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Criminal Law for Juvenile Defendants: Common Punishments for Minors

Minors who have committed a crime are prosecuted differently than those over the age of 18. Juvenile criminal defendants are generally sent to juvenile court and will not have a jury trial. In place of a jury trial, juvenile defendants will face a Judge who will decide on the conviction based on evidence presented by the prosecution. In the event that a minor criminal defendant is found guilty, he or she can face a variety of punishments in California.

A juvenile court can offer underage defendants various sentencing options. State of California criminal courts generally refer to these as disposition hearings. When being sentenced, the minor can face one of two major categories: incarceration or non-incarnation punishment. The punishment given to the minor will depend based on the severity of his or her crime as well as his or her criminal record and sometimes other external factors (each case is different and can vary).

Although incarceration may be regarded as a prison sentence and the extreme for minors, juveniles often face other forms of confinement. If you or a loved one is facing a criminal charge, it is important to seek the expertise of a criminal defense attorney who understands the juvenile criminal justice system. A well-qualified attorney can assist you in developing an assertive defense that can help you or your loved one avoid jail time and or reduce the punishment ordered.

Detention Options for Underage Delinquents

If a Judge has determined that the defendant has committed a crime, the Judge can place the defendant under various types of custody or confinement. The following are some of the various forms of confinement an underage defendant may face if he or she is found guilty of committing a crime:

 House arrest

The Judge may order the criminal defendant to remain within the boundaries of his or her home. Although the defendant will be legally confined to the premises of his or her home, he or she may have the opportunity to attend school, attend community service requirements, and/or attend counseling visits.

Displacement from home

Under certain circumstances, a Judge can order the underage defendant to be placed in a foster home or in the home of a relative. Generally, this can occur if the defendant’s primary home is a source of concern for the defendant or the court feels that the household may have contributed to the actions or the minor, of the household does not provide an environment for the minor to rehabilitate.

Juvenile detention centers

An underage defendant convicted of a crime may be imprisoned at a local juvenile hall for a determined period of time.


Juvenile defendants who have been ordered to stay at a juvenile detention center can also be placed under probation in the months following the incarceration.

Secured facilities

If the defendant has committed a serious crime, he or she could be sentenced to confinement in a more secured facility and for an extended period of time.

Adult Prison

Depending on the case, the defendant could be ordered to confinement in an adult jail. This could be the case for more serious cases.

Blended Sentencing

Depending on the severity of the case, a Judge can order the defendant to complete his or her sentence in a juvenile detention center until he or she turns 18 and to be transferred to an adult prison for the remainder of his or her sentence.

The Bottom Line: Seek Legal Support

Juvenile sentencing can also offer non-incarceration forms of punishment. While a juvenile may be guilty of committing a crime, he or she can face a sentence reduction with the proficient support of a skilled legal defense.

Juvenile defendants are often convicted with a sense of leniency due to lifestyle mistakes a child can make. Depending on the minor’s criminal history, fighting for a lesser sentence can be a challenge. If you or a loved one is being charged for a crime, seek the legal expertise of a proficient criminal defense attorney.

The attorneys at Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, LLP., are dedicated to vigorously protecting the rights of juvenile criminal defendants. They are highly skilled in the field of juvenile crime and are equipped to defend the rights of their clients.

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Stephen Levine, is a Board Certified Specialist in Criminal Defense — an honor achieved by only the top criminal law attorneys in California. Mr. Levine has over 40 years of experience in criminal defense and family law serving Southern California, and is a highly regarded Super Lawyer as well as AV Rated attorney.