A Parent’s Guide to the Juvenile Justice System

California legislators understand children make mistakes and are susceptible to outside factors such as peer pressure. As a result, when minors commit criminal offenses, they go through the juvenile justice system rather than California’s adult criminal justice system. One of the main differences is that the juvenile system does not always operate under strict procedures and predictable outcomes. 

The law provides judges with broad discretion when presiding over juvenile proceedings, so they may consider outside and underlying factors within the case. However, even if the juvenile justice system may appear less rigid, a conviction’s negative consequences may follow your child far beyond adolescence. To protect their rights and future, consider our guide to understanding California’s juvenile justice system.

Understanding California’s Juvenile Justice System Process

When a law enforcement officer arrests a juvenile, they have the option to either release them to their parents or take them to juvenile hall. It is important to note that parents may still be able to take their child from the juvenile hall, depending on the circumstances and crime. While this may be the end for some parties, others may face charges as a law enforcement officer may file a petition alleging your child committed a criminal offense.

To protect your child and limit the consequences they face, you will want to speak with the Aron Law Firm as soon as possible. 

The next step is a detention hearing, where your child will either admit or deny the criminal allegations. An experienced juvenile criminal defense lawyer will have the knowledge and resources to prepare your child and offer counsel on the best possible course of action. 

If they deny the allegations, a jurisdiction hearing will be held to determine the case’s outcome. A jurisdiction hearing is equivalent to a trial in an adult court; however, minors do not have the right to a trial by jury like an adult. Within these proceedings, the prosecuting attorney will present evidence to prove the allegations beyond a reasonable doubt. Without an attorney on your child’s side, they may face severe consequences which could affect their academic, social, and career development.

What Can a Judge Order in Juvenile Court?

The main goal of the juvenile justice system is not to punish but to intervene and provide minors with rehabilitation to prevent further criminal actions. A juvenile court judge has various options when handling the potential outcomes and charges of a minor, including the following:

  • School services
  • Placement in foster care
  • Informal probation
  • Formal probation
  • County social services
  • Placement in a county ranch or camp
  • Commitment to the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ)
  • Referral to community-based organizations
  • Removal from the home

Under California’s Penal Code Section 26(1), the law requires clear proof that the child under 14 years of age knew the “wrongfulness of the act” to hold them criminally responsible for their actions. However, every person and circumstance is unique and requires highly-qualified legal representation tailored to the case’s specific needs. The Aron Law Firm understands the potential harm a criminal conviction may cause your child and is prepared to fight fiercely on their behalf.

Contact a Highly-Qualified California Juvenile Defense Lawyer at Aron Law Firm

There are many facets as to why children commit criminal offenses, including major life changes, peer pressure, academic stress, etc. When your child’s future is at stake, you want to ensure they have the best possible legal representation for their case. The Aron Law Firm has years of experience advocating for our clients and guiding them through California’s complicated juvenile criminal justice system.

With our client-centered approach, we devote ourselves to providing knowledgeable and responsive legal counsel. Trust our firm to protect your child’s rights. Call (805) 618-1768 or fill out our contact form today.

William M. Aron


William M. Aron

August 2, 2023

Former Deputy District Attorney William Aron received his Juris Doctorate from the Duke School of Law and has amassed 20 years of experience practicing law. Attorney Aron dedicates his practice to defending the accused, and is devoted to keeping his clients out of prison.