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Juvenile Justice (Delinquency) FAQ

Your child was most likely taken to the East Mesa Juvenile Detention Facility (EMJDF) at 446 Alta Road, Suite 6100, San Diego, CA 92158, (619) 671-4400.

The Probation Department will probably get in touch with you and ask your child to come in for a meeting with a probation officer. You will receive a Notice to Appear (a specific date and time you must show up at the Probation Department).

Yes, and your child has a right to an attorney who is both effective and prepared. If you do not hire an attorney for your child, the court will appoint an attorney to represent him or her.

No, not usually. If your child has an attorney, the attorney represents your child, not you.

A petition asks the court to become involved in your child's life. The petition says what the District Attorney believes your child did. Later, a judge will decide if what the petition says is true.

The probation officer decides whether to keep your child in custody. The probation officer may let your child go home without asking the District Attorney to file a petition, or the probation officer may allow your child to go home and still refer the case to the District Attorney.  The District Attorney decides whether or not to file a petition. There may be restrictions placed on your child as a condition of being allowed to go home.

If the probation officer keeps your child in custody, the law requires that a petition be filed very quickly, usually within 48 hours from the time the child was taken into custody by the police. Then there must be a detention hearing the next day that the court is in session. The courts are closed on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays.

At the detention hearing, the judge could decide either to have your child return home or be kept in Juvenile Hall (EMJDF) until the next hearing. The judge may continue to order your child to remain in Juvenile Hall (EMJDF) until the case is finished.

Usually, but you should contact the probation officer to find out when you can see your child. You can also call (619) 671-4400 to ask about visiting hours.

If your child is in custody, you should receive the petition and notice of the hearing, personally or by mail, as soon as possible after the petition is filed and at least five days before the hearing. If the hearing is less than five days after the petition is filed, you will get notice at least 24 hours before the hearing. Your child has the right to receive notice if he or she is at least eight years old.

If your child is not in custody, you should get notice of the petition and hearing personally or by first-class mail, at least 10 calendar days before the hearing.

Yes. If the judge finds the allegations in the petition are true, he or she will decide what will be best for your child. Depending on the offense, if you can show that your child will listen to you and follow your rules, and that you will hold your child accountable and be supportive at home, the judge might order that your child be released to your custody.

You may speak if the judge asks you questions directly or if you are called as a witness. You also may ask to speak to the judge. Generally, your child's attorney will speak for your child. The District Attorney will speak for the State. The Probation Department may be called as a witness.

To request an interpreter, a party should submit the Interpreter Request/Cancellation form (SDSC Form #ADM-348) as far in advance of the hearing as possible. Find more information on the Court’s Language Access page.

Yes. A Crime Victim's Bill of Rights allows the victim to come to the hearing. The victim, and his or her parents if the victim is a child, will receive notice of the hearing.

For some felonies, your child can be tried and sentenced as an adult if your child is at least 16 years old. The case would be moved to adult court. There are major differences between juvenile and adult criminal court procedures and philosophies. If the District Attorney requests that your child be tried as an adult, it is extremely important to talk to your child's attorney about the very serious consequences of your child's situation.

A minor can be tried in adult court for violent and serious offenses, including murder and attempted murder, arson of an inhabited building, robbery with a dangerous or deadly weapon, some forms of rape, some forms of kidnapping and carjacking, some felonies involving firearms, certain controlled substance offenses, and certain violent escapes from a juvenile detention facility.

Your child can be sentenced to adult prison only if he or she is tried as an adult. If your child will be tried as an adult, it is extremely important to talk to your child's attorney about the very serious consequences of your child's situation.

Yes. You may also have to pay restitution to the victim if your child is ordered to pay it. Restitution is money to pay for the victim's losses caused by your child's illegal conduct. Examples of restitution might include the value of stolen or damaged property, medical expenses, and lost wages.

No. You will not be required to pay for your child's court-appointed attorney fees or Probation Department fees and placement costs.

Yes. There are two ways to get juvenile records sealed. This is very important for your child, but it does not guarantee that the records will not be used in the future. Certain records, such as those kept by the Department of Motor Vehicles, may not be sealed. Also, sealed records can be accessed and used for many reasons. Talk to your child’s attorney if you have questions about record sealing.

If your child satisfactorily completes a program of supervision or a term of probation, the records of the case and the arrest will be ordered sealed at the end of the case. If the records are not sealed at the end of the case, your child will have to file a petition to request sealing. The petition may be filed after your child turns 18, or five years after everything connected with the case is over. Before the court considers the petition, the Probation Department will make sure that your child was not involved in any later crime. If the petition to seal the records is granted by the court, the records of the case and the arrest will be ordered sealed.

Under the "three strikes" law, certain serious or violent felonies committed as a juvenile can be counted as strikes and used against your child in the future. This can happen even if the Juvenile Court record has been sealed.