What happens when a juvenile is arrested
A police officer may arrest a juvenile upon reasonable cause to believe a crime, either a felony or a misdemeanor has been committed. Other reasons for “temporary custody" would be a violation of a juvenile court order or the minor is found in the street or a public place suffering from an illness or requiring care. A person becomes an adult on their 18th birthday.
The police may do the following with the minor: (1) release with no further action (2) refer the case to a prosecuting agency (City Attorney or District Attorney (3) release the minor with a request to return to the police with parent/guardian for further investigation (4) a notice to appear before a probation officer. In some counties, if a minor was not taken into custody, the police issue a citation for a court date 60 days from the date of the issuance of the citation. The minor must appear with a parent/guardian on that court date. Failure to do so will result in an arrest warrant being issued by the court.
A detained minor must be released within 48 hours if a petition has not been filed. There is an exception for non-judicial days. A minor is entitled to one completed call to a parent/guardian and one completed call to an attorney, no later than 1 hour after being taken in custody. A minor who is 14 years or older who personally uses a firearm, shall not be released until the minor is brought before a judge.
II. The Probation Department and the Juvenile
A. Non-detained Minors: After a request for a petition by the police, a probation officer, based on certain factors, including, but not limited to, the seriousness of the crime, minor is repeat offender and statutory requirements must request the prosecuting agency within 48 hours to file a petition. Probation has discretionary powers to merely counsel the minor and close the case. It may also hold the minor on informal probation for a maximum of 6 months whereby it imposes informal terms and conditions such as: maintaining regular attendance at school, a “C" average or higher, obey parents/guardian, a curfew of 5 p.m. However, if the minor fails to comply or commits a new crime within the probationary period, they may file a petition with the prosecuting agency and terminate informal probation.
B. Detained Minors: Probation has the same options as with non-detained minors. When a minor is delivered to juvenile hall and a petition is sought by a prosecuting agency, the probation officer may continue detention only if one or more is true: (1) lacks proper and effective parental care (2) destitute (3) home is unfit (4) matter of immediate and urgent necessity for the protection of the minor or reasonable necessity for the protection of the person or property of another (5) likely to flee (6) had violated a court order (7) a physical danger to himself or the public because of mental conditions—the court must notify the county mental health department.
III. The Prosecuting Agency (City Attorney or District Attorney) and the Juvenile
The prosecuting agency is provided prosecutorial discretion. Prosecution may reject the case outright. It may hold the case pending request for further police investigation or return the case to probation for informal supervision.
However, if the prosecution decided to file the petition and the minor is detained, strict time limitations apply. All felonies or misdemeanors, involving violence, threat of violence, possession or use of a weapon, or minor is already on probation or parole, the case must be filed within 48 hours. The detention hearing must be held within 24 hours after filing.
If a minor is 14 years of age or older and charged with one or more of the following offenses, the case must be filed in adult court: (1) murder in the first degree (2) sex crimes with special circumstances. Some cases are discretionary: (1) any offense punishable by life in prison or death if committed in adult court (2) if the offense involves: a victim who is 65 years or older, victim is mentally or physically disabled, a hate crime or gang related (3) minor used a firearm.
It is clear that many crimes committed by juveniles are determined by the police, probation and the prosecuting agency in a case by case basis. As such, it helps to hire an effective criminal defense attorney to persuade any or all of these agencies to not proceed with criminal prosecution.