What Protections Do Child Victims Have Under California Law?

There are several laws that specifically protect minors in the criminal justice system

What Protections Do Child Victims Have Under California Law?

Anytime that an individual has been the victim of a crime, we want to be able to help and support them. Yet at the same time, their assistance is often needed to bring the perpetrator to justice. This is particularly true when the crime involves domestic or sexual violence. In many cases, the victim is the only witness to the abuse.

When the victim is a minor, going through the criminal justice process can be incredibly traumatic. A child may be faced with the horrible choice of re-living their abuse — or allowing their abuser to walk free. An Irvine victims’ rights attorney can stand by a child’s side through the process, advocating for their rights.

There are several ways that California law protects minors who have been victims of crime. Importantly, many of these protections are not automatic. Having a lawyer to fight for your interests can make a difference in how you are treated in the criminal justice system as a victim.

Confidentiality of Testimony

Under California Penal Code § 859.1, a minor (person under the age of 16) who is the victim of a sexual offense may be entitled to have their their testimony closed to the public and be kept confidential. The prosecutor must ask the court to do this, which they may do after an Irvine victims’ rights attorney makes the request. The court will weigh a number of factors in making the decision, such as the age of the minor, the nature and seriousness of the offense, and whether the disclosure of the victim’s identity would cause harm to them.

Postponing Preliminary Hearing for Special Needs

For minors aged 10 or younger, a magistrate may postpone a preliminary examination for one day to accommodate the needs of that child under California Penal Code §861.5. These needs may include physical, emotional, or mental needs.

Designation of a Room Near Courthouse for Minors Before Testifying

Under California law, minor witnesses (under 16) should be provided with a nonthreatening environment so that they can speak freely and accurately. For this reason, California Penal Code §868.6 encourages each county to provide a room either within or close to the courthouse for minors.

Examination of Minor Witness Closed to Public

During the testimony of a minor who is he victim of a sex offense, a magistrate may close the examination to the public. This can be done under California Penal Code §868.7, where testimony before the public would potentially cause serious psychological harm, and there are no alternative procedures that could be used. This method can be used when the prosecutor makes a motion (requests) the court to do so.

Other Protections for Minors

In cases where the victim is under the age of 11, the court shall take special precautions to provide for their care and support, and to protect the witness from coercion, intimidation or undue influence. Under California Penal Code §868.8, this may include:

  • Allowing breaks from testimony where the witness can leave the courtroom;
  • Having the judge remove their robe if it intimidates the child;
  • Relocating the courtroom to a more comfortable environment to assist the minor; and/or
  • Taking testimony during normal school hours if necessary.

An Irvine victims’ rights attorney can advocate for these and other protections on behalf of a child victim.

There are many challenges that are associated with having a child testify against their abuser. When a child has someone by their side, helping them understand the system and fighting for their rights, it can help to make the process easier.

At Justice 4 Crime Victims, we understand that going through the criminal justice system can often be a re-victimization for someone who has already experienced a traumatic event. We are here to help, offering our legal counsel and advocacy. We will use our knowledge, skill and compassion to help ease some of the most challenging parts of the process for you.

If you have been a victim of a crime in California, you are not alone. We will stand by your side and fight for your rights. Contact Justice 4 Crime Victims today at 949-585-9055 or mfell@fellesq.com to learn more or to schedule a free initial consultation.