Introduction to Juvenile Court
The juvenile court is a division of the superior court. It handles three types of cases: delinquency, status offense, and dependency (child abuse and neglect).
These cases involve children who have violated the law and would be considered crimes if committed by an adult.
Juvenile Status Offenses:
These offenses concern noncriminal behaviors that are illegal because of the child's age. These behaviors are typically not illegal for adults, for example: truancy (cutting school), smoking, curfew violations or running away from home.
These are cases that concern family situations where allegations of abuse or neglect have been made and the juvenile court intervenes to protect the family's children.
The Court's Authority
The juvenile court has broad authority in juvenile
delinquency and dependency cases. It can remove children from
their homes, order their placement with relatives or in foster
care or group homes, terminate parental rights, create new
parental rights, and join various agencies to provide needed
services. In delinquency cases, the juvenile court can also
order children to be confined in locked facilities, such as
detention halls, ranches, and the California Youth Authority.
Whenever the court decides to remove a child from his or her home, placement and responsibility for that child is given to a governmental agency. It can also order services to be provided that will allow children to remain in their homes safely. In delinquency and status offense cases, that agency is the probation department; in dependency (abuse and neglect) cases, the agency is the county welfare department. The agency is responsible for meeting the health and educational needs of the child, as well as providing the care, treatment, and guidance the child may need.
Because these decisions are so serious and affect fundamental rights, it is very important that, if a juvenile case involves you or your child, you consult an attorney who can advise you more specifically about the court process as it relates to your case.
Your Right to an Attorney
The child in a delinquency case has a right to an attorney; a parent in a dependency (abuse and neglect) case has a right to an attorney; and the court must appoint an attorney for the child in an abuse and neglect case unless the court finds the child would not benefit from the appointment.