As would be expected, California’s juvenile criminal justice system differs from the adult criminal justice system. As a society, we recognize that many juvenile offenders must be treated differently than their adult counterparts. Typically, the juvenile system focuses on the offender’s rehabilitation, while the adult system emphasizes punishment. As a result, the California juvenile justice system consists of many social agencies that provide services to juveniles “at-risk” of committing crimes and to juveniles who have already committed crimes.

Juveniles, like adults, may be charged with a felony, a misdemeanor, or an infraction under California criminal law. Juvenile offenders are generally placed in one of four legal categories based primarily on the seriousness of the offense. Two of these categories (“criminal offenders” and “juveniles remanded to superior court”) are used to apply to juveniles who have committed adult-like crimes. The other categories (“informal probationers” and “status offenders”) are used to refer to youngsters who have committed less serious offenses or offenses unique to juveniles, such as a curfew violation.

The following is a list of the most common crimes committed by juveniles nationally. For purposes of this blog, these are crimes committed by anyone under the age of 18. The data is from 2019, the most recent year for which data exists. According to this data collected by the Department of Justice, juveniles committed 696,620 crimes in 2019. Those under 18 committed 44,010 violent crimes. These include the offenses of murder, robbery, and aggravated assault. Individuals under the age of 18 committed 860 murders.

#1 Simple Assault (126,130)

California Penal Code § 240 PC applies when a person willfully commits an act that results in applying force to another. You must possess the present ability to apply force and you may not have acted in self-defense or defense of another. Simple assault is typically charged as a misdemeanor. Conviction may result in six months in county jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.

#2 Larceny-theft (83,690)

A juvenile may be charged with petty larceny if he or she steals property valued at less than $950 unless the property is an automobile, a firearm, an animal, or certain food or agricultural products. A grand larceny or grand theft conviction may result in a three-year sentence if the crime is charged as a felony and for one year if charged as a misdemeanor.

#3 Drug abuse violations (81,320)

California Health & Safety Code § 1150 HSC specifies that no individual may use or be under the influence of any controlled substance as specified in the California Uniform Controlled Substances Act.

#4 Disorderly Conduct (53,990)

California Penal Code § 647 PC states that individuals are guilty of disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor if they commit acts specified under the code section. These acts include lewd conduct, loitering, and public intoxication

#5 Vandalism (31,950)

California Penal Code § 594 PC applies to acts where individuals damage, deface, or destroy real or personal property.

#6 Aggravated Assault (27,070)

It is of some concern that the criminal offense of aggravated assault makes the top ten list since this is considered a violent crime.

#7 Liquor Laws (26,650)

California alcohol laws permit those under the age of 21 to consume alcohol in private locations, except in vehicles. They may drink if a parent, guardian, spouse, or other responsible relative age 21 or older is present. In California, it is illegal for anyone under 21 to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over 0.01%.

The attorneys at the Dolan Law Offices may help any Californian obtain the best possible result in his or her criminal matter. John Patrick Dolan is a California State Bar Certified Specialist in Criminal Law. Certification as a Specialist in Criminal Law is the highest achievement awarded by the State Bar of California to attorneys in the field of criminal law. The attorneys at the Dolan Law Offices have decades of experience defending individuals charged with drug possession, domestic violence, DUI, and violent felonies. Call us today at (760) 775-3739 or find out more online here.