How Is Juvenile Court Different From Adult Criminal Court?
While there are many procedural differences between Los Angeles County adult and juvenile court, these are perhaps the ones that people most frequently need to know when dealing with a Los Angeles County Juvenile case.
Different Terminology. In adult court the child is not called a “Defendant” he or she is called a “Minor.” The document listing the charges against a child is called a “Petition” rather than a “Complaint.” There are no “Trials” instead there are “Jurisdictional Hearings” or “Adjudications.” What is known as a “Sentencing Hearing” in adult court is a “Disposition Hearing” in juvenile court. Many of the procedures are the same but some key differences.
There are no jury trials in juvenile court. In adult court criminal defendants have an absolute right to a trial by jury, no such right exists in juvenile court. If you decide to take your case to trial (which is called an “adjudication” in juvenile court), your case will be heard by a judge or a bench officer who performs duties similar to a judge.
There is no right to bail in juvenile court. If your child is detained in juvenile hall, you cannot post a bail to get him or her out. The court will decide whether or not your child should be released. See the article about detention hearings here.
Parents and Guardians are questioned by the court during hearings. It is standard practice in juvenile courts for the judge or bench officer to ask parents or guardians questions about their child’s behavior. The response of the parents/guardians may determine what role the judge plays when the court decides how to handle a certain case.
Juvenile Court hearings are closed to the public. With the exception of court proceedings in serious and violent offenses (“strike” offenses), juvenile court hearings are closed to the public. This means that the general public is not allowed inside a juvenile court. Of course, family members are permitted in court during your or your child’s case.
Probationary Sentences. There are limited amount of options for juvenile court judges. For more information read the article on Juvenile Court Dispositions.