Ward of the court is a decision by the court to take responsibility for a minor's treatment and control. It is a serious decision for you as a parent if your child is made a court ward. If your child is found guilty of violating a law other than the curfew, the court may order your child to be a ward of court. During wardship, the court can limit your control over the child. The court can also order that your child is physically taken away from you. That will be the case if:

  • The court proves that you are not capable of providing education, training, and maintenance to your child
  • Your child has undergone through probation and has failed to reform and
  • If the child’s welfare requires that your child is taken away from you.

The court has options for wardship. It can decide to place your child on probation or commit your child to a division of juvenile systems. If your child is convicted and found guilty for a particular offense, he or she needs a criminal attorney who will fight the charges, and that your child is not made a ward of court. The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm has attorneys who have successfully defended in many juvenile cases, and the children have been let free in their homes.

Types of Petition for Your Child

There are two types of petition that juvenile court gets involved. They are:

The Petition filed by the Probation Department

It is a petition that says that your child broke a curfew, ran away from school, disobeyed the parents, or skipped school. If the juvenile court judge finds your child guilty for the offense, then your child becomes a ward of the court

The Petition filed by the District Attorney

It is a petition that says that your child committed a crime that would still be considered a crime even after 18 years. It applies if they committed specific felony crimes like murder, rape, or misdemeanor offense like driving under the influence, among others. If the judge proves that your child is guilty of the charges, he or she becomes a ward of the court. Your child will, therefore, serve a sentence depending on the nature of the crime.

You also have a right to be issued with a notice of petition stating the specific crime that your child has committed. Issuance of a petition notice does not mean that your child is guilty of committing the crime. After you are issued the petition notice, you will also get a notification about the detention hearing. Your child will also get a notification if he or she is eight years or older. If the hearing is done within five days, the officer will notify your child 24 hours before the hearing.

Overview of Ward of Court in California

If your child is made a ward of court in California, it means that the court will take your child's overall responsibility. Before your child is made a ward of the court, the court will consider the following;

  • The age of your child
  • The gravity and the circumstances of the offense committed by your child and
  • The delinquent history of your child.

Wardship lasts for a specified period of probation or until when the court gives an order. The court may decide to put your child on probation, confinement, or in a division of juvenile justice institutions.

  1. Probation

Unsupervised Probation

There are some instances where the court will allow your child to be put on probation and without supervision. In that case, the court will impose appropriate and reasonable conditions for your child.

  • Conditions for Probation

When your child is put on probation, he or she will have to follow terms and conditions. The conditions must relate to your child's criminal acts and should also relate to future conduct. The conditions imposed include:

  • Maintaining a curfew for the child
  • Your child will be restricted from driving
  • They will be restricted from engaging in any gang-related activity
  • Your child will also be limited in associating with certain people, and they will have to wear a monitoring device.
  • The court can also order you and your child to participate in a counseling program.

Supervised Probation

In most cases, juveniles are usually placed on probation and supervised by probation officers. Some of the crimes that will make a juvenile put on supervised probation are possession of a controlled substance and burglary. If your child committed a crime in another country and is made a ward of the court, he or she would be returned home and put under your custody

Why Can Your Child Be Placed Far Away from Home

The court can decide to remove your child from home and place them somewhere else. Before then, the court must have confirmed that home probation is not successful. The court can also do so if it is for your child's best interest that they should be away from you. If the court decides to take your child away, they are placed in a foster home, home, relative, a public agency, or a private institution.

1. Confinement of a Ward

Since punishment to the juvenile is usually not the juvenile court's main objective, the court may order that your child be confined. The confinement is meant to instill some form of responsibility in your child. Detention could be mandatory if your child were convicted as a felony offender, for example, committing a crime using a firearm. If your child is mentally ill, the court may decide to put your child in a different treatment program. The court can choose to have your child confined in a juvenile hall, forestry camp, a juvenile home, a justice institution, or a ranch. The length of confinement will depend on the specific offense committed by your child. Whether accused as a felony or a misdemeanor, your child can be confined to a maximum time allowed under the California law.

2. Division of Juvenile Justice

The Division of Juvenile Justice is meant to provide treatment to juvenile offenders charged as felony convicts. When your child has become a ward of the court, the public agencies and the court should consider the protection and safety of the public and your child's best interest. There must also be evidence that demonstrates the potential benefit to the minor and other forms of restrictive alternatives to your child.

Fees, Fines, and Restitution

At times the court will impose a fine against your child, which may be as high as that of adult crime. By imposing the fine, the court will have established a child's or parents' financial abilities. The fine is usually an addition to the restitution fee paid by the child.

Victim’s Restitution

If your child's criminal acts caused injuries to another person, he or she would be required to pay restitution. In this case, the victim refers to an immediate family member to the victim or any agency involved in repairing any damage that you caused. Victim’s restitution includes payment for:

  • Medical expenses
  • Mental health services
  • Damaged or stolen property or
  • Profits or wages lost by the victim or the victim's immediate relatives.

If your child isn't comfortable with the restitution amount, they can file for a restitution hearing to dispute the amount. Your child can also pay a restitution fine, depending on the seriousness of the case. If charged as a felony convict, your child will pay a fine between $100 and $1,000.If charged as a misdemeanor convict, he or she will pay a fine not exceeding $100. You and your child are liable for all fees, fines, and restitution, though it is a subject to your ability to pay

Juvenile Delinquency Court - Hearing in a Juvenile Court 

It is a court that was established for those youths who committed crimes or are beyond their parents' control and are below 18 years. The main reason why the juvenile court was established is to provide protective supervision and individualized rehabilitation for your people below 18 years. They are therefore made responsible and productive people in the community in which they live. Depending on the day the arrest is made, your child may be incarcerated for 3-5 days before filing a petition. After that, the probation officer can decide to:

  • Release your child on a promise to appear before the court when supposed
  • To let your child go home and remain under supervision.
  • Place your child in a detention facility or
  • The officer may order that your child remains in the juvenile hall.

In a juvenile court, there are different types of hearing that your child may have. They are:

Detention Hearing

It is the first hearing that is done if your child has been locked up for two days. At this stage, you have a right to hire an experienced attorney to guide you on what to say during the trial. The detention hearing is done within three days. At the detention hearing, some things happen.

The judge may order that your child is released and let go home unless there is concrete evidence that he or she committed a crime. If there is proof that your child committed a crime, your child’s attorney will request a hearing within three days. The hearing is held to determine whether your child will remain detained or will go home with you.

The petition is read at the hearing, and your child will admit or deny to have committed the crime. Since your child does not have a right to bail in a juvenile court, the judge may order that your child is released and placed on home supervision or placed in a detention facility.

Pretrial Conference

It is done to try and solve the issues without your child having a trial. If the case is not settled at this hearing, a transfer hearing will be held in a different setting.

Transfer Hearing

It is held to determine whether your child will be tried as a juvenile or an adult. If the judge feels that your child is not fit to be tried in the juvenile court, then the trial will be done in adult court. Trial as an adult will only be done if your child was above 14 years when the crime was committed.

Jurisdiction Hearing

At a jurisdiction hearing, the judge will decide if your child is guilty of whatever crime they are accused of or not. In many cases, a child will admit that they committed a crime. The hearing is done in a juvenile court where the judge listens to the evidence presented and uses the same rules as an adult hearing. By hiring an attorney, your child will be guided on what to say during the hearing. For the court to make the admission, your child is advised of and waives the rights to:

  • Confront the witnesses
  • A trial
  • A case and
  • self-incrimination

There are instances where your child is asked to fill a notice form that says that they understand their rights and give them up to admit the charges. If your child has committed a felony offense and confessed to the crime, he or she will be placed in a "deferred entry of judgment" program. After completing the program within three years, there will be a dismissal of the charges against your child. If your child fails to complete the program successfully, a disposition hearing is held.

Disposition Hearing

If your child is found guilty at a jurisdiction hearing, a decision on the type of punishment is made at a disposition hearing. Disposition hearing can be done on the day of jurisdiction hearing. If your child is not found guilty for the crime they are accused of, there will be no disposition hearing. At the disposition hearing, the judge will declare your child a ward of court. He can also decide on any of the following:

  • That your child stay at home but with probation supervision for six months
  • That your child stays at home and with formal supervision where the probation officer will accompany your child.
  • Your child is put on probation and lives in a foster home, with a relative, or in an institution.
  • Your child is put on probation and then sent to a camp.
  • Review hearing. A review hearing is held to assess how your child is progressing with the new placement.

If all these hearings are to be held:

  • You should attend the hearing as a parent.
  • The judge has the mandate to decide what is best for your child. If you prove to the judge that your child is good and that he or she will change, the judge may decide to let you go home with your child.
  • The judge will ask questions, and you can decide to be a witness for your child’s case.
  • You can hire an attorney for your child to help fight the charges.
  • Your child can hire an interpreter or can ask the court to give you one if you cannot afford one for your child.

Roles and Responsibilities of a Probation Officer

The probation officer reports to the judge on the progress of your child. The judge usually gets the report at the disposition hearing. The probation officer reports on:

  • What they feel is right for your child
  • The school report
  • Any statement received from the victim
  • Statements from your child, family, and the people who know your child and
  • The arrest record for your child

The probation officer enforces the probation terms and conditions by ensuring that your child follows them. The probation officer will also help your child enroll in community and school programs like counseling and job training. The officer will meet with your child at least once a month. When your child is on probation, the probation officer looks for a place to place your child, a foster home, camp, institution, or in a relative’s home. When your child is placed in a different home, you should always get in touch with them, support them in everything, protect your child, and help them learn how to be responsible.

Juvenile Crimes

In California, there are different types of crimes that a minor can be accused of. The most common ones include:

  • Robbery
  • Burglary
  • Shoplifting
  • Gun possession
  • Vandalism
  • Sex crimes
  • Reckless driving
  • Driving under the influence
  • Attempted murder and
  • Murder

California juvenile courts usually focus on child rehabilitation rather than punishments. There are instances where the court may decide to give your child harsh penalties, especially if they have committed a felony. Before the court decides to give the severe penalties, it considers the age of your child. The court requires that if the police have arrested your child, they should appear in court within 48 hours. You should therefore ensure that your child has a legal representative from a qualified attorney.

After the arrest, a fitness hearing determines if your child is fit to be tried in a juvenile court or not. The judge will evaluate the type of crime that your child has committed. The judge will also consider whether your child will benefit from the juvenile court's services, such as the rehabilitation program.

The Arrest Process

When the police arrest your child, they may:

  • Make a record of your child’s arrest and will let the child go home.
  • Either send your child to an agency for shelter, care for the child, or counsel them.
  • Make your child report to the station if there is a need.
  • Lecture your child and then let to go home
  • Issue your child with a notice to appear in juvenile court
  • Detain your child in a detention hall

The police should inform your child about their rights, which are:

  • The right to remain silent until he or she gets a lawyer
  • The right to hire an attorney. If your child cannot afford an attorney, the court should appoint one for your child.

As a parent, the arresting officer should notify you when they arrest them and tell you where your child has been placed. However, you will not require an attorney for that.

Trying of Your Child in an Adult Court

There are some instances where your child can be tried as an adult in the adult court. It will be determined by the type of crime and the age of your child. If your child is 14 years, he or she can be tried as an adult if the crime committed is related to murder or attempted murder, setting fire to a property, rape, robbery with a firearm, and escaping a juvenile detention hall.

Sealing Juvenile Record

Criminal records can affect your child In the future. The reason being, The child will be forced to disclose them each time they are looking for essential services like employment or getting a residential home. If your child has completed serving a sentence, they can file a petition to have their record sealed. They will only do so after attaining the age of 18 years. The decision to determine whether the record will be sealed or not depends on the time passed since your child completed serving a sentence. It will also depend on the specific crime that your child committed.

Contact A Juvenile Defense Attorney Near Me

You may lose contact with your child if they have committed a crime and admit to it. Your child may be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor convict, depending on the type of crime committed. If the judge accuses your child of committing a crime, you need to get them a legal representation from a qualified juvenile criminal defense attorney to defend the case. The attorney will help in negotiating for a rehabilitation program instead of your child being incarcerated. We at The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm have attorneys who will fight for your child’s rights and will help secure a release at the detention hearing. If your child is found guilty of committing a crime, please contact us at 310-935-1675 to have your child’s freedom retained.