Being arrested is an intimidating and nerve-wracking experience, even for adults.  For teenagers, who are considered juveniles if under the age of 18, the process is even more frightening and stressful.  The anxiety and fear is even worse when juveniles and their family members don’t know what to expect from the juvenile justice process, which can be rather confusing in California’s vast and complex court system.  In an effort to help parents understand how juvenile arrests work in California, our Ventura juvenile defense lawyers will discuss some key information about what happens when a teenager is arrested in Ventura County, including sentencing possibilities for minors.   

What Happens When a Minor is Arrested in California?

The California Sentencing Institute reports that in 2015, about 580 juveniles aged 10 to 17, per every 100,000 youth in this age group, were arrested for felonies in Ventura County.  It is even more common for juveniles to be arrested for misdemeanor offenses, such as disorderly conduct, trespassing, or misdemeanor assault.

When a minor is arrested, the police will complete a crime report, which is then given to the Probation Department.  Next, the Probation Department will assign an individual Probation Officer to the child’s case.  The Probation Officer will call you to notify you that your son or daughter is in custody at Juvenile Hall (unless the arresting officer permits your child to return home after recording the arrest).  Your child is entitled to call you from Juvenile Hall, and you are entitled to visit your child.  If your visit occurs within the first 24 hours, it is not necessary for you to make an appointment.

Depending on the situation, your child may be permitted to leave Juvenile Hall and go home shortly after being taken into custody.  In this type of informal case, the Probation Officer can help your family enter California’s “Restorative Justice Program,” in which your child’s record will be erased from the Probation Department if he or she is able to successfully complete the program.  In other situations, the minor will remain in custody at Juvenile Hall, and the District Attorney will file a petition, which means that formal charges are being filed against your son or daughter.  If this occurs, you will receive information about when and where your child must appear in court.

In summation, there are five possible outcomes following the arrest of a juvenile in California, depending on the situation:

  1. The arresting officer allows your child to go home.
  2. The arresting officer places your child with an agency that provides shelter or counseling services.
  3. The arresting officer brings your child to the police station (known as being “cited back”).
  4. The arresting officer brings your child to Juvenile Hall.
  5. The arresting officer can give your family a Notice to Appear, which includes information about when and where to meet with a Probation Officer, who can either:
    1. Reprimand your child, which means your child will not have to go to court.
    2. Refer your child to a community service program or related program.
    3. Refer the case to the D.A., who may then file a petition.

What Are the Sentencing Options for Juveniles in Ventura County?

When an adult is convicted of a crime, he or she is typically fined and/or incarcerated in jail or prison.  He or she may also be placed on probation, be required to complete community service, and/or be required to pay restitution.  Additionally, certain crimes have offense-specific penalties.  For instance, an adult convicted of DUI in California (Driving Under the Influence) might be required to have an ignition interlock device, which is similar to a breathalyzer, installed in his or her car.  Likewise, a defendant convicted of certain sex crimes, such as rape, would be required to register as a sex offender.

Court-imposed penalties for juveniles tend to be slightly less harsh, not only because juvenile courts are civil courts, but also because they are focused primarily on rehabilitation rather than punishment.  Nonetheless, the consequences can be severe if the judge sustains the prosecutor’s petition, which is the juvenile court equivalent of finding the defendant guilty.

Depending on the nature and severity of the crime, the juvenile’s record of prior offenses, and other factors, sentencing (“disposition”) possibilities include:

  • Formal probation
  • Informal probation
  • Restitution payments (compensation for medical bills and/or property damage)
  • Being sent to a facility operated by the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), previously known as the California Youth Authority (CYA)

It is highly uncommon for juveniles to be placed into DJJ facilities.  According to the DJJ itself, “DJJ’s population represents less than 1% of the 225,000 youths arrested in California each year” (less than 2,250 individuals).
For additional information, you may be interested in reading our guide for parents to Ventura Juvenile Court.

Ventura Juvenile Defense Lawyers Representing Teenagers Charged with Crimes

The Ventura juvenile crimes attorneys at The Law Offices of Bamieh & De Smeth, PLC have over 22 years of experience representing teenagers charged with misdemeanors and felonies in Ventura County, including but not limited to:

If your son or daughter was arrested in Ventura County, your family needs a skilled and aggressive California defense attorney immediately.  Your attorney will guide your family through the justice system while advocating on behalf of your child and protecting his or her legal rights vigorously.  For a free and confidential consultation, contact a Ventura criminal defense lawyer at The Law Offices of Bamieh & De Smeth, PLC at (805) 643-5555 today.