California, like all states, essentially has two criminal justice systems – one for adults and one for youths. The Department of Juvenile Justice in California is the entity that oversees the housing, education and treatment of young offenders. If you have a child who is involved in the juvenile justice system in California it is imperative that you understand what the Department of Juvenile Justice, or DJJ, is and what your role may be within the system.
Fortunately, California law recognizes that although youth offenders commit criminal offenses they should not be lumped together with adult offenders, in most cases, for purposes of rehabilitation or punishment. Therefore, when a youth gets in trouble with the law the adjudication process is very different from what it is for adults. While it is possible to “waive” a youth offender into adult court, most youths are handled by the juvenile justice system. California allows waiver to the adult criminal justice system at age 14 for certain offenses and at age 16 for other offenses.
The Department of Juvenile Justice is where the most serious juvenile offenders are housed. The vast majority (almost 99 percent) of all juveniles involved in the criminal justice system are “sentenced” to rehabilitation, education, and/or treatment within their own communities. For those who require “incarceration” or more serious treatment, the DJJ is available. The DJJ provides “academic and vocational education, treatment programs that address violent and criminogenic behavior, sex offender behavior, and substance abuse and mental health problems, and medical care” to youthful offenders sentenced to the department. Offenders at the DJJ live in secure housing units, similar to a prison environment yet geared toward the age of the offenders living there. The DJJ can house an offender up to the age of 25; however, younger offenders are segregated from older offenders to the extent possible.
If you are the parent of a child who has been ordered to the DJJ, or who is in jeopardy of being ordered to the DJJ, it is imperative that you understand your rights and those of your child. Though the juvenile criminal justice system is similar to the adult criminal justice system there are significant differences that you should understand. As a parent, it is imperative that you consult with an experienced California criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. For immediate help, contact San Diego juvenile defense attorney Domenic J. Lombardo by calling (619) 232-5122 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.