Understanding the Laws on Fights Involving Minors
Many minors get into trouble with the law because of fights. When a young person has been caughtfighting with someone else, the police may either call his or her parents and escort them home, orfile charges and refer the case to a court prosecutor.
A police officer usually files misdemeanor charges against a minor if someone has sustained an injuryor damage to property. The officer can either file an assault and battery charge or a disturbing thepeace charge
An assault is an intentional attempt at committing violent harm while having the ability to do so at the time. An assault is only an attempt, and any success at that attempt is called a battery.
In California, an assault is considered a misdemeanor, which is a criminal offense. The punishment under the law is greater if the assault was committed against a police officer, an educational employee, a firefighter, a paramedic or others.
The punishment is even more severe if the assault was carried out with a deadly weapon. If the fight occurred on school property, the minor might also have to attend mandatory counseling in addition to paying the fines and accepting the other punishments imposed. Depending on the nature of assault in a case, a prosecutor can decide to try the case as a felony. These cases are called wobblers.
There are usually two kinds of assault charges:
- Simple assault: An intentional attempt at causing harm
- Aggravated assault: An intentional, more forceful attempt at causing harm. To qualify a case as an aggravated assault case, a prosecutor will consider:
- Possession of a weapon, like brass knuckles, knives and firearms
- Characteristics of the victim, like defense capabilities or mental awareness
- Severity of injuries and if they justify the threat posed by the victim
- The defendant’s intent and degree of malice
Thus, cases considered wobblers are usually those of aggravated assault which can be tried either as misdemeanors or felonies. A conviction for felony assault can count as a ‘strike’ under California’s Three Strikes Rule.
When the minor has succeeded at willfully causing injury and with force or violence, then he or she is said to have committed battery.
In California, a battery is also considered a misdemeanor. The minor could be convicted and tried in a juvenile court where a judge will determine the fines and punishment. Like with assault, the punishment is more severe when committed against certain people, especially public employees and medical personnel working in the line of duty.
Disturbing the peace
When a minor is involved in a fight in a public place, he or she could be arrested for disturbing the peace, which is also a misdemeanor charge.
Depending on certain circumstances, prosecutors may choose to file a ‘disturbing the peace’ charge as an infraction instead of a misdemeanor. An infraction warrants less severe punishment. Thus,these cases may also be considered wobblers.
Contributing to the delinquency of a minor
The justice system may also press misdemeanor charges against the minor’s parents if it can be proved that the parent’s behavior contributed to the child’s likelihood to start and inflict injury in a fight. In this case, a parent, or both parents can be found guilty of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. A parent can be convicted of this if he or she:
- Willfully encouraged the child to fight Knowingly allowed the fight to occur or continue
- Placed the child in a situation that inevitably prompted the fight
Unless they are charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, parents may be held financially liable, but not legally responsible for injuries and damages incurred by the victim in the fight.
A minor can also face charges if he or she threatens to, or carries out an attack against a teacher or school employee. If the fight occurred on school property, the school has a right to withhold grades,certificates, transcripts and diplomas until compensation, penalties or other dues have been paid.Further, fights between siblings and other family members can also be considered criminal. When arrested as a minor for an assault and battery or a disturbing the peace charge, the juvenile justice system works to rehabilitate the child rather than restrict him or her, in the effort to help the minor get back on the right track.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask us by leaving a comment below. However, if you, or someone you know has suffered injuries in a fight and are looking to take legal action, you can call us right now or tell us what happened using the online form.