hearing, the probation department will prepare a new report.  This report will take into consideration the charges that were found true and the minors conduct/views toward the crimes.  In certain cases, the minor may be interviewed regarding the crimes charged and is expected to show some remorse regarding their actions.

At the disposition hearing, the court will choose between to general categories of disposition: Non-Wardship and Wardship

Non-Wardship Dispositions

There are four types of non-wardship dispositions

  1. Informal Diversion (WIC 626, 652.5, and 654.2)

    1. No petition is filed but minor may be required to do community service

  2. Informal Probation (WIC 654)

    1. No conviction or judgment is entered

    2. Court may extend this probation up to an additional year

  3. Deferred Entry of Judgment (WIC 790)

    1. Minor required to admit the charges

    2. Only applies to misdemeanors

    3. Court will impose terms and conditions of probation and must be completed within 6 months.  If the terms are completed, the case is dismissed.  The court may extend the period an additional six months.  In cases where the minor is making no progress, the court may enter judgment and declare the minor a ward of the court.

  4. Informal Probation – Felonies (WIC 790)

    1. Minor required to admit the charges

    2. Terms and conditions are between 12-36 months.

    3. No 707(b) offenses

    4. Minor has never been a ward for a felony offense or committed to California Department of Juvenile Justice


Wardship Dispositions

If the court makes the minor a ward of the court, per WIC 602, the court can sentence the minor to formal probation including time in juvenile hall.  The court may assign the minor to stay in a relative’s home or attend a camp.  Formal probation terms may include the mandatory attendance of school, substance counseling, community service, restitution, and counseling.


The most serious and ultimate penalty for a minor is for the court to sentence the minor to a term in the California Department of Juvenile Justice.  This punishment is reserved for the most serious of offenses, such as those under 707(b), and that the minor is a serious threat to public safety or danger to others.

Lasting Effects of Adjudication

A juvenile adjudication can follow a minor throughout the remainder of their youth and into their adult life. A sustained petition may be applicable under California’s Three Strikes Law.  A juvenile adjudication involving a sex crime can lead to the minor being required to register as a sex offender.

For less serious offenses, a minor may be able to have their record sealed if they are able to complete the terms of their probation.  

Let a Dedicated Juvenile Defense Attorney Help

If your child has been arrested, please contact the Law Office of Kevin Ballard today for a free consultation.  During these trying times it is important to have an attorney who can help navigate the juvenile justice system.  Let Kevin use his prior experience as juvenile prosecutor to help fight for your child's rights and freedom. 

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