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Do Juvenile Criminal Defendants Have the Same Constitutional Rights as Adults?

juvenile, San Jose criminal defense attorney

Before the 1960s, juvenile criminal defendants had almost no rights when it came to due process and the law. In recent decades, courts have increased the rights juveniles’ have when accused of a crime. While minors whose cases are handled in juvenile court are not extended the exact same constitutional rights as adults, it is still critical that any juvenile accused of a crime understand his or her rights under the law. If you or a loved one have been arrested and charged with a crime, contact a criminal defense attorney for help.

Police Still Need Probable Cause to Search a Minor

Many people are unaware of what their rights actually are. Police do not have the authority to stop and search someone for no reason. This applies to both adults and juveniles. As with adults, the police must establish probable cause, or a good reason, to search a minor who they suspect is involved in criminal activity. However, this rule does not apply to public officials who hold certain positions of authority over with minors. For example, school personnel only need “reasonable suspicion” of illegal activity to search a student rather than probable cause.

Juveniles Have the Right to an Attorney

As with adult criminal defendants, a juvenile suspect can invoke his or her Miranda rights and ask to contact a parent or a lawyer. If police officers do not comply with a juvenile’s request to speak with their parent or an attorney, it is likely that anything he or she said to the police after the request is made would be deemed inadmissible in court. If a juvenile suspect cannot afford a lawyer, he or she can be represented by an attorney appointed by the state.

Juveniles also have the right to know the charges they face and the right to challenge witnesses. A juvenile hearing differs significantly from a “regular”criminal trial, but a minor still has the ability to cross-examine any witnesses via his or her attorney. Furthermore, minors in the juvenile court system have the same Fifth Amendment rights that adults do regarding self-incrimination. A minor cannot be required to testify against him or herself.

Minors Do Not Have the Right to a Trial by Jury

Unlike adult criminal defendants, juveniles do not have the right to seek bail. Minors also do not have the right to a jury trial. Instead, juvenile cases in California are tried by a juvenile court judge during a bench trial. If a juvenile is facing adjudication or incarceration as a result of court proceedings, the prosecutor must prove that he or she is guilty beyond reasonable doubt. If the defendant is not facing such consequences, the state only has to prove its case in accordance with the “preponderance of evidence” standard, meaning that it is more likely than not that the defendant committed the act in question.

Contact a Santa Clara Juvenile Crimes Defense Attorney for Help

If you or your son or daughter are facing charges, contact the experienced San Jose juvenile law professionals at the Law Firm of Wesley Schroeder. Schedule a confidential consultation by calling 408-277-0377 today.