The superior court’s juvenile court division has jurisdiction over cases involving criminal law violations committed while a person was under age 18 (Welfare & Institutions Code 603). Juvenile court is where juvenile delinquency proceedings take place within the superior court. Juvenile court is considered a civil rather than criminal proceeding even though violation of criminal laws by minors is being adjudicated.
A minor in juvenile court receives many of the same Constitutional protections that an adult would receive in adult court. In juvenile court, there is no “conviction” in the proceedings like in adult court (Welfare & Institutions code 203). Minors “admit” or “deny” offenses instead of pleading “guilty” or “not guilty” like a person would do in adult court.
The venue for juvenile court is where the minor resides, is found, or commits, the acts alleged against them.
A minor is arraigned at the first hearing. If the minor is in custody, the hearing is called a detention hearing. If the case is not resolved at the first or subsequent hearings, a jurisdiction hearing is set.
A jurisdiction hearing is when a trial is held in juvenile court. If the court decides that the minor committed the crime, it sustains the petition and sentences the minor immediately or sets the case for a disposition hearing.
A disposition hearing is where sentencing occurs in juvenile court. Although it depends on the seriousness of the offense, in most cases sentencing in juvenile court is less severe than in adult court. In most cases, the juvenile court can only maintain jurisdiction over a minor until they turn 21. There are some exceptions that allow the juvenile court to maintain jurisdiction over a minor past the age of 21.
The benefit of having a case disposed of in juvenile court is that the minor can petition the court for sealing of their juvenile criminal record.
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