How Does California Treat Juvenile Offenders vs. Adult Offenders?

The State of California takes juvenile criminal offenses seriously, which means you should too. Understanding how the state handles juvenile defendants versus adult defendants and what your legal options are is one of the most important first steps. Here’s what you need to be aware of during their criminal proceedings. 

How Old Are Juveniles In the California Criminal Justice System? 

California law states that minor children that are over the age of 12 but not yet 18 will be processed by the juvenile court system if they are accused of committing a criminal offense. Children younger than 12 are unlikely to be harshly penalized for crimes, but instead will usually receive intensive behavioral therapy. 

When Can a Child Be Charged As An Adult?

In some instances, a child is not charged as a minor but is instead tried as an adult. This is often the case when the child is on the far end of the age spectrum for juvenile court and/or if the offense they were arrested for is particularly egregious or violent. 

Other Ways Juvenile and Adult Cases Differ 

There are multiple ways that adult criminal cases and juvenile cases are different. Many things simply go by another name, such as adjudication instead of conviction, petitions instead of complaints, and disposition instead of sentencing. Other differences include:

  • Having closed courts. The public is generally not allowed to access juvenile criminal hearings. 
  • Not having a jury. During juvenile criminal proceedings, a jury doesn’t hear the case. Instead, the judge serves as the fact-finder and decision maker for the child. 
  • Having more options for rehabilitation. Adult criminal courts typically focus on punishment if the defendant is found guilty, whereas juvenile courts make every effort to rehabilitate a defendant to discourage recidivisim instead of punish them. Juvenile court judges are often able to offer creative opportunities for behavior correction, like community service. 
  • Being able to get a record expunged. Adults generally have many more restrictions on obtaining an expungement than juveniles once they have met their court orders. 

Contact An Attorney If Your Child Was Arrested or Is Being Investigated for a Crime 

Was your child arrested for a crime in California? It’s imperative that you don’t take any chances with their future. Their rights are on the line and Jennifer Mouzis can help you protect them. Jennifer Mouzis is an experienced Sacramento juvenile criminal defense attorney who can assist you. Call Mouzis Criminal Defense now at (916) 822-8702.