Juvenile Delinquency FAQs

Juvenile Delinquency — Frequently Asked Questions

Q: My child was arrested and taken away from me. Where will he or she go?

A: If your child was arrested and taken away from you:

  • Your child can be put on probation. He or she may have to live in with a relative, in a foster home or group home, or in an institution.
  • Your child can be put on probation and sent to a probation camp or ranch.
  • Your child can be sent to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Division of Juvenile Justice  (also called “DJJ”). If your child is tried in adult court, he or she will be sent to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Division of Adult Operations  (also called “CDCR”).

If your child is sent to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), he or she will go to a “reception center” for the first 30 to 90 days. The center will find out what education and treatment your child needs. Then your child will go a correctional facility or youth camp.

Find the DJJ’s reception centers.

Q: Can my child’s juvenile records be sealed?

A: Sometimes. Not all records can be sealed. Your child can file a petition to have the records sealed after he or she turns 18. Or you can file a petition 5 or 6 years after the case is over.

If the court approves the petition, all records of the case and the arrest will be sealed. Get help from your child’s lawyer or probation officer.

Q: Can a juvenile court record be used against my child as an adult?

A: The three-strikes law says that some serious or violent crimes can count as strikes in the future. This can happen even if the records are sealed.

Q: Will my child be tried in adult court?

A: A child who is 14 years old can be tried in adult court for some serious crimes.

Here are some examples:

  • Murder and attempted murder,
  • Setting fire to a building with people in it,
  • Robbery with a weapon,
  • Rape,
  • Kidnapping or carjacking,
  • Crimes with guns,
  • Drug crimes, and
  • Escaping from a juvenile detention facility.

There are big differences between juvenile court and adult court. If the state wants to try your child as an adult, talk to a lawyer about what can happen.

Q: Will my child go to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Division of Adult Operations (CDCR) instead of the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ)?

A: Your child can only be sent to adult prison (CDCR) if he or she is tried in adult court. If your child is tried in adult court, talk to a lawyer.

Even if your child is sentenced to adult prison, he or she will stay at the DJJ until he or she is at least 16.

If your child is at least 16, the judge can send him or her directly to adult prison. Or if your child’s sentence ends before he or she turns 21, the judge can let him or her stay at the DJJ the whole time. If the sentence is longer, your child will go to the CDCR on his or her 18th birthday.

Q: Am I financially responsible for my child's behavior?

A: Yes. You may have to pay the victim if the court orders “restitution.” Restitution is money to compensate for losses or damage caused by your child. For example, you may have to pay for what your child stole, or for the victim’s medical bills or lost wages.

Q: Will I have to pay my child’s fees?

A: Yes. Unless you are the victim, you will get a bill and must pay for:

  • Your child’s lawyer;
  • Juvenile hall services, like food and laundry; and
  • Fees to keep your child with the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Division of Juvenile Justice, a probation camp, a group home, institution or in foster care.

This can be expensive. You can talk to the court about your financial ability to pay these fees and costs.

Q: How do I find out about a particular juvenile or family court trial or case, past or current?

A: If the case is in juvenile court, the file is confidential. Certain parties directly connected to the case may have access to a juvenile court file. In certain circumstances, the court may order access to a juvenile court file. If the case is in family court, the file is not confidential and can be obtained through the court clerk’s office.

Q: What are the rights and role of victims in the juvenile court process?

A: As a victim of crime, you have rights. You have a right to information and a right to participate in the court process. Read Your Rights and Role in the Juvenile Court Process: Information for Victims to learn about these rights.

For more information, read Victims Rights and Services by the Office of Victim and Survivor Rights and Services - Juvenile Services Unit.

And you can also contact the Crime Victim/Witness Assistance Center for help in your county.

For more information and resources for victims of crimes.

Q: I am a crime victim. Can I get money from the person who hurt me?

A: You may be able to recover for some of your losses. You can ask the court to order someone to pay “restitution.” The State Restitution Fund is also be available for crime victims.

For more information, read Victims Rights and Services, as well as different resources, information, and forms provided by the office of Victim and Survivor Rights and Services - Juvenile Services Unit.

Contact the Victim Witness Assistance Center in your county for help.

There are court forms and instructions that can help if you decide to file for an Order for Restitution:

For more information and resources for victims of crimes.

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