Juvenile Law

Juvenile Law

California Juvenile Law Lawyers

It is very important to keep children out of the criminal system. Children stuck in detention tend to end up in jail later in life. Convictions on their records will hurt their chances of getting into good colleges and getting good jobs.

If your child is charged with a crime, you need a lawyer who will invest the time and effort to fully protect your child. At Active Law Group, our lawyers work hard with every case and every client, and we understand the concerns and issues that are unique to our juvenile clients. We are here for people throughout Orange County, California, and surrounding areas–contact us to set up a confidential free consultation in our Lake Forest offices.

We help children who have been charged with any crime, including:

  • Assault
  • Underage drinking, DUI
  • Drug offenses: possession, sale, trafficking
  • Shoplifting, petty theft, burglary

Juvenile law encompasses the same charges that are found in the regular criminal system, but it is very different. It involves different judges, different procedures, and a different focus, one of rehabilitation over punishment. It is vital to get a lawyer who is familiar with the juvenile law system and knows how to get results.

Senate Bill 439 was signed into law by Gov. Brown in September 2018. The bill prevents California’s juvenile court system from assuming jurisdiction over minor children under the age of 12.

The bill does not apply to children that commit:

  • Murder,
  • Rape,
  • Sodomy,
  • Oral copulation, or,
  • Sexual penetration.

The juvenile court still has jurisdiction in these cases, even when an offender is under 12, provided that the crimes were committed by the use of force, violence, menace, or threat of bodily injury.



Juvenile Delinquency Offences  A delinquency offense is any act that would be a crime regardless of the age of the person who committed it. For example, if a juvenile commits an act of vandalism (California Penal Code section 594), the crime can be charged as a delinquency offense. A delinquency or status offense case will proceed through three primary stages:
  1. the detention hearing;
  2. the jurisdictional hearing; and
  3. the disposition hearing.
The detention hearing takes place if the defendant is being held in juvenile hall. Similar to the preliminary hearing in an adult criminal case,a defendant in juvenile court may enter a plea of guilty or not guilty during this hearing. The judge may decide to keep him or her in custody, or release the juvenile in the custody of the parents or legal guardian if the judge determines the minor is not a serious risk to the community. The jurisdictional hearing is essentially a trial, but it differs from a typical criminal case in that a minor facing a criminal charge in juvenile court does not have a constitutional right to a jury trial. Instead, the case is tried and decided by a juvenile court judge in a bench trial. During this hearing, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant has an opportunity to defend himself or herself during this phase, and is entitled to have a defense attorney. If the juvenile defendant is found guilty, the judge is said to have “sustained the People’s petition,” and the case will proceed to a disposition hearing for determination of a sentence. Typical sentences in juvenile cases involve serving time in juvenile hall, as well as fines. In most cases, the court will hold the parents liable to pay the fines for their child’s conduct.  


What are Juvenile Misdemeanors?

Juvenile misdemeanors are crimes that are committed by minors (usually, under 18 years of age in most states). Misdemeanors are generally categorized as less serious than felonies, but more serious in nature than infractions. Some common examples of misdemeanors include assault, shoplifting and other theft crimes, and “minor in possession of alcohol”. Juvenile crime laws can be very different from region to region.

What Are the Legal Consequences for Juvenile Misdemeanors?

While misdemeanors are not always as serious as felonies, misdemeanors committed by young minors are of much concern. This is because serious legal consequences can still result for juvenile offenders. These can include monetary fines and/or time in a juvenile jail facility.

On the other hand, alternative consequences are often available for juvenile offenders, especially first-time offenders. For instance, the judge may require that the defendant perform community service or undergo house arrest rather than having to serve a jail sentence. This is because most communities would prefer that younger offenders be given a chance to remain active in society due to their age.


Unless otherwise provided by law, nothing in this section shall be construed as to confer jurisdiction in the juvenile court over any person who is eighteen years of age or older.

Accused means a juvenile against whom a complaint, information or indictment is filed.

Chronic felony offender” means a juvenile who has had two prior and separate adjudications and dispositions for conduct that would constitute a historical prior felony conviction if the juvenile had been tried as an adult.

Constitutional Rights of Juveniles:

Even though juvenile cases are held in civil, rather than criminal court, juveniles are still rewarded constitutional rights. Much of them are the same or similar to the rights adults have when entering the criminal justice system.

A few Constitutional Rights Include:

Right to a phone call: A minor is allowed to make at least one phone call if they are in custody and will most likely be held for some time. The minor can call a parent or guardian who in turn contacts an attorney. Or the minor has the option to contact an attorney themselves. If police refuse the request of a minor to contact a parent, guardian, or attorney, anything the minor says to the police after that will be admissible in court. By requesting to speak with a parent, the minor is invoking his/her Miranda rights.

Right to counsel: In 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that minors have the right to an attorney in a court proceeding. If a minor or the parents cannot afford an attorney, a state appointed attorney will be provided.

Right to notice of the charges: A juvenile has the right to know what charges are being pressed against him or her.

Right to confront and cross-examine witnesses: Even though juvenile cases are civil, not criminal, the juvenile has a right to cross-examine and question witnesses providing testimony. The juvenile may challenge witnesses through an attorney.

Unlike adults, minors are not granted a jury trial or the ability to post bail.


A dependency is a decision by the Juvenile Court that a child is in need of effective care and control and that all parents are unable or unwilling to provide proper care and control. Usually, Dependency Petition is filed by the state because concerns about abuse or neglect have been reported to Child Protective Services and there is evidence of immediate danger to the child(ren). The parents may disagree with you filing a Dependency Petition to obtain legal custody of their child(ren). You may file a dependency petition if you believe that there is no parent or guardian willing or able to provide proper care and control over a child.

Examples include:

  • child is abused or abandoned
  • child is neglected because parent or guardian abuses drugs or alcohol
  • parent or guardian is not able to meet the child’s needs
  • parent or guardian is unable to provide the child with basic necessities such as suitable housing, food or necessary medical care

Dependency Petition may involve an investigation and report by CPS. It may also involve appointing attorneys for the parents and the child(ren), a temporary custody hearing, and possibly a pretrial conference and trial. If the Juvenile Court finds that the child is dependent because the parents are unable or unwilling to provide care, the court decides who will care for the child(ren). The Juvenile Court and CPS oversee the child(ren)’s care and services provided to the parents and the child(ren) in an effort to reunite the family.

A dependent child remains under the Court’s control until the Court declares that a parent has become willing and able to provide proper parenting. An order of dependency from the Juvenile Court will last until the child turns 18 or the Court changes or dismisses the order of Dependency.

Parental Rights

What are Parental Rights?

In a family law context, parental rights refer to a parent’s rights to make important decisions and take certain actions on behalf of their child.  Such rights are generally deemed automatic for biological parents, as well as adoptive parents, foster parents, and in some cases, legal guardians.

Parental rights generally include:

  • The right to assume legal and physical custody of the child or children;
  • Rights towards child visitation and contact
  • Rights to make decisions regarding medical treatment for the child
  • The right to enter into a contract on behalf of a minor child
  • The right to pass property to a child through inheritance

State laws may vary regarding parental rights.  However, all courts analyze parental rights in line with the best interests of the child. 

What are Parental Rights for Non-Biological Parents?

In many cases, a person that is not related to the child may assume full legal and physical custody of the child.  This often happens in the case of adoption, as well as in cases of divorce where one spouse marries a different partner than the child’s biological parent. 

In such cases, non-biological parents generally have the same rights as biological parents, so long as they are legally recognized as the child’s parent.  In some cases, the non-biological parent may even obtain more parental rights than the biological parent. This happens if the biological parent is unable to fulfill their parental duties due to incapacity or incarceration.


In the United States, defendants in criminal cases have the right to appeal the decision that was made in their case if they feel that the decision was reached as a result of a court error. The appeals process allows defendants to have a fair trial and not to be subject to verdicts that were reached as a result of an unfair trial. 

Adults are not the only people who can appeal their cases. Juveniles that are tried in juvenile court also have the right to appeal the decision made in their cases. If you want to make an appeal in a juvenile case, this page will give you the information that you need to do so.

When to Appeal:

If you want to make an appeal to your case, it is important to know that an appeal is a response to a judge’s decision. Therefore, an appeal cannot be filed until a judge makes a final decision in your case. Sometimes, a final sentence or punishment is not determined until several weeks or even months after a judge has determined that the defendant is guilty. For this reason, you won’t be able to file the appeal until the sentence or punishment is imposed on you. 

Once a punishment is determined, you have 20 days to file an appeal with a judge. While an appeal is pending, you will not have to serve your sentence. Only if the appeal is rejected will you have to begin serving your sentence or abiding by the punishments outlined by the judge.

Briefs in an Appeal:

Once your appeal is filed, you and your attorney should begin to prepare your brief. The brief is the main component of your appeal. The brief is a document that goes over the facts of your case, the laws involved in your case, and the issues in your case that you are appealing. The brief is a chance for you to explain what legal errors occurred in your case.

The other side in your case will have the opportunity to write a reply brief, which will counter the arguments made in your brief. If you want to, you may file a reply brief to this brief with further arguments.