What Is a Juvenile Adjudication Hearing?

Your teen has been picked up by law enforcement for a crime. It has led to a petition filed in juvenile court by the local prosecutor. As a parent, you are justifiably worried. How will this event affect your child’s life? Furthermore, you have little understanding of the workings of the juvenile justice system in California. Your teen is scheduled to have an adjudication hearing before a judge. What does that mean?

First of all, it is important to understand that the stated purpose of the juvenile justice system is not to punish as adult courts do but to rehabilitate the youngster. With that in mind, when a minor faces an adjudication hearing in juvenile court, it is like a trial in adult court with many of the same rules being applied. But the trial is held before a judge. No juries hear the case. It is a much less formal affair and it is up to the judge to decide if your child violated the law and should face some kind of discipline.

Need legal representation in a juvenile adjudication hearing in Riverside County? Contact Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich at (951) 506-6654 for a free consultation.

What Happens in an Adjudication Hearing?

In an adjudication hearing, the attorneys for both sides bring forth their evidence and present legal arguments to the judge as to what should happen to the juvenile. In the hearing, the prosecutor is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that your son or daughter actually committed whatever crime he or she is accused of. If the juvenile court judge makes the decision that your child did violate the law, it is similar to a guilty verdict in an adult court and will lead to some kind of discipline. Later a “disposition” hearing will be conducted and there your child will be given his or her “sentence,” which will consist of whatever consequences the judge rules appropriate.

Consequences could include informal probation where the youth is sent home but still supervised by the court or formal probation where he or she spends time at a county probation camp. If violence was involved in the crime, he or she might be sent to what has been called “California Youth Authority” (CYA). This is reserved for the most serious offenses. It consists of detention centers where education, treatment, and training are provided to young offenders. Detention centers can include diagnostic centers, group homes, shelter, camps, training schools, as well as treatment centers where youth reside.

What is vital to remember about the adjudication hearing is that it presents your son or daughter with certain opportunities and rights. These include:

  • The opportunity to defend oneself
  • The ability to subpoena important witnesses
  • The right not to incriminate oneself
  • The right to an attorney
  • The rule that the crime must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt

As in any criminal case, the consequences of being found guilty of a crime will depend on the type of crime committed. But, as with an adult crime, you can put up a sound defense with the help of an attorney who has experience in handling juvenile cases and arguing before judges.

Experienced Legal Representation in Riverside County

If you need legal help navigating the juvenile justice system on behalf of your son or daughter, you can turn to Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich. We have provided successful legal representation to clients throughout Riverside County for many years. We bring experience, commitment, and diligence to your case in seeking the best possible outcome for your child. We offer a free, initial consultation to help you get started.

Contact us online or at (951) 506-6654 to arrange to speak with an attorney. We have office in Corona as well as Murrieta to serve you.


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