Category Archives:Trial as an adult


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Juvenile Crimes Help: My Child Has Been Arrested

One of a parents’ worst nightmares is to find out that their son or daughter has been arrested or detained by the police.  Juveniles make mistakes and most have never been exposed to legal consequences.  Preserving your child’s record, so that their college goals and future employment are not affected negatively, should be the first priority.

If your child is arrested, the police can:

  • Make a record of the arrest and let your child go home.
  • Send your child to an agency that will shelter, care for, or counsel your child.
  • Make your child come back to the police station. This is called being “cited back.”
  • Give you and your child a Notice to Appear. Read the notice and do what it says.
  • Put your child in juvenile hall (this is called “detention”). Your child can make at least two phone calls within 1 hour of being arrested. One call must be to a parent, guardian, relative, or boss. The other call must be to a lawyer.

If the police want to talk to your child about what happened, the police must tell your child about his or her legal rights (called “Miranda rights”), which are: your child has the right to remain silent; anything your child says will be used against him or her in court; your child has the right to a lawyer. You have rights, too.  The police must also tell you as soon as your child is locked up. They have to tell you where your child is and what rights he or she has.

The juvenile justice system is different from the adult justice system.  Juvenile delinquency proceedings involve children under the age of 18 (minor) alleged to have committed a delinquent act which would be considered a crime if committed by an adult.  In Orange County Juvenile Court, the focus is on treatment and rehabilitation for the juvenile while the adult justice system focuses on punishment.

However, depending upon the charge, a juvenile can be prosecuted as an adult and be subject to the same penalties as an adult.  If the minor is over the age of 14 and the alleged delinquent act is a serious offense, such as murder or sex crime, the minor could be tried as an adult in adult criminal court.

The authority of juvenile court is contained within the California Welfare and Institutions Code. The law says the court has to protect the public and minors who are subject to juvenile proceedings. To ensure this, juvenile court judges have to consider the following:

  • How to keep the public safe and protected,
  • How to help the victim, and
  • What orders would be in the best-interest of the minor and victims.

The judge decides if the court will intervene in the minor’s future.  If it does, the judge has to consider the appropriate course of action for the minor, and how to make the minor take responsibility for his or her actions.  The court will then decide how to care for, treat, and guide the minor.  This can include punishment so that the minor learns to obey the law.

If your child is arrested for a crime, it is extremely important that you retain an attorney familiar with the Orange County Juvenile Court. Being familiar with the Judges, District Attorneys, Court Clerks and Probation Department, will help facilitate the best possible outcome for your child.

Legal updates by the Orange and Riverside County Law Firm of Don Ho, LLP.

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Juvenile to be Tried as Adult

The Orange County district attorney’s office announced on Tuesday that teenager Jesse Shockey,  accused of murdering a 19-year-old man during a fight in a Huntington Beach park, will be tried as an adult.  Shockey, 16, of Garden Grove, is being charged with one felony count of murder and a sentencing enhancement for the personal use of a deadly weapon.  If he is convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 26 years to life in state prison.

In most cases, when a minor is accused of committing a crime in California the minor is adjudicated within the juvenile delinquency system. However, in serious cases, the law allows (and sometimes requires) the minor be tried as an adult in adult criminal court.

A minor tried in adult court faces the prospect of a lengthy sentence in adult prison with adult offenders.   At worst, a minor adjudicated within the juvenile system faces commitment to the California Youth Authority until the age of 25.

In the state of California, juveniles can be prosecuted as adults in several ways.  One way is when a prosecutor makes a request and a judge approves.  Another way is when a juvenile commits a serious crime.

If the prosecutor wants to charge a minor as an adult, whether or not the minor can remain in juvenile court comes down to what a judge decides during the minor’s fitness hearing.  A fitness hearing is a legal proceeding where a juvenile court judge decides whether a minor who has been accused of violating a criminal law is “fit” for the juvenile court system.  The judge will look at five factors, including the seriousness of the alleged crime, to determine whether the minor is likely to benefit from the rehabilitative services of juvenile delinquency court.  If the judge decides that the minor is “fit” for the juvenile system, the minor stays in juvenile court.  If the judge decides that the minor won’t benefit from those services, the minor gets transferred to adult court.

Another way a juvenile can be prosecuted as an adult is dependent on the severity of the alleged crime.  Under Proposition 21, prosecutors have the discretion to charge a juvenile as an adult if a serious crime was allegedly committed.   The law says the minor must be tried in adult court in cases of murder with special circumstances, if the prosecutor alleges that the minor personally killed the victim.  Additionally, in the following sex offenses, if the prosecutor alleges that the minor personally committed the offense and other extenuating circumstances: rape with force, violence or threat of great bodily harm; spousal rape with force; violence or threat of great bodily harm; forcible sex in concert with another; lewd and lascivious acts on a child under 14 with force, violence or threat of great bodily injury; forcible sexual penetration, sodomy or oral copulation by force, violence or threat of great bodily injury.

The gate to to nowhere - Juvenile Court on New...

Nevertheless, minors are never eligible to receive the death penalty.   The United States Supreme Court made this clear in the 2005 case of Roper v. Simmons holding that such a penalty for a juvenile constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.  In 2010, the nation’s highest court further clarified in Graham v. Florida that a minor convicted of a non-homicide crime cannot be sentenced to “life without parole” (LWOP).  California courts are conflicted over the issue of whether a minor can constitutionally be sentenced to an “effective life sentence,” such as 110 years, but the California Supreme Court has agreed to review the issue in a gang-related case out of Los Angeles involving attempted murder.
If you or a loved one is a juvenile and is facing a criminal charge, it is important that you speak with an experienced juvenile crimes attorney.  Contact the Orange and Riverside County Criminal Law firm of Don  Ho, LLP immediately for assistance on building your defense.
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