The juvenile justice system deals with children who are alleged to have committed offenses while they are between the ages of 10 and 18. A juvenile adjudication is not the same thing as a criminal conviction (though they can have many of the same consequences) and offenses are considered “delinquent acts” rather than “crimes.” The juvenile justice system is intended to focus on treatment, rehabilitation, and supervision.
Juvenile court proceedings are initiated when the police file a Written Allegation with the Juvenile Probation Department. The District Attorney reviews the allegation and, if they approve the allegations, the case is assigned to an Intake Officer with the Juvenile Probation Department. At the same time, a copy of the allegations is sent to the Juvenile Defender. All children are entitled to representation by an attorney with the Office of the Public Defender free of charge. This representation continues through any diversionary programs, through the adjudication process, and until the child is ultimately released from probation supervision or until the charges are dismissed.
Our attorneys represent the interests of our client – the child – and not their parents. We have a duty to advocate for what the child decides. Sometimes parents have good reasons to disagree with their child’s decision, but it is our responsibility to exclusively represent our client’s expressed interests. As part of our dedication to ensuring client-centered representation, we make an effort to keep a child’s family apprised of the decision-making process when our clients permit us to do so.