Juvenile Justice System

The juvenile justice system is very different than the adult justice system, but our Sacramento lawyers are astute in both justice systems. The system is mainly governed by the Welfare and Institutions Code and the Penal Code. The accused is not a defendant but instead the term "minor" is used. The charging document is not a complaint or information but rather a "petition." Minors do not plead guilty, no contest, or not guilty, but instead they "admit" or "deny." If the matter is not resolved at an early settlement conference, it will be set for a "jurisdictional hearing," the term used for a trial. If the minor is found to have committed the offense charged in the petition, the court, not a jury, will "sustain" the petition after which it will generally hold a "dispositional hearing," the term used for a sentencing hearing.

Because the juvenile criminal justice system has rehabilitation as one of its main goals, when it comes to the "disposition," judges will take into account what is best for the minor. Dispositions can vary from a few hours of community service all the way to a commitment to the Division of Juvenile Justice (formerly known as the California Youth Authority), the equivalent of prison in the adult system.