California Juvenile Laws and Rules

Individuals who are arrested as juveniles enter into a justice system that many of them are unfamiliar with. Media has turned the American correctional system into a monolith explicitly crafted for adults. But in fact, juveniles face an entirely different set of concerns and approaches in their justice system. The disparate ideas and theories behind juvenile justice have helped turn it into a field inherently different from that of the adult justice field.

Juvenile justice theory

Juvenile justice operates on a significantly different level from the adult justice system. In the adult justice system, there is the idea that individuals are responsible for their own actions. They deserve a certain amount of punishment to go along with the idea of rehabilitation. But in the juvenile justice system, the idea is that individuals are not developed enough to take full responsibility for their actions. The adult justice system mostly revolves around the jail and prison systems. But laws for juveniles are more focused on treatment at home and punishment by parents and family members.

Family members share in the responsibility for enforcing many of these laws for juveniles. In the vast majority of instances, a combination of community service and parental supervision are the primary punishments that are enforced for a juvenile justice program. Only severe cases lead an individual to be incarcerated in juvenile detention or even the adult justice system. If an individual is sentenced to a term of juvenile detention, he or she will be released when they reach the age of majority. Read About Jaywalking laws

Juvenile justice hearings

There are a number of different types of hearings associated with laws for juveniles. The first hearing is the detention hearing. In a detention hearing, there is a determination whether or not an individual needs to be held in juvenile detention pending their next hearing. This determination is made based on a juvenile’s criminal history and the likelihood that they will offend again in the future.

The case ends with a disposition hearing. A disposition hearing is akin to a sentencing hearing in the adult system. Although they are similar to adult justice hearings, the disparate theory behind juvenile justice means that both the disposition hearing and the detention hearing result in vastly different outcomes. While a large number of individuals in the adult justice system are held in jail on bail after an arrest, the vast majority of individuals in the juvenile justice system are released.

What to do

Individuals who are arrested in the juvenile justice system need to discuss their issues with their family members and an attorney. In many cases, they will be treated leniently and fairly by their parents and the justice system. They may have to undergo counseling or perform a considerable amount of community service. In addition, the individual would also have their record expunged once they reached the age of majority. But juveniles who have committed crimes need to be careful not to re-offend. Habitual juvenile delinquents are the most likely to eventually face stricter punishments once they reach the age of majority.


The juvenile justice system may seem more lenient than other approaches to justice. There may be lenient sentences and a focus on rehabilitation over any form of severe punishment. But this leniency does not mean the juvenile justice system should not be taken seriously. Individuals can still be locked in detention centers and receive punishments from local authorities. Juveniles need to follow the guidelines of the juvenile justice system and work to reform their ways if they hope to avoid eventual problems with the adult justice system.