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San Diego Juvenile Crime Attorneys


Has Your Child Been Arrested for a Crime?

Our young years are a crucial time in our lives, as we learn valuable lessons that shape us into who we will become as adults. As a result of our naïve and impressionable youthfulness, we do not always have the necessary knowledge and wisdom to make the right decisions. Some of these mistakes can be costly and result in criminal charges. At jD Law Criminal Defense Attorneys, we understand that young people can sometimes find themselves in difficult situations. If your son or daughter is facing criminal charges, our firm's San Diego juvenile crimes lawyer can provide the knowledgeable advocacy you need to protect your child's future against serious consequences.

Our firm's extensive trial experience and aggressive approach have earned us a number of professional recognitions throughout the years, including a Certification in Criminal Law by the Board of Legal Specialization of the California State Bar. Having practiced criminal law for more than 30 years and tried hundreds of cases throughout our firm's practice, we are equipped with the skills and knowledge to maximize your child's chances of securing a favorable outcome for their situation.

Tell us about your child's story during a free case consultation.

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An Overview of Juvenile Arrests in San Diego

If your child has been arrested, the police will have the option to release your son or daughter back to you at their discretion. Since many juvenile halls throughout the state of California are vastly overcrowded, many law enforcement officers will be prepared to release them. If your child is accused of committing a violent offense, however, it is much more likely that they will be held in juvenile hall.

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Juvenile Hall and Your Child

If a child is indeed accepted and placed into juvenile hall, the probation department or district attorney's office will then decide whether or not to file a petition against your child, which is essentially the same thing as filing criminal charges. Depending on the offense in question, the district attorney reserves the right to try your child as an adult. Children who are convicted of crimes in juvenile court can face a number of different consequences, including probation, being placed in foster care, being placed in a group home, detainment, becoming a ward of the state. Children who are tried and convicted in adult court can face incarceration in a youth facility until the age of 24, after which they will be transferred to an adult prison.

Regardless of the specifics, one thing remains constant: if a child is convicted, they will be removed from their parents' care and face serious consequences.

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What Are the Categories of Juvenile Offenses?

Unlike adult criminal courts that focus on punishing crime, juvenile courts have a much different goal. Juvenile courts are more concerned with rehabilitation instead of punishment. With that being said, detention is still a very real possibility for certain types of juvenile offenses – especially those of a violent or especially heinous nature.

Juvenile crimes are often categorized into the following groups:

  • Status Offenses – These crimes are relatively minor violations that are oftentimes deemed illegal simply due to the minor's age. Examples include driving a motor vehicle without a license, drinking alcohol while underage, truancy, or possession of a firearm by a minor. These offenses would not be considered a crime if committed by an adult.
  • Delinquency Crimes – Offenses of this class are illegal regardless of the age of the offender. Examples include robbery, vandalism, theft, assault, arson, and more.

Unlike trials in adult courts, juvenile cases do not have a jury. Judges decide a minor's guilt or innocence at their discretion and implement sentences as they see fit. Sentencing can range anywhere from simple probation to detention in a secure facility. Oftentimes, minors are required to participate in education programs pertaining to their offense.

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What Does Informal Resolution Mean?

Informal proceedings typically result in a more favorable outcome than when a case is formally adjudicated in juvenile court. When a juvenile criminal matter is resolved informally, the minor appears before a juvenile judge or a juvenile probation officer for informal proceedings. A juvenile defense attorney should be present. In addition to receiving a stern lecture, the child who committed the offense may be ordered to:

  • Receive mandatory counseling
  • Perform a certain number of hours of community service
  • Pay restitution to a property owner
  • Complete probation

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How Formal Charges Are Brought Against a Minor in California

Certain juvenile crimes are considered serious enough to warrant a formal petition. In such a case, the minor is charged before a juvenile court judge. It is important that the child have legal representation. The process goes as follows:

  • The prosecution files a formal petition, and the juvenile court decides whether to take the case or to schedule a fitness hearing in which it is determined if the child should be tried as an adult. The court decides this issue based on the seriousness of the crime and the personal characteristics of the accused juvenile. A minor may be charged as an adult for a serious offense, such as murder, rape, or kidnapping. Our San Diego juvenile defense attorney will argue to keep the case in juvenile court.
  • If the case is kept in juvenile court, the minor may enter a plea agreement (plead guilty in exchange for reduced charges) or the case will be scheduled for adjudication (juvenile trial).
  • If the case goes to adjudication, the juvenile judge may sustain the petition, convicting the child of the offense.
  • If the minor is convicted, the juvenile judge will proceed to disposition (sentencing). Depending on the circumstances, the disposition may involve commitment to the juvenile division of California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR); placement in a juvenile group home; or periodic monitoring by the court.

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Common Juvenile Charges

Minors in San Diego can be charged with a wide range of criminal offenses, from underage drinking to vandalism to violent crimes. Common juvenile charges include:

  • Theft crimes, such as burglary or shoplifting
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol
  • Speeding or reckless driving
  • Possession of marijuana or other drugs
  • Drug sales or transportation
  • Graffiti and vandalism
  • Assault and battery
  • Solicitation of prostitution
  • Gun possession
  • Sex crimes
  • Gang crimes
  • Attempted murder or murder

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How a Fitness Hearing Works

If the alleged crime is serious, the prosecutor may request a fitness hearing in which the judge will decide whether the minor is fit for the juvenile criminal justice system or should be tried as an adult. Factors the judge will consider in making this determination include:

  • The age of the minor
  • The seriousness of the nature of the crime
  • The criminal history of the minor
  • Whether the minor is likely to benefit from rehabilitative services provided by juvenile court

If the judge determines that the minor can benefit from rehabilitative services, the case will be adjudicated in juvenile court. If not, the minor will be transferred to an adult court for trial.

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Protecting Your Child's Wellbeing & Freedom in San Diego

Our firm's founding partner and former police detective, Attorney James N. Dicks, has earned a highly respected reputation within the legal community for his hard-hitting advocacy and unparalleled dedication to his clients. At jD Law Criminal Defense Attorneys, we are fully equipped to go the distance on your child's behalf and can provide the knowledgeable advocacy you need during this difficult time. Our litigation experience can potentially be the difference between your child's incarceration and acquittal. Do not let an overly enthusiastic prosecutor decide their fate. Let us use our skills to protect your child's future and reputation from disastrous consequences after a juvenile drug possession charge or other serious offense.

Contact us at (760) 630-2000 to get started towards building your child's defense.

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James N. Dicks

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