California has an alternative criminal justice system for minors. While the proceedings still take place in court, they are not the same as in a criminal trial.
Juveniles charged with crimes must go through several hearings. The last of these hearings is called a disposition hearing. That is when the judge makes the final decision about a juvenile’s fate. It’s a lot like the sentencing phase of a criminal trial.
Similar adults, a juvenile can appeal this final decision.
When Should Juveniles Appeal?
Since the juvenile justice system’s goal is rehabilitation rather than punishment, juvenile offenders do not have the same incentives to appeal.
However, there are scenarios when a judge’s disposition should be reversed. If the young offender is innocent, if their rights were violated, or if the court order is unacceptable, a criminal appeals lawyer can and should appeal the judge’s decision.
The Juvenile Appeals Process
Before filing a formal appeal in a juvenile case, it’s necessary to outline the different stages of the juvenile criminal justice process. At each stage, there are opportunities to contest. And in some cases, ask for a new hearing on certain issues.
The California juvenile justice process involves the following:
When a minor is arrested, their fate is initially decided by a probation officer. Depending on the crimes’ severity, a juvenile may simply be released on probation. The officer may also order the youth to be detained and recommend that the District Attorney (DA) file formal charges.
When the minor his detained, or when the DA files criminal charges, a hearing will determine whether detention should continue, or if the juvenile should be detained until the next hearing.
At this stage, a Los Angeles juvenile defense lawyer can contest the the DA’s petition and present evidence. If they are unsatisfied with the result, they can request a new hearing.
In some cases, the DA may request that the juvenile be tried as an adult. For very serious crimes, there is no need for a fitness hearing because adult charges are mandatory.
During this hearing, the DA will present evidence as to why the minor should be treated as an adult. Of course, the defense can argue why the case should stay in the juvenile system. This is an extremely important stage of the process because appealing this decision is very difficult.
If the case stays within the juvenile system, the next stage is the jurisdiction hearing. Like in a criminal trial, this hearing’s purpose is to determine what actually happened. Both sides are allowed to present evidence and cross-examine witnesses. However, the facts will not be decided by a jury. If the judge determines that the available evidence points to the juvenile’s guilt, the case will move to the next stage.
During this part of the process, the focus is not only on how to punish a juvenile but also on how to treat or rehabilitate them. Another important difference is that a judge can decide to “set aside” or cancel the decision about jurisdiction. In other words, the verdict can be canceled if their legal team is successful at this stage. If not, the judge will determine the conditions of detention and probation.
How Can I Appeal My Child’s Verdict?
There are three ways to appeal a juvenile case. First, and while it’s not a formal appeal, your lawyer should try to get a new hearing if the judge rules against your child at the detention phase.
Second, if the judge rules that your child should be treated like an adult, you may file a writ with the Court of Appeals. This isn’t a formal appeal either, but it can delay the process and keep the case in the juvenile system.
Third, you can file an official appeal within 60 days of the disposition hearing. As with a criminal case, your appeal must show that a legal mistake hurt your son’s or daughter’s case.
There are many possible arguments to make in favor of an appeal. A lawyer may argue that evidence was improperly included or rejected, or that the authorities violated your child’s rights at any point during the process.
A California Juvenile Lawyer Can Help
When a minor faces criminal charges, their future hangs in the balance. With so much at stake, these cases require quick, thorough, and aggressive action from the defense.
If you or a loved one received a bad result after a juvenile disposition hearing, you must act fast if you want to appeal.