Juvenile Criminal Defense

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How is juvenile criminal defense different from adults?

The adult criminal justice system’s primary goal is punishment, not rehabilitation.  On the other hand, the juvenile justice system’s primary mission is to step in and find solutions to effect a rehabilitation of the child.  Anybody under the age of 18 years is presumed to be a candidate for the juvenile justice system, unless the court (or in certain cases, the prosecution) determine that a juvenile is “unfit” for handling within the juvenile system.  In such cases, the case will be transferred to a regular criminal court and will be treated identically to an adult case.

While an adult has the absolute constitutional right to a trial by jury, there are no such rights in the juvenile court.  In fact, there is no right to a “trial.”  Instead, if a juvenile contests the charges, the court holds an “adjudication” to determine if the charges are proven or not.  The adjudication is an adversarial proceeding, follows the rules of evidence and procedure, such that it is actually (in all but name) a trial by the court, without a jury.  However, unlike an adult court, at the conclusion of an adjudication if the court finds the charges to be true, the court acts as a “harsh parent” and metes out a course of rehabilitation, rather than a course of punishment.  Also, there is no right to bail.  Instead, the juvenile court determines whether detention or remaining at home is in the best interests of the child.

A juvenile criminal defense lawyer defends juveniles charged with criminal conduct. Some juvenile criminal defense lawyers are privately retained, while others are employed by the various jurisdictions with juvenile courts for appointment to represent indigent persons; the latter are generally called public defenders. Persons who are charged with a crime are all entitled to be represented by an attorney. The public defender is not a “choice” that a person can make just to save money. To qualify for the services of the public defender, a juvenile defendant’s parents or guardians must submit a financial evaluation and only if they meet certain financial criteria can they have the court pay for their child’s representation. For families who do not financially qualify as indigent, and who want to obtain the finest representation for their child as possible, Wegman & Levin provides experience, integrity and dedication.

 

What does a juvenile criminal defense lawyer do?

In the United States, juvenile criminal defense lawyers deal with the issues surrounding an arrest, a criminal investigation, criminal charges, sentencing, appeals and post-trial issues. An arrest simply means a police officer or judge believes reasonable suspicion exists that a chile committed a crime. An arrest does not necessarily mean that a criminal charge has been claimed by a prosecuting attorney.

Juvenile criminal defense lawyers also deal with the substantive issues of the crimes with which his or her clients are charged. Criminal defense lawyers may also help clients before charges have been filed by a prosecuting attorney. This is done when someone believes he or she is being investigated or is arrested. The person may hire a criminal defense lawyer to help with counsel and representation dealing with police or other investigators, perform his or her own investigation, and at times present exculpatory evidence that negates potential charge by the prosecutor. Wegman & Levin represents juveniles in all stages of criminal matters, including pre-arrest and pre-indictment (investigatory phases).

Juvenile criminal defense lawyers in California must have a clear understanding of the United States Constitution. Specifically, the Fourth Amendment which protects against unlawful searches and seizures, while the Fifth Amendment governs the right to remain silent (so one does not become a witness against himself) and the Sixth guarantees everybody the right to counsel . All of the Amendments to the United States Constitution are guaranteed to juveniles accused of crimes against the states via the Fourteenth Amendment. Thus, a juvenile criminal defense lawyer must understand each of these rights. Initial work on any criminal case involves review of the charges and the claimed facts, and analysis of constitutional violations, the prima facie burden of the prosecution, defenses, and affirmative defenses; as well as potential sentence and sentencing issues. Wegman & Levin has extensive experience in protecting its clients’ constitutional rights.

Early stages of a criminal case may involve a grand jury or preliminary hearing to determine if there exists probable cause for the case to continue. A violation of the Fourth or Fifth Amendment, or other illegally obtained evidence could result in evidence being inadmissible at adjudication. Accordingly, a juvenile criminal defense lawyer often spends a considerable amount of time reviewing all documentation to determine if the case can be won on Constitutional Grounds due to illegal conduct by the government. Wegman & Levin reviews each case (police reports and other documents, videos and audio recordings) looking for every indicia of illegality in the prosecution’s case. When it exists, Wegman & Levin has extensive experience in the procedures for excluding such evidence from the case.

Should there not be Constitutional violations, much of the work of a juvenile criminal defense attorney then turns to trial preparation. Any proposed settlement agreement must be compared to the best judgment about the outcome after trial (adjudication). A juvenile criminal defense lawyer will usually discuss potential plea agreements with the prosecuting attorney, as an alternative to exercising the juvenile’s right to an adjudication and other rights. Plea agreements, when made, can be characterized as either charge agreements (often involving a less serious charge), sentencing agreements (involving a lesser sentence), or both. Wegman & Levin has had a great deal of experience in negotiating advantageous plea agreements for its clients.

Call Wegman & Levin today at (818) 980-4000 for information on representation.
Initial consultations are always FREE

Our California Juvenile Defense Attorneys serve the residents of:

Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, West Los Angeles, West Hollywood, Brentwood, Century City, Venice, Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, South Bay, Bel Air, Santa Monica, Culver City, Mar Vista, Rancho Palos Verdes, Pacific Palisades, Commerce, Marina del Rey, Playa del Rey, Playa Vista, Cheviot Hills, Malibu, Hawthorne, Redondo Beach, Torrance, Long Beach, Westchester, Pasadena, El Segundo, Burbank, Studio City, Universal City, Sherman Oaks, Glendale, Agoura, Agoura Hills, San Gabriel, San Marino, Santa Clarita, Sierra Madre, Calabasas, Bell Canyon, Chatsworth, Newbury Park, Moorpark, Oak Park, Simi Valley, Wood Ranch, North Ranch, Lake Sherwood, Camarillo, Conejo Valley, Woodland Hills, Hidden Hills, Bradbury, Inglewood, Glendora, Rolling Hills, La Canada Flintridge, Encino, Van Nuys, Tarzana, Reseda, West Lake Village, San Fernando Valley, Norwalk, Newport Beach, Seal Beach, Los Angeles County, Ventura County, Upland, Westminister, and Orange County