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Orange County Bar Association

An Overview: Minors and the Criminal Justice System

Law Offices of William W. Bruzzo

Whenever a person who is 17 or younger is arrested for a criminal offense the case is referred to the Juvenile Justice system in the county where the crime occurred. Criminal cases in the Juvenile system are treated very differently then adult cases. Whereas the authorities tend to concentrate on punishment for adult offenders, the emphasis in criminal cases before the juvenile court is rehabilitation of the minor.

As such, the court will often provide minors with an incentive to turn their lives around by offering them a dismissal of the case if they comply with certain terms like community service and/or classes on personal responsibility, drug abuse and other similarly themed educational opportunities.

While minors are subject to the penal code just like adults, the fact that they are 17 or younger also brings them under the authority of the Welfare and Institutions Code. Of special significance to minors is Welfare and Institutions Code Section 790 which permits the Juvenile Judge to enter a Deferred Entry of Judgment (DEJ) for the minor. This resolution requires the minor to plead guilty but sentencing is delayed to give the minor time to complete community service or classes. Once the minor finishes the court requirement, then the case is DISMISSED. In this fashion, the minor is never sentenced on the offense and thus the petition is not sustained against him. This saves the minor from having the juvenile equivalent of a conviction. It also, provides the minor with a reason to “straighten up and fly right” so that he can keep his record clean.

Notably, if the minor has never been to the California Youth Authority (state prison for juveniles), has successfully completed probation on previous cases, is over the age of 14 and is not accused of a serious or violent offense he can qualify for this program. Charges that are too serious to be considered for this program include murder, robbery, rape with force, kidnapping for ransom, attempted murder and other various serious and violent offenses.

However, most juveniles qualify for the Deferred Entry of Judgment Program and are spared a juvenile conviction. Contact the Law Offices of William W. Bruzzo to discuss the particular facts of your child’s case.

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