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Typical procedures in California juvenile court

When a child is arrested or turned over to a juvenile court, there can be a lot of fear and apprehension regarding the process. A million questions may race through their minds and the minds of their parents as they prepare for what lies ahead. While each case is an individual matter, there are basic procedures conducted for all California juvenile court proceedings.

The process is started when a minor is either arrested or referred to the court system. Before a case makes its way to juvenile court, an intake officer will review and evaluate the specifics of the case in order to decide what type of action is deemed necessary. This could mean a case is handed off to a social services agency or could move forward to be heard in a court proceeding. If it is determined that a formal court hearing in not required, other services may be utilized to provide assistance. These services may be provided from:

  • School counselors
  • Mental health services
  • Youth service agencies

In cases where a formal hearing is required, a judge will hear the case and make a decision regarding treatment options or sentencing. The possibilities for treatment or sentencing include probation, community service, group home placement or a sentence to a juvenile correctional facility. In more serious offenses, it is possible for a child to be tried and sentenced as an adult.

There is no doubt that, being faced with juvenile court proceedings can be emotionally trying for both children and their parents. It is important to remember that the main goal of a California juvenile court is rehabilitation and treatment, not punishment. Assistance is available to help both minors and their parents get through this difficult situation, and to ensure the best course of action is taken so the rights of the child are being protected.

Source: FindLaw, "What to Expect: Juvenile Court Chronology", , Sept. 1, 2014

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