The court process for juvenile offenders differs from that of adult offenders. When a juvenile offender is arrested, you cannot bail them out by paying bail. Instead, the probation department could keep your child in custody until the court case ends. A juvenile detention hearing allows you to get your child out of detention. The best way to go through a juvenile detention hearing is to work closely with a criminal lawyer who works with juvenile offenders. We at California Criminal Lawyer Group in Anaheim have worked with multiple parents and juvenile offenders going through California’s juvenile justice system, so get in touch to see how we can help you too.

What Happens When a Minor is Arrested?

When a minor is arrested for an offense, the police might take them into custody, depending on the seriousness of the offense. Usually, the police will issue a notice to appear in court if the alleged offense is a less serious one.

The arresting officer will put the minor in custody for a more serious offense. As soon as a minor is placed in custody, they should appear in court for a detention hearing within 48 hours for less serious crimes and 72 hours for more serious offenses.

What is a Juvenile Detention Hearing?

The criminal justice and delinquency systems differ from each other significantly. Minor offenders are treated differently from adult offenders. In most cases, the goal of the juvenile court is to preserve, promote, and rehabilitate juvenile offenders. In contrast, the criminal court ascertains the guilt or innocence of defendants and punishes guilty offenders to protect society.

Since their goals are vastly different, the procedures within the two also differ significantly. If the child commits an offense, a detention hearing is one of the procedures they go through.

A juvenile detention hearing is the first court hearing a juvenile offender has after arrest. The goal of the hearing is to determine whether to keep the juvenile offender in custody. Every minor is entitled to a juvenile hearing, even when held under home supervision.

The detention hearing usually happens within 48 hours of the minor being in custody if they allegedly committed a non-violent misdemeanor. If the minor is accused of committing a violent misdemeanor or a felony, the detention hearing takes place within 72 hours of custody.

The court must notify the parents or guardians of a minor of a detention hearing. Parents and guardians have the right to attend and be present for their child's court proceedings. the law requires that the notice be served to these persons:

  • The child, if they are eight or older
  • The parents or guardians of the child, if they are within California
  • Any adult relative of the child residing in California, or
  • Any adult relatives living closest to the court location
  • Foster parents, pre-adoptive or adoptive parents if the child was previously placed under the care of the probation officer for foster care placement

The notice provided contains:

  • The name of the recipient
  • The name of the child who’s the subject of the petition
  • The date, time, and location of the hearing
  • A statement of the child's or guardian's entitlement to an attorney. The court will provide a legal defense attorney for indigent guardians, and the parents, guardians, or responsible adults might have to furnish the costs of the court up to their financial ability
  • A statement of the parent, or guardian's responsibility to pay for the costs of supporting the child in county institutions, pay restitution, fines, and other penalty assessments

Failure to heed the notice for either the child or the guardian/parents could result in an arrest warrant if the court determines that it is an effort to evade the court process.

Detention hearings are not always necessary. Some of the scenarios that necessitate a juvenile detention hearing include:

  • The child is in custody at a juvenile hall
  • The child is under home supervision and waiting for a court date to be set
  • The child violates the conditions of home supervision, which they agreed to in writing
  • The child reoffends and is taken into custody after being released on home supervision

The detention hearing determines whether to keep your child in custody based on factors such as:

  • The flight risk of the minor
  • The family's ability to care for and supervise the minor adequately
  • The risk your child poses to the community
  • Recommendations from the probation department

The probation department plays a major role in the outcome of the detention hearing as it is tasked with preparing a report. This report provides information on:

  • The charges against your child
  • The facts of the alleged offense
  • Your child’s performance at school
  • The home and family situation
  • The minor’s criminal history

The probation department's report is held in high esteem by the court. Fortunately, your child is allowed legal representation, and their attorney can challenge the facts in the report – particularly if they push for the child to remain in detention for the offense.

Before you and your child attend the detention hearing, the court will appoint an attorney for your child, or you could hire one yourself. The detention hearing will normally be held in the same county where your child was arrested.

As you await the detention hearing, the court might keep your child in a secure and supervised facility or place them on home supervision. The choice of a supervised facility or home supervision depends on the choice that serves the child's best interests.

When released on home supervision, the court assigns a community worker or a probation officer to watch the child.

What to Expect at a Juvenile Detention Hearing

The court usually notifies you of the time and venue of the detention hearing beforehand. Juvenile detention hearings are usually closed, meaning they are not open to the public. If you are not sure whether yours will be a closed proceeding, you can communicate with your lawyer to request closed proceedings for the sake of your child’s privacy.

However, if the child is charged with a serious offense, the public can attend the hearing. Some of the offenses that result in open juvenile court proceedings include:

  • Murder
  • Arson of an inhabited building
  • Robbery with a deadly or dangerous weapon
  • Rape with force, violence, threats of violence, or when the victim cannot consent due to intoxication, unconsciousness, or a disability
  • Sodomy by force, violence, or threats of violence, or when the victim is unable to resist due to intoxication, unconsciousness, or a disability
  • Oral copulation by force, violence, duress, the threat of violence or great bodily harm, or when the victim couldn't consent to the activity due to unconsciousness, a disability that the perpetrator is or should be reasonably aware of, or intoxication.
  • Kidnapping for a ransom
  • Kidnapping for robbery
  • Kidnapping and causing bodily harm
  • Attempted murder
  • Assault with a firearm
  • Assault with a destructive device
  • Assault using force that could result in great bodily harm
  • Discharging a firearm in an inhabited building or dwelling
  • Certain violent crimes against a person aged 60 or older, or a person with a disability (quadriplegic, paraplegic, blind, or confined to a wheelchair)
  • Committing or attempting to commit a felony while using a firearm
  • Burglarizing an inhabited building
  • Felony offenses involving influencing a false testimony from a witness, dissuading a witness or victim of a crime from appearing in court, or bribing a witness
  • Offenses involving transportation, sale, or manufacturing of controlled substances
  • Engaging in criminal gang activity that amounts to a felony
  • Manslaughter
  • Discharging a weapon from or at a motor vehicle
  • Carjacking while using a dangerous or deadly weapon
  • Kidnapping while committing a carjacking
  • Torture
  • Aggravated mayhem

The accused minor, parents or guardians, the victims of the offense, a court-approved special advocate, the juvenile defense attorney, the probation officers, and court counsel are the typical attendants in a juvenile detention hearing.

During the detention hearing, the court will inform your child about the charges against them and determine whether they should be detained in the Juvenile Hall or released to you.

The court also informs your child of their rights, which include:

  • The right against self-incrimination
  • The right to legal counsel and representation
  • The right to present and challenge evidence presented before the court

Note: while your child has the right to present evidence to the court, the evidence is strictly confined to the factors that could influence whether the child is released or remains in custody. For example, they are not allowed to present evidence that they did not commit the crime, but they can present evidence that shows the child is not a danger to themselves, their family, or their community.

When informing your child about the charges against them and their rights, the judge will question the child to check if they understand what is happening. If they are not competent enough, the court may suspend the proceedings until a competency hearing is done.

A child is considered competent if:

  • They have the present ability to consult with their attorney and participate in preparing a defense
  • They have a rational and factual understanding of the charges against them and the proceedings

A competency hearing might include the input of experts and specialists to determine whether the child has a developmental disability, developmental immaturity, a mental disorder, or another condition that impairs their competence.

In cases of evaluating a child's competence, the child has the burden of proving their incompetence as the court begins with the assumption that they are competent.

As mentioned earlier, the probation officer plays a key role in the court’s final decision. They are always present in a juvenile hearing to provide more information and insight into the ongoing case, the child's background, and their relationship with family and the community.

Your child’s behavior is a major part of the probation officer’s investigation as it sheds light on your child's criminal history.

Once the probation officer presents the findings of their investigations to the court, your child's attorney could present evidence that sheds a different light on various aspects of the child’s defendants.

The main goal of the detention hearing is to decide whether the minor stays in juvenile court or not. The Welfare and Institutions Code 635 outline the criteria courts need to follow when deciding whether to keep the minor in custody.

According to the statute, the court can only keep the minor in custody if:

  • The prosecution has the impression that the minor committed a crime
  • The child has previously violated an order from the juvenile court
  • The minor has previously escaped from custody or poses a flight risk
  • Keeping the minor in custody is important for the safety of others or their property
  • The minor is in immediate danger, and keeping them in custody would keep them safe

After the detention hearing, the court expects your child to enter a plea for the charges against them. The court first ascertains that the child understands their charges and what each plea means for them. The juvenile offender may take one of the following pleas:

  • Admitting to the charges
  • Denying the charges
  • Failing to consent to the charges
  • Denying the allegations due to insanity

If the child admits to the charges, the court must question the child to ascertain that the child is aware of the rights they waive due to the admission of guilt.

Depending on the evidence and testimony presented in court, the following are the potential outcomes of a detention hearing:

     1. Detention

The court orders detention if:

  • The child has previously violated a court order
  • The child has previously escaped from commitment
  • The child is a flight risk
  • Detention is necessary for the immediate protection of the child
  • Detention is reasonably necessary for the protection of another person or their property

When the court places minors in detention, they are taken to the nearest detention hall. A Detention hall is a temporary holding facility for minors accused of committing a crime.

If your child is placed in detention, they are legally entitled to a jurisdiction hearing (the equivalent of a trial) within 15 days).

     2. Home supervision in lieu of detention

The court orders home supervision instead of detention if the child meets the criteria for detention but does not require confinement. When placed for home supervision, the court requires the probation department to determine the minor’s eligibility for informal supervision.

Home supervision may come with certain conditions requiring the child to:

  • Attend school
  • Find a job
  • Adhere to curfew requirements
  • Refrain from using drugs or alcohol
  • Attend counseling
  • Agree to searches, seizures, and periodic drug tests
  • Obey their parents
  • Remain disciplined in school

In addition to these conditions, the minor is prohibited from:

  • Molesting, contacting, or assaulting the alleged victim or their family
  • Going near certain areas or buildings
  • Associating in any manner with other individuals who could have participated in the alleged offense

Sometimes, the court will order electronic monitoring through ankle bracelets or a location tracking device.

     3. Placement in a non-secure facility

Children who are neither considered a flight risk nor a danger to themselves could be placed in a non-secure facility. Before being placed in these facilities, the court considers the alleged offense, the child's previous record, age, and criminal sophistication. The child may be placed in a secure facility if they escape the non-secure facility and are apprehended.


Your child's criminal defense attorney can request a rehearing if they believe the court used questionable evidence when deciding to keep the minor in custody. When requested, a rehearing takes place within three court days of the initial detention hearing or five days in case the witness is unavailable. The exception is when a rehearing is requested due to lack of notice for the parent or guardian or unavailability of report preparers. In these cases, the court must set a rehearing within 24 hours (court days).

Some of the grounds for asking for a rehearing include:

  • Lack of notice. The law requires that the court notify the parent or guardian of the original detention hearing. The guardian or child’s parents must also not have been at the original detention hearing and show good cause for their missed attendance.
  • The child could not examine the preparers of the reports used as part of the documentary evidence. As mentioned earlier, the child has the right to cross-examine the preparers of the reports used during the detention hearing.
  • A rehearing may also be ordered if the child’s counsel requests further evidence of the prima facie case.

The court must release the child from detention (unless when doing so endangers the child's welfare.)

Factors Considered During a Detention Hearing

The primary goal of the detention hearing is to decide whether to keep the child in a detention facility or release them on home supervision. The court accounts for various factors to arrive at their decision. Some considerations include:

The evidence the child presents

The court allows the child to present evidence that supports why they should not be detained in juvenile hall. The child can present evidence showing they are not a danger to the community or a flight risk.

The legal framework

The court has to follow the provisions of various laws regulating juvenile detention hearings. This means taking action permitted by law based on the evidence presented by each party. It also means ensuring that the child's rights are upheld at all times during the juvenile detention hearing.

Documentary evidence

The main source of documentary evidence in juvenile detention hearings comes from police reports, the probation officer’s report, and other factual information on the case. The documentary evidence provides information on:

  • The reasons for removing the child from parental custody
  • The need for continuous detention
  • The availability of services that could benefit the child
  • Relatives willing and capable of caring for the child
  • Documentation on the unsuitability of the home environment for the child's welfare
  • Reasonable proof of attempts to prevent the need for removing the child, including documentation of what these efforts were and their outcomes

Prima Facie Case

The court cannot detain a child without sufficient cause to keep the child in detention.

The child's past actions

If the child has previous interactions with the juvenile justice system, past behavior significantly influences the current detention hearing. For instance, if they have escaped their commitments, the court is less likely to award home supervision as they are considered a flight risk.

The Child’s Welfare During Detention Hearings

One of the goals of the juvenile delinquency system is to ensure that the decisions made in juvenile court are in the best interests of the child. During detention hearings, one of the considerations when deciding whether to keep a child in custody is the safety of their current environment.

Some of the factors that endanger the welfare of the child and could compel the need for immediate detention include:

  • The child could be in danger of addiction to controlled substances or alcohol
  • Continuing to stay with the parents or guardians of the child, endangering the welfare of the child

Before determining whether these decisions are in the child's best interests, the court makes a "contrary to the child's welfare" finding as soon as possible.

This involves evaluating the child's home and community situation. For instance, the court might choose to keep the minor in detention if the child's environment could result in additional criminal behavior.

Find a Anaheim Juvenile Defense Attorney Near Me

When your child is arrested for an offense, your first reaction might be to get angry and "let them suffer the consequences." While this opinion is understandable, it's also important to support the child during the juvenile justice system by seeking legal counsel and attending court proceedings. One of the earliest court appearances will be a juvenile detention hearing, where the court decides whether to keep the child in custody or release them on home supervision. Regardless of the outcome, the best thing to do is to find legal representation on behalf of your child.

California Criminal Lawyer Group has walked with parents navigating the California juvenile delinquency system, supporting them through each stage of the process. We offer defense services and legal counsel to help you understand every step of the process. For more information and a case evaluation, contact our attorneys at 714-766-0965 in Anaheim.