A transfer hearing is a court proceeding in a juvenile court. At the transfer hearing, the judge decides if your child will be transferred to adult court to be tried as an adult. While most arrested youth are tried in juvenile court, the California law allows some youth to be transferred to the criminal court. If your child is charged and the judge decides that he or she will be tried in a criminal court, it means that your child will face longer sentences than the penalties that would be faced in a juvenile court. There are some factors that the judge looks at to determine if your child is fit for the juvenile justice system or not.
If the judge finds your child is fit to be tried in a juvenile court, the juvenile system applies, and if not, he or she will get a transfer to an adult court. In most cases, if your child commits a crime in California, he or she will face the California juvenile system. However, for serious crimes, your child may be tried as an adult and ordered by the judge. If charged as an adult, your child will remain in the juvenile court until the day the hearing is transferred. Therefore, your child will face charges as that of an adult offender, and if tried in a juvenile court, he or she will face commitment to the Division of Juvenile Justice until they attain the age of 25.
If your child has been suspected of committing a crime in Los Angeles and is arrested by the police, remember you have rights as a parent. You should be noticed about your child, and you also have the right to ensure that your chills rights are protected. Having your child tried in a juvenile court will help them benefit from the juvenile justice system's rehabilitation services.
Juvenile crimes are serious crimes, especially if your child is charged with an offense, and the judge decides to charge him or her as an adult. Criminal convictions can negatively affect their lives in the future, and your child will have challenges in getting essential services like securing a permanent job. To protect your child’s future, you need to get help from an aggressive and qualified juvenile criminal defense attorney who understands the local courts and the law. If your child or a loved one faces criminal charges in California, do not hesitate to call our experienced attorney from The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm to defend the court’s decision to have your child’s case transferred. The attorney will also fight the charges against your child, and the penalties may be reduced, or the case dismissed.
Juvenile Court Process
The juvenile court process starts with the arrests. The police will arrest your child after there are allegations that he or she has committed a crime. After the arrest, the police can give your child a warning and let them go home or put your child in jail. As a parent, you should be notified about your child’s whereabouts and why they were arrested. The juvenile court process has several hearings before a case is concluded. The hearings are:
- Detention hearing
- Arraignment hearing
- Transfer hearing
- Jurisdiction hearing
- Disposition hearing
Juvenile Court Transfer Hearing Criteria in California
A transfer hearing, also called a fitness hearing, is whereby the juvenile court judge determines if your child is fit for the juvenile system or not. The judge will look at several factors before making the decision, for example, the nature of the crime committed by your child to determine if your child will benefit from the rehabilitative services available in the juvenile court system. If the judge does not see the possibility of your child benefitting from the services, he or she is transferred to adult court. The prosecutor will initiate the transfer hearing if:
- Your child is 16 years and above, and the allegations filed against them are that of a felony convict.
- Your child as 14 or 15 years at the time the allegations were filed
Transfer hearing is usually held between the detention and the adjudication hearing. Before your child is transferred to adult hearing, they are given a notice five days before the transfer. The elements that the judge uses to determine if your child is fit for the juvenile or will be tried as an adult are:
- The level of criminal sophistication that your child exhibits.
- Whether a child is likely to benefit from the juvenile services or not, before the juvenile court's jurisdiction expires.
- If your child has a previous criminal history
- The past attempts by your child to rehabilitate and
- The circumstances that led to your child committing the crime.
The Level of Criminal Sophistication That Your Child Exhibits
Based on this criterion, the judge usually looks at the age, intellectual capacity, mental, physical, maturity, and emotional health of your child when he or she allegedly committed the offense. The judge will also look at the effects of your child’s activity on the family, environment, and many others. If your child doesn’t appreciate the risk and consequences of his or her behavior, the judge will decide to have your child tried in criminal court.
Whether Your Child Will Benefit from the Rehabilitative Program Offered by the Juvenile Court Justice System
Before the judge decides to have your child tried in a criminal court, the criteria allow the judge to consider if your child is likely to be rehabilitated or not before attaining the maximum age requirement for a juvenile court. The expiration of jurisdiction to youth committed to the Division of Juvenile Justice is 25 years. The judge will also consider the potential of your child to grow and mature.
The Previous History of Your Child's Delinquency
It refers to the previous cases that your child has had in the juvenile court. It includes how severe the crimes were, the effect of the crime on the child’s family, and the community. It also consists of the effects on the environment and the child's trauma that resulted from the previous criminal behavior.
The Child's Previous Attempts to Rehabilitate
The criteria try to assess if your child had previously benefited from the rehabilitative program provided in the juvenile court justice. The judge will also look at your child's type of service and how effective the service was.
The Circumstances that Led to Your Child Committing the Crime
There are different reasons why a child can commit a crime. Therefore, before the judge decides to have your child tried as an adult, he or she will look at the basis of the crime. Your child can commit a crime due to mental illness, and it can also be a result of the child’s actual behavior. The judge will also look at the level of the crime committed by your child and your child's mental development.
Therefore, it is essential to get help from an attorney for your child to help do a thorough investigation and prove why your child should not be tried in a criminal court.
The judge can file a petition to have your child transferred from a juvenile court to criminal court before admitting to committing the crime. The petition is filed before your child admits to the crime because, if he or she admits to the crime, the case will move to the next hearing, adjudication hearing, and will therefore remain in the juvenile court. Since the transfer's consequences are significant, your child needs to have an attorney by their side to advise them. At the transfer hearing, the judge usually assumes that your child is guilty. It is also at the hearing that the judge decides whether your child is fit to be tried in the juvenile court or not. At this stage, the judge does not have to prove that your child committed the crime. Even though your child’s attorney can help defend the case to remain in the juvenile court. Mechanisms That Are Used to Transfer the Hearing
There are three mechanisms that the judge will look at to decide whether your child will be transferred to a criminal court or not. The mechanisms used to transfer your child out of the juvenile system are:
- Judicial waiver. A judicial waiver is also known as the discretionary waiver. It is a standard method used to send juveniles to the criminal court. The juvenile court judge may decide to waive the jurisdiction over a particular case and transfer it to the criminal court.
- Legislative exclusion. It is also known as the automatic transfer whereby, the law requires that all youth should be prosecuted in a criminal court if they are charged with a specific offense. The law doesn’t favor because even those who haven’t attained the age of 14 will be tried in the criminal court.
- Prosecutor discretion. It is a method used to send juveniles to adult court even though it is not a frequently used method. The prosecutors have been given authority by the state to decide whether to send juveniles to criminal courts.
Transfer Hearing Process
Some steps are followed before your child's case is taken to the criminal court.
Probation Officer Report
It is under California law that the probation officer must present a report in your child. The report contains several aspects of your child. The report is usually prepared after filing the transfer hearing and is usually an essential element that the judge uses to decide your child’s case. It contains:
- the social history and the behavioral pattern of your child
- The report also includes the allegations filed against your child
- previous delinquent history of your child
- Any contact of the family with the criminal justice
- School attendance and achievements
- Your child’s interests and plans for the future
- Community persons willing to be of help to your child
The above report helps the judge decide whether to transfer your child’s case to the criminal court.
Interview by the Probation Officer
Because the judge values the report presented by the probation officer, your child must be well prepared to handle the probation officer's question. If your child has an attorney, it may be easier for them because the attorney will give your child the common questions' guidelines. The attorney will also advise on what to say. During the interview, your child has a right to an interpreter if they don't understand the language used in court. The attorney will also help your child practice how to answer the questions and, therefore, set some time for your child’s practice before the interview is conducted. In case your child’s attorney is not available during the interview, communication will be done to the probation officer on the limitations of the questions to ask your child. If you want your child’s interview to be a success, your child:
- Must have an attorney
- Should be taught how to answer challenging questions
- Should practice answering g questions
- Request to have an interpreter in case the language used is a challenge
- Should be advised on what to say during the interview
- Should list their strengths, abilities, goals, and interests
For case preparation, there is a lot of information required for your child. As a parent, you should work with your child’s attorney to gather information about:
- The school records
- Medicals records
- Records for any disability
- Any eligibility for special education
- Your child’s employment records
- Any certificate earned and
- Family records
You should also help the attorney get the information for any persons willing to offer your child support during their stay in the juvenile court.
The participatory defense is meant to help challenge the motion to have your child tried in a juvenile court rather than in a criminal court. At the participatory defense, you and any other community member or a family member are welcomed to decide how well the case can be challenged for the benefit of your child. The most important thing you should consider as a parent is to have your child’s attorney help through the trial process. A qualified juvenile criminal attorney knows the legal way to go through the case and gather evidence supporting your child’s case.
The Transfer Hearing Motion
At the transfer hearing, the judge usually considers the sturdy report presented by the probation officer. The judge also uses the other party's evidence to decide what is best for your child. At the hearing, both parties present what they have in terms of evidence. At this stage, the judge must prove that your child committed a crime and that a transfer should be effected. Your child’s attorney, at this stage, will challenge the case professionally to ensure that your child does not get a transfer to the criminal court. You must understand the tips that your child will need to know during the hearing. Your child should;
- Understand the layout of the court
- Be prepared to handle questions as they come with the help of an attorney
- Practice the defense strategies before the trial
- Report early to the court
- Have an attorney by the side.
- Learn how to remain calm during the trial
You should expect any news from the judge at this hearing because there has to be a judge’s decision.
What Happens after the Transfer Hearing?
If the judge finds that your child is fit to be tried in the juvenile court, then he or she will remain in the juvenile justice system. If it is agreed that your child’s case will be transferred to the criminal court, the proceeding will follow immediately. Your child’s attorney can look at any legal issue that can be used to convince the court to have an appeal. If there are legal issues that can help reverse the order, the attorney will file a petition to appeal the case to have your child tried in the juvenile court.
Crimes Tried in Adult Court
The crimes that will make the judge decide to have your child tried as an adult are:
- Arson, where there will be body injury
- Forced rape causing body injuries
- Forced sodomy causing body injuries
- Kidnapping with body injuries
- Kidnapping for robbery
- Kidnapping for ransom
- Attempted murder
- Assault with a deadly weapon
- Dissuading a witness
- Manufacture and selling of controlled substances
- Escape using force
- Voluntary manslaughter and
- Kidnapping during a carjacking.
Appealing the Juvenile Court Judge Decision after the Arraignment
If the judge finds that your child is fit to be tried as an adult, they will be tried using the same rules that apply to an adult. If your child wants to challenge the judge's decision, he or she can file for a petition not later than 20 days. If your child has been charged for committing a severe crime, it is a good idea that you advise them to hire an attorney. An important note is that your child will never be sentenced to death because it is against California law.
How to Support Your Child in the Transfer Process
Whether the judge decides to have your child tried in the juvenile court or the criminal court, you must support your child in all ways. Some of the ways you can help your family are:
- Visit your child regularly and make calls whenever possible. It is a way to show love and comfort that you still have in your heart.
- Support your child emotionally. Being charged and sentenced as a child can be traumatizing and can lead to emotional stress. Please reassure your child despite having their case transferred to the criminal court and facing severe penalties.
- It would help if you let your attorney know when your child is going through a mental challenge like depression.
- Encouraging your child to participate in the rehabilitative programs available.
Possible Outcomes of Your Child’s Arrest
There are many options that your child can be sentenced to after the arrest by the police. They include:
Diversion. Diversion is a program meant to rehabilitate the child rather than punishing them. The program does not last more than six months, and if your child does not benefit from the diversion program, then the probation officer can file a petition proceeding with the court.
Informal Probation. Your child will be put under informal probation if he or she has not committed a serious crime. Informal probation is also an option if your child is a first-time offender and has not committed a non-violent crime.
Formal Probation. Your child can be put on formal probation in different places. They can be placed in a relative’s home, an institution, in a camp, at home, or in a foster family. There will be set terms and conditions for any formal probation that your child must follow to dismiss the charges. The terms include the following:
- Mandatory school attendance
- Restrictions to associate with a particular group of people
- Restrictions on owning or possessing a weapon
- Restriction to substance use
Find a Transfer Hearing Attorney Near Me
If your child faces criminal charges, he or she will need representation from an attorney who is knowledgeable about the juvenile court justice system. The attorney will guide your child on what to say to ensure the case is not transferred to the criminal court. The attorney will also do a thorough investigation and gather all the necessary information required to prove that your child should be tried in the juvenile court and that he or she is likely to benefit from the services available in the juvenile court system. We at The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm have attorneys representing clients in juvenile courts and have successfully defended them. The children have walked free, have had their charges reduced, and have had their cases tried in a juvenile court as expected. To get the help that you require, contact us at 310-935-1675, and have your child’s benefit from the juvenile justice system services. We serve the greater Los Angeles area.