Every crime in California is defined by a specific code section. Our attorneys explain the law, penalties and best defense strategies for every major crime in California.
Vandalism Charges For Minors
Minors in California found to have engaged in vandalism are usually put on probation or in a diversion program. The terms of probation generally include restitution, community service, counseling, a curfew, and other restrictions. Juvenile convictions might be a factor in sentencing for a later case where the defendant is tried as an adult.
Minors who commit vandalism, called criminal mischief in some states, will generally be put on probation or into a diversion program. Extremely severe cases can lead to detention in a juvenile detention facility.
Vandalism is the crime of intentionally damaging someone else’s property. Common acts of vandalism include:
In many states, juveniles are not “convicted” of a crime or “sentenced.” Different words are used to emphasize how the juvenile justice system focuses on rehabilitation. Different states use different terms. Juveniles are often said to be “adjudicated delinquent” of the offense.
Most juvenile vandalism cases, especially those done by first-time offenders, will be minor enough that the consequences of the delinquency will be at-home probation. This is a period of time where the juvenile defendant, and sometimes his or her parents, have to comply with a set of court rules. Some common terms of probation after a vandalism adjudication are:
If any of these terms are violated, probation can be reinstated with stricter rules. Repeat offenses can lead to detention.
Some probation programs require the juvenile to leave home and serve probation on a ranch, juvenile hall, or camp.
Another possible consequence for a vandalism case involving a minor is diversion. Different diversion programs have different rules. They are usually very similar to probation, though. The main difference is that the case is not adjudicated, first. Instead, the criminal charges will be suspended while the juvenile goes through the diversion program. If the program is completed successfully, the charges will be dropped.
Minors who have been found delinquent of vandalism may also see their conviction used against them, if they are convicted of a crime as an adult. This makes it essential to have the legal advice of a criminal defense lawyer or legal counsel. Even though the case is only going through the juvenile court system, not the criminal justice system, there are long-term consequences.
An attorney can also help defendants get a juvenile adjudication sealed or expunged. Every state has its own rules for how records can be expunged. However, expunging a juvenile offense is usually far easier than sealing one that was committed by an adult.
If the form of vandalism involved lots of personal property damage or if the damaged property was valuable, the terms of probation might be harsher. The judge may impose a probation term that cannot be served at home. He or she may even impose time at a juvenile detention center. However, jail time will still likely not be a possible penalty for a juvenile vandalism offense.
No, every state handles juvenile offenses differently. Even different judges within the state have broad discretion in deciding how to punish a juvenile offender.
States even differ in whether the offender will be considered a juvenile. In nearly all states, the maximum age for a defendant to be tried as a juvenile is 17. However, many states have rules that allow for a younger defendant to be tried as an adult for an especially severe crime. Each state has its own list of offenses that can be transferred to adult court. Vandalism will generally not be severe enough for the case to go to adult court, though.
There is even more variety in the state’s expungement laws. Juvenile records that can be sealed in one state may not be criminal records that are eligible for expungement in another state.
Juveniles, however, are not “charged” with vandalism. Instead, district attorneys file a “petition” against the minor, accusing them of vandalism. If the judge finds beyond a reasonable doubt that the juvenile committed the vandalism, he or she will “sustain” the petition at the jurisdiction hearing. At the disposition hearing, the judge will impose a sentence.
There are 2 types of probation for juveniles in California:
Informal probation is the least severe consequence of a juvenile vandalism case. It is a form of diversion. If the juvenile complies with the rules of the program for 6 months, the petition will be dismissed1 or will never get filed.2
Formal probation requires the juvenile’s attendance at a probation camp or hall. These camps have a rigid structure that emphasizes treatment, education, and some form of training. The length of a formal probation disposition can last from 3 months to a year.3
California criminal law also holds parents accountable for vandalism committed by their child. If the juvenile court imposes a fine and the child is unable to pay it, the parents may have to.4 Parents can also be held responsible for getting their child to fulfill any community service requirements.5 Parents should strongly consider establishing an attorney-client relationship with a criminal defense attorney from a reputable law firm.
However, California laws dealing with expunging records are favorable for juveniles. Sealing the sustained petition is important, because California law allows adult courts to consider juvenile adjudications when making sentencing decisions.6
A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.
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