A Juvenile Charge

A Juvenile Charge

A juvenile charge refers to children who allegedly committed a crime before they have turned eighteen.

If there is probable cause to believe that you have committed a crime, a police officer may arrest you and bring you to the juvenile hall or they can simply release you on a citation. If you are given a citation, the police officer will send a report to the Juvenile Probation Office.

If You are not Currently on Probation for Another Crime

You and your parents will be contacted by a probation officer who will arrange a meeting with you. The probation officer assigned to you will conduct an interview with you and your family to learn more about you.

The probation officer has the authority to dismiss your case, put you on informal probation, or refer the charge to the District Attorney. Examples of informal probation include drug testing, community service, or attending counseling. If you are put on informal probation, your case may be dismissed so you will not have to appear in court.

If the probation officer does not give you informal probation, or you decide not to participate, the officer will prepare a report and send it to the District Attorney. It is the District Attorney who will decide if you should be charged with the crime.

If You are Currently on Probation for Another Crime

The police officer will give a report to your probation officer who may send it to the District Attorny. It is the District Attorney who will decide if you should be charged with the crime. Probation or the District Attorney may decide to allege a failure to abide by the terms and conditions of your probation, as well.

Detention Hearing

If you are detained at the Juvenile Hall, your first court appearance is called a detention hearing. If you are out of custody, your first court appearance is called an arraignment. At this time, if you or your family cannot afford to hire a private atttorney, the judge will assign one to represent you. You will speak with your attorney and you may enter a plea of denial, no contest, or admission. The court will decid whether to detain you in Juvenile Hall while your case is pending or whether to release you from custody in the Hall/allow you to remain out of custody.

Uncontested Jurisdictional Hearing

After discussing your case with you, your attorney will speak with the District Attorney and the court to try to settle your case without going to a Contested Jurisdictional Hearing.

Contested Jurisdictional Hearing

In California, minors do not have the right to a jury trial. This means that it is a judge who will decide if you did or did not commit a crime. You are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If the District Attorney does not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the crime, your case ends. If it is proven, your case will go to disposition.


At this point, the probation department will recommend a punishment based on interviews with you and your family will be given to a judge. It is the judge who decides what punishment you will receive.

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