Los Angeles Juvenile Defense Lawyer
Are you or your child facing a juvenile charge in Los Angeles? Are you concerned that a childhood mistake could have a negative impact on your or your child’s future? Chris Bou Saeed is a Los Angeles juvenile defense attorney who understands the juvenile court system. He also understands, through experience, how to provide protection for minors to avoid having them face serious consequences due to their childhood mistakes.
The juvenile system is not the same as adult criminal court. The nature of the charges, the rules, the consequences, and the overall aim of the system are different. At CBS Law, we have experience dealing with the juvenile court system, and we can use that experience to ease the worry in your case.
Goals of Juvenile Justice
Unlike the criminal justice system for adults, which focuses in large part on punishment (PC 1170), the juvenile justice system emphasizes rehabilitation, education, guidance and treatment. As a technical matter, juvenile offenses, that is, offenses committed by persons under the age of 18, are not crimes. And juvenile cases, at least technically, are civil, rather than criminal.
Having said that, we should point out that the consequences of juvenile offenses can include confinement in a facility, fines, restitution, and probation.
Which Cases are Heard in Juvenile Court?
Juvenile court cases consist of two broad categories:
- Status-Based Offenses. These are offenses that exist only because of the age of the person charged. They include curfew violations, running away from home, truancy, and being labeled “incorrigible,” among others.
- “Criminal” activities. These are acts which, had the perpetrator been an adult, could have been charged as a criminal offense.
An important aspect of the juvenile justice system is that it is governed by a number of different California laws, in addition to the Penal Code. They include, most importantly, the Welfare and Institutions Code. Furthermore, a juvenile facing charges in juvenile court has fewer constitutional protections than defendants in criminal cases. The point is that specific experience in juvenile matters is essential when you represent a client in juvenile court.
When Can Minors be Charged as Adults?
We often hear of cases in which a juvenile has been charged as an adult. This means that the case is heard in criminal court, with the same rules and consequences as if the defendant were an adult. You may wonder who decides whether to charge a child as an adult, and what standards apply when making that decision. Decades ago, when a prosecutor wanted to try a minor as an adult, a hearing would take place on the issue in court. The current law specifies, however, that when a minor 14 years or older is charged with certain specific offenses – for example, some homicides and sex crimes – the minor will automatically be tried as an adult. The law also says that informal probation is not available if a juvenile is guilty of committing a felony. The current law narrows the discretion of the prosecutor and the court in trying certain juveniles as adults.
Minors and Alcohol Offenses
Some of the most common juvenile offenses involve alcohol. They include:
- Drinking and Driving. California’s policy when it comes to underage drinking and driving is “zero tolerance.” This means that if you are under 21 years of age and you have any detectable amount of alcohol in your system, you have committed an offense under California law. In other words, the prosecutor does not have to prove that you were impaired, or that you had a particular blood alcohol content (BAC). The offense is a civil proceeding, but, as with adult drinking and driving charges, it could lead to the loss of your license for at least a year. If you do not already have a license, it can delay your ability to get one for up to three years. Additional penalties may apply if your BAC is 0.05 or higher.
- Minor in Possession. This is perhaps the juvenile offense we hear about most. And while the offense does not sound that serious, the consequences of a violation can be significant. If you are a minor (under 21 years of age) in possession of alcoholic beverages in a public place, you can be fined $250 and be required to perform community service. BPC 25662. For a second violation, the fine and the community service time can be increased. Finally, unlike most juvenile offenses, this charge is a misdemeanor, and therefore will appear as part of your record. Note, however, that there are exceptions under which possession by a minor may not be unlawful.
It should also be noted that the use of alcohol is involved to one degree or another in many juvenile offenses.
Juvenile Incarceration – Are There Alternatives?
For a parent, having your minor child incarcerated causes immense anguish. Fortunately, The California Welfare and Institutions Code permits some cases to be resolved through counseling and education. And WI 725 allows the judge to impose informal probation, after completion of which the charge will be dismissed. Probation may include drug testing, counseling, and other requirements. These alternatives spare the child from being locked up in a facility.
Juvenile Defense Attorney in Los Angeles
If you or your child has been charged as a juvenile, there are outcomes that will not haunt you for years to come. It may be possible to have the case dismissed. In addition, probation and diversion, for example, may be available. Contact CBS Law to discuss your juvenile case with an experienced juvenile defense lawyer. Call CBS Law at (213) 800-8005
Being arrested is terrifying. Contact us to discuss your case. We can help. We are on your side.
Christopher J. Bou Saeed Founding Attorney of CBS Law