Parents' Responsibility in Juvenile Cases

Types of Juvenile Court Petitions

In California, there are two types of court petitions in juvenile court. 601 petitions are brought by the probation department and are for issues related to runaways, skipping school, broken curfew, and disobeying their parents. 601 petitions are reserved for infractions that are only illegal because the child is a minor. If the judge determines that the child is guilty of what the petition alleges, the child can become a ward of the court as a "status offender."

602 petitions are brought by the District Attorney's Office and pertain to criminal offenses, which would be considered a crime if the child was an adult. Examples include theft, drug crimes, and assault. Crimes covered under 602 petitions may be felony or misdemeanor charges. If a judge determines that a 602 petition is true, the child becomes a ward of the court as a delinquent.

As a parent, you have a right to a copy of the petition. Remember, these petitions merely outline what your child is accused of, and the existence of a petition does not mean your child is automatically found guilty. You must review the petition carefully, and it is recommended that you work with a lawyer to ensure you understand what your child is accused of. Because of these cases' complex nature, it is important that you work with a law firm familiar with handling juvenile cases.

Are Parents Required to Go to Juvenile Hearings?

After a petition is filed, the child will go through a series of hearings as the judge decides what is to be done in the case. As the parent, you are required to attend all of your child's juvenile court hearings. Because of their special legal status as minors, parents can be held legally responsible for their child's crimes.

If your child is in detention (locked up) for more than two days, the first hearing that your child will attend is their detention hearing. At this hearing, the judge will decide if your child can go home with you before their next hearing.

Other hearings you may have to attend include:

  • Pretrial or settlement conference
  • Hearings on motions
  • Transfer hearing
  • Jurisdiction hearing
  • Disposition hearing
  • Review hearings

The circumstances of your child's case will determine which of these hearings are held. For example, motion hearings can crop up during the case at any time. Motion hearings are used to work out specific issues. The number of hearings on motions your child will have is directly tied to their individual case. You and your child's lawyer will help you prepare for these hearings.

Similarly, if, at the jurisdiction hearing, the judge determines that your child did not commit a crime, they will not have to attend a disposition hearing. Disposition hearings are only held after a judge has determined that a crime was committed. Disposition hearings are where the judge will decide on any punishments for the crime.

Review the court's website to learn more about the juvenile court process.

Financial Responsibility in Juvenile Delinquency Cases

According to California courts, parents can be held financially responsible for their minor child's behavior. Suppose your child is involved in a juvenile delinquency case where the court orders restitution to be paid to the victims. As the parent of the child found guilty, you may be held financially liable for that restitution. For example, if the victim has medical bills or lost wages, the court may order you, the parent, responsible for compensating them.

Parents may be responsible for other costs associated with their child's juvenile case as well. Work with your attorney to ensure you understand your financial obligations fully.

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