Juvenile Delinquency

Attorney Richard M. Oberto can assist to protect the rights of minors as soon as their is any hint of a potential juvenile delinquency proceeding. Minors are entitled to special procedural protections that apply as soon as there is any contact with law enforcement. When a minor is arrested, parents have the right to timely notice of the minor’s arrest and location. In many cases, minors are eligible for at various junctures for diversionary procedures that can safeguard them from the rigors of locked facilities and alienation from family.

The Purpose of Juvenile Justice

The juvenile justice system was historically designed to help children while ensuring adequate public safety. The interest in helping children was the basis for the United States Supreme Court’s opinion in McKeiver v. Pennsylvania (1971) 403 U.S. 528. The Court in McKeiver held that children did not have the right to a jury trial. The Court explained that the adversarial nature of a jury trial would thwart the State interest in providing timely and effective help to children. A jury trial might be so time-consuming and cause so much delay that the State would not be able to intervene early enough to help children.

Juvenile Delinquency Proceedings Can Have Lasting Consequences

Despite the emphasis on helping children, juvenile delinquency proceedings frequently involve very serious consequences. Minors can be charged with the very same crimes as adults. Under certain circumstances, a minor can be tried as an adult. In some cases, a minor is entitled to a fitness hearing before he can be tried as an adult. Even when a minor is tried in juvenile court, the consequences can be serious. Minors face being committed to locked facilities, subjected to harsh conditions, and separated from their family and caretakers. Parents and legal guardians can be held financially responsible for damage that their children cause. Minors who are found to have committed sex crimes can be forced in certain circumstances to register as sex offenders. Likewise, minors who are found to have committed serious or violent felonies can be subject in certain circumstances to the Three Strikes Law if they reoffend as adults.

Diversion in Juvenile Delinquency Cases

A minor’s opportunities for diversionary procedures begin in many cases as soon as the child is arrested. The police officer typically either will cite the minor with a Notice to Appear or detain the minor in juvenile hall. After the arrest, the minor usually will meet with a Probation Officer. In some cases, the Probation Officer has discretion to refer the child for programs and follow-up appointments instead of referring the case to the District Attorney for prosecution. If the minor’s case is referred to the District Attorney and the minor is still detained, the minor has the right to a speedy detention hearing before a Judge of the Superior Court. The detention hearing provides a crucial opportunity for the minor secure release from detention pending trial.

The Minor’s Right to Trial

A minor has the right to a speedy trial once charges are filed. The minor has most of the same fundamental trial rights as an adult except that the trial must be by a judge rather than jury. Certain rules that protect adults from uncorroborated accomplice testimony do not apply to minors. If the charges against the minor are admitted or found true, the Judge in many cases has substantial discretion in choosing the appropriate disposition.

Recent Legal Reforms in Juvenile Justice

Legal reforms in recent years have succeeded in scaling back some of the most punitive trends in juvenile delinquency law. A court settlement led to policy changes at the Division of Juvenile Justice, which is the top level of confinement for minors who are adjudicated delinquent. United States and California Supreme Court have recognized in a series of decisions that minors are in some ways fundamentally different from adults. Certain punishments and procedures that might be acceptable for adults are not acceptable when applied to minors. A minor’s age and maturity are factors that law enforcement and the courts must consider in determining whether the minor validly waived his Miranda rights or consented to a search and seizure.

Juvenile delinquency proceedings can have lasting legal and psychological effects on a child. A skilled attorney is essential to ensure that the child’s rights and interests are protected. Mr. Oberto can protect those rights and interests and provide peace of mind, expert guidance, and a way forward.

Mr. Oberto welcomes people to contact him 24/7 at (559) 221-2557 to request an initial consultation. Se habla Español.

People also may contact Mr. Oberto to request an initial consultation using the contact form available on this website. Please do not use the contact form to write down sensitive information. Information communicated over the internet, including through this website, may not be considered confidential or privileged.

Contact Us