Nicole Valera – Criminal Defense

Fighting the system, one case at a time…

Juvenile Criminal Defense – 2 very different stories

I had a juvenile criminal case today which I was able to settle favorably.  The minor was a very nice kid, 14 years old, who came from a stable 2 parent, middle class household.   He made a silly mistake and his parents stepped in right away to correct the behavior.  The criminal courts stepped in as well, which cued my entry into the whole thing.  I have hopes that I was able to settle the case in a way that would allow my client to lead a happy and productive life, but also learn from his experience and not repeat the behavior.

Today I spoke with a fellow criminal defense attorney friend of mine who had a 14 year old client – only he was not a juvenile court client, his case was being adjudicated in adult court.  Even though he was not an adult, he was being treated as one. I didn’t get a chance to ask my friend what he was charged with, but for a 14 year old to be in adult court, it was probably a very serious crime, perhaps murder, attempted murder, or something of the sort.

I started to wonder if there were any similarities between her client and mine.  Was it possible that her client came from a middle class background?  From a stable 2 parent household?  Did he go to school?  Did his parents step in with a firm hand the first time he had a brush with the law?

I don’t know, but I am guessing that my client and hers came from very different backgrounds.  That while the above questions could possibly be answered in the affirmative, it was likely that they would not be.  Representing juvenile clients has been some of my most rewarding work as a criminal defense attorney, but it is not without its moments of unbelievable sadness.  It’s sometimes difficult to get out of bed in the morning and make your way to the office or to court.

The best you can do is remember who you are fighting for – the underdog, the under represented, the often misunderstood, and sometimes, the under cared for.   Remembering that makes it easier to keep fighting.


September 28, 2010 - Posted by | General Thoughts, Juvenile Criminal Defense | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. You are a caring person, and the right person for your profession. These juvenile offenders that have an attorney are lucky their parents can afford one and have a fair defense (so that they do not do more time in jail as prescribed by law). In regards to juveniles in adult court, I think maybe, most can be low income,and maybe afforded a Public Defender. I hope the data out there is these individuals are getting a fair defense by their P.D. I have never been to a juvenile detention center, I would hope today they would have a school there like the continuation school that are part of the high schools.

    Comment by presea | September 29, 2010 | Reply

  2. In California, if you cannot afford an attorney, whether you are an adult of a minor (and the court assumes as a minor, you cannot afford an attorney), you will be given a court appointed attorney. There are MANY excellent public defenders out there, but they are burdened by high case loads and aren’t always given the funds needed for experts, investigators, and other things that go into providing an excellent defense. I worked as an LA County Public Defender and worked side by side with some of the best attorneys I’ve ever known (and trust me, I know a LOT of attorneys). There is no doubt that the system could be improved but I do believe that most public defenders make the best they can out of their situations and provide excellent services to their clients. LA County seems to have a better indigent defense system than others that I’ve read about…but maybe I’m biased…

    Comment by nicolevaleralaw | September 29, 2010 | Reply

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