When a minor violates any laws in California, their case is heard in juvenile court. If the court finds them guilty, they could be subject to certain legal consequences, including probation. If your child has been found guilty of an offense and is at risk of being sentenced in juvenile court, you need the help of an expert criminal defense attorney to safeguard their rights throughout the court proceedings. We at the California Criminal Lawyer Group in Anaheim will help you through the probation hearing phase and represent you until the case is resolved. Call our Anaheim attorneys today to schedule a consultation.

Understanding California's Juvenile Probation System

Juveniles, or minors under 18 years, who perpetrate crimes are usually taken before a juvenile court, where the cases are decided upon and dispositions or sentences imposed by the judge if found guilty unless the charges are postponed.

Juvenile dispositions often involve transfer to a juvenile hall, camp, ranch, community service, payments of fines or compensation to victims, admission to the California Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), and probation.

The probation for minors varies. When a child is declared a ward of the court, the court gains jurisdiction and authority over the minor. If the court determines that the situation calls for it, it could remove the minor away from their home.

The Juvenile Court

A juvenile's violation of the law is considered delinquent behavior rather than a crime by the court. The juvenile court monitors juvenile proceedings and makes sure the child receives guidance and rehabilitation.

Juvenile courts hear matters involving children under the age of 18, curfew breaches, and misdemeanor and felony charges. A minor can be tried as an adult under certain circumstances. The following offenses are grounds for juvenile courts to recommend that minors be transferred to the adult criminal justice system for trial:

  • Sodomy.
  • Murder.
  • Forcible rape.
  • Threats to inflict substantial bodily harm.
  • Forcible oral sex.
  • Arson that leads to significant bodily injuries.
  • Forced sexual penetration.
  • Kidnapping to rob.
  • Torture.
  • Robbery.
  • Assault with a firearm.
  • Kidnapping to collect a ransom.
  • Carjacking.
  • Escaping from a juvenile institution, camp, or ranch while seriously injuring a staff member.

The court procedures in juvenile court are less intimidating since the only people present are the judge, the prosecution, and the minor's defense attorney. Juvenile court procedures are kept confidential to guarantee your child's safety.

The prosecution will file charges against the minor, and the court will grant their petition if they can establish beyond a shadow of a doubt that the minor committed the offense. In juvenile court proceedings, a judge cannot declare your child either innocent or guilty.

Based on how the minor responds to the charges against them, the court may decide to place them in a juvenile detention center or sentence them to informal probation following the case's hearing. If the child denies committing the crime, the court could require them to participate in a probationary program; if they complete it, the accusations against them are dismissed.

The primary goal of the California juvenile court system is usually to rehabilitate minors and make sure that their past offenses do not negatively impact their future. Making a child a ward of the court will help the court achieve these goals. When a child becomes a "ward of the court," the court has to care for and oversee the child. A juvenile who has been made a court-appointed ward can complete their probation term at home.

The primary focus of the adult criminal justice system is punishment, while the primary focus of the California juvenile justice system is rehabilitation. Although the law requires that a minor who violates the law get coaching on how to reintegrate into their families and society successfully. The court imposes a sentence designed to have the minor change their conduct and realize the gravity of their offenses.

The California Juvenile Court Process

The proceedings in juvenile court follow a similar pattern to those in the adult criminal justice system. If your minor child commits an offense, the police will take them into custody. The juvenile court procedure begins with an arrest. The arresting officer could choose to reprove and discharge the child without contacting a judge, based on the seriousness of the offense against them.

If the charges against the minor are serious, the officer can bring them to the probationary offices, or let them return home but issue them a citation to show up in court at a later date. As the request filed against the minor is being processed, they will be held at the juvenile hall.

How Frequently Can Juveniles Be Granted Probation?

The majority of young offenders who enter the system are granted probation. This necessitates the involvement of probation officials in all stages of a juvenile case. The evaluation and suggestions of a probationary officer about programs along with other dispositions are extensively relied upon by the juvenile courts.

Types of Juvenile Probation

The laws, rules, and regulations that control juvenile probation are found under the Welfare and Institutions Code. The degree of wardship, as well as non-wardship, varies among probations. When a juvenile is placed on a wardship probationary term, the court acts as a parental figure in that situation. If required, the minor on probation as a ward could be removed from their home by the probationary department. In cases of non-wardship, the probationary department cannot remove the child from their household.

Welfare and Institutions Code 602 — Wardship Probation

When a minor is placed on official probation under the supervision of the Department of Probation and is declared to be on probation as a ward of the court, it signifies that they have been found guilty of the offense. The court may have jurisdiction over your child until they turn 21. However, when the juvenile court commits the minor to the DJJ, they can continue to be subject to its jurisdiction until they are 24.

Informal Diversion Under the Welfare & Institutions Code Section 626(b)

The police may subject you to a program under this Code. The court can't get involved because there are no accusations brought against you. The police officer in charge of the matter can make you show up at a juvenile court or arrange a meeting with the victim to try to make amends.

Informal Probation Under the Welfare & Institutions Code Section 654

Your probationary officer can enroll you in this diversion program when they feel that you are likely to benefit from the services. It is usually a voluntary arrangement between the minor, their parents/guardians, as well as the probationary officer. Your probation officer can put you in the informal program for six months. If you complete the program, your case will be closed and dismissed.

If you don't make it through the program, though, the DA's office will be notified and a petition filed with the Juvenile courts.

Informal Probation Under the Welfare & Institutions Code Section 654.2

As soon as the DA's Office submits a formal request to the California juvenile court, the court will require you to participate in this diversionary program. If this happens, the judge will delay sentencing and put the matter on hold. This usually lets you attend the diversion program for six months through the probation office. If you finish the program, the presiding judge will drop the purported allegations against you and conclude the case. If you don't finish the course, the judge could charge you for breaking the law.

Welfare & Institutions Code Section 725(a) — Non-Wardship Probation

The court might find you guilty of a misdemeanor offense as per this code. You will then be sentenced to a probationary period of no more than six months by the court. There may be several requirements set forth by the court that must be met for you to complete your probation.

Wardship Probation Under the Welfare & Institutions Code Section 725(b)

This Code gives the court jurisdiction and authority over you while sentencing you to six months of probation with a list of rules and requirements.

Wardship Probation— Section 727 of the Welfare and Institutions Code

The minor becomes subject to the jurisdiction of the court following this code. This is typical if the judge convicts you of a certain offense. You'll be subject to the court's oversight and be compelled to abide by all laws and regulations.

Deferred Entry of Judgment Probation Under the Welfare & Institutions Code Section 790

Based on WIC section 790, you could be eligible for probation when the court convicts you of a felony. To be put on probation, you must nevertheless satisfy several requirements. The following is a list of the requirements:

  • The alleged violation isn’t a Penal Code 707(b) offense.
  • You need to meet the requirements of PC 1203.6 to be granted probation.
  • This is your very first felony offense, and you have never been made a ward of the court.
  • There are no records of your probation being revoked.
  • The hearing took place when you were 14 years old.
  • You have not served a California Youth Authority (CYA) sentence.

Offenses categorized under this code are considered particularly serious. The following are a few of the violations:

  • Forced sex crimes.
  • Arson, theft, or kidnapping that results in bodily injury.
  • Armed carjacking.
  • Any assault that causes injuries, including assaults committed with a weapon.
  • Violent rape.
  • Attempted murder.
  • Murder.
  • Sexual assault.
  • Some violent felonies.

California's PC 1203.6 explains the requirements and processes for both felony and misdemeanor probation. If you are granted probation, you may be able to stay out of jail for all or part of your term. According to PC 1203.6, the majority of children accused of misdemeanor violations, including repeat offenders, are eligible for informal probation.

Generally, summary probation entails no jail time as long as other requirements, such as paying fines or restitution, are met. The court will not need a probation report except if you have been convicted of a sex crime.

However, if you have been accused of a felony, it can be difficult for the court to grant you probation. Probation in cases involving felonies also tends to be more stringent than in misdemeanor cases. The court might wish to see your probation file before determining whether to grant you probation.

The following actions could make you ineligible for probation:

  • You caused the victim to sustain severe physical harm.
  • You utilized a lethal weapon.
  • You were involved in a drive-by shooting incident that injured or killed someone else.

Probation Violations

Failure to follow the guidelines established by the different probation institutions, which every juvenile is supposed to follow, could result in a probation violation. If you breach the terms of your probation, your probationary officer will report that violation to the court. The judge could revoke your probation and impose harsh consequences, such as a jail term if the court finds that you broke the terms of your probation. Here are some potential violations you might commit:

Non-Wardship Probation Violations

The juvenile probationary officer will look into your case whenever you are detained in California. They will determine whether to refer the matter to the DA's office to file a petition in juvenile court.

According to code 654, if you have been convicted of a minor offense and no petition has been filed, the probationary officer may instead offer you an informal diversion. You are obligated to abide by the program's guidelines and standards during the one-year informal diversion period. If you violate the conditions of your release, the probationary officer will notify the DA, who will then file a motion with the Juvenile Court.

Juvenile Probation Violation

The probationary officer will notify the District Attorney's office and the juvenile court about your probation violations if you are a ward and are on probation.

The DA can submit a motion for revocation and termination of your probation following code 777. The probationary officer will prepare a report and suggest if you need to be taken away from their home. But you can challenge the claims of probation violation by requesting an official hearing.

Deferred Entry of Judgment Program Violation

The court could put you in this program through the juvenile court under the provisions of WIC 725. By acknowledging the petition's facts, the judge has no obligation to make you a court ward under this law. If you finish the program, the judge drops the accusations against you.

The judge can make you a ward and put you on a probationary term if you infringe the DEJ. You are entitled to a probation violation hearing after being placed on DEJ. However, the probationary officer's recommendations to end the program will determine your eligibility. You have the right to a formal disputed disposition hearing when the court seeks to take you away from your home.

Juvenile Probation Violations Hearings

The prosecution will likely bring in witnesses during the hearing. Additionally, your defense lawyer will have the opportunity to interrogate the prosecution's witnesses. Additionally, you have the right to summon your witnesses.

The statutes permit hearsay testimony as long as the court finds it to be ''reliable. In contrast to a trial, the burden of proof on the prosecution's witnesses is lower during the probation violation hearing. They simply need to provide enough evidence to prove that you breached the terms of your probation.

If the court determines that you broke the terms of your probation, you could be punished. The court could, for instance, impose stricter terms and restrictions on your probation. Some of the terms could include more community service conditions, more stringent curfews, and lost privileges. The court may also revoke your probation and place you in a juvenile detention center or probationary camp.

You will, however, be allowed to present to the court the reasons why you believe you should be permitted to continue living with your family rather than being removed from your home.

The Role Played By Juvenile Probation Officers

When the court sentences you to probation, it'll assign you a probationary officer who keeps an eye on you to make sure you follow the probation's terms. You will have a biweekly, weekly, or monthly appointment with your probation officer. If you break the terms of your probation, your legal guardian or parents must inform your probation officer. Parents are responsible for working with the probationary officer to make sure the minor abides by the conditions of probation.

Just as the prosecution and defense counsel, probation officials are crucial in cases involving juvenile delinquency. They provide their views on the best ways to address certain juvenile problems. Additionally, they oversee the juvenile facilities and look after children who are on probation. Their involvement is vital at every stage of juvenile matters, from arrest to final resolution.

The Probation Officer's Role During the Arrest of a Minor

Depending on how serious your offense was, the officer making the arrest could request you to meet with the county's probation officers. After conducting the interview, the probationary officer has the option of taking any one of the following actions:

  • Determine that you'll be held until the court reviews the matter, which shouldn't take more than 48 hours.
  • Give you permission to go home and issue a diversionary program. Your probation officer in this instance does not submit the petition. Instead, you'll get an opportunity to talk about the matter with your loved ones and your probationary officer.
  • Set up a court date with the judge, who will then decide whether to let you return home or transfer you to another placement.

The Probation Officer's Role During the Adjudication Stage

After speaking with you, the officer is going to ask the prosecution to perform the following:

  • Submit a petition for adjudication.
  • Try you in the juvenile justice system.
  • Take your case to the adult court system.

Every 707(b) charge requires submission by the prosecution. However, before proposing a file, the prosecuting attorney takes the following into account:

  • If negotiations about the allegations are ongoing and it is decided that the judge's rulings are required.
  • Both your and your family's attitude.
  • Your capabilities, age, and level of maturity.
  • If the offense you committed constituted violence or portrayed a threat to another person's bodily safety.
  • If you are experiencing any serious issues with your family, community, or school.

The Probation Officer's Role During the Disposition Stage

If a court decides to sentence you to probation, they will appoint a probation officer to oversee your case. It's possible that the court won't assign you the same officer who suggested filing the petition. If the judge sentences you to a felony probation term, you are required to have biweekly or weekly meetings with your probationary officer.

The probationary officer may schedule a meeting at any time they see acceptable. If you've been placed on summary probation, you won't see the probationary officer very often. Your family can receive calls from or meetings with the officer.

Your probation officer's responsibilities include assisting you in attending diversionary programs and making sure you comply with the probation's rules and regulations. If your caretakers come across any violations you have committed, they are required to notify your probation officer.

Depending on the seriousness of the offenses you perpetrated and your criminal background, the judge or your probationary officer could impose certain conditions. Here are a few examples of the conditions:

  • Being prohibited from taking part in gang-related activities, interacting with members of a gang, or even sporting gang apparel.
  • Compensating the victim for the losses they suffered.
  • Observing curfew hours.
  • Limitations on movement and electronic surveillance.
  • Maintaining a good school attendance record.
  • Participating in programs for alcohol, drugs, and anger management.
  • Staying away from the victim.
  • Consenting to random drug and alcohol testing.
  • Tattoo removal.

Find a Juvenile Delinquency Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

Probation terms imposed on minors can be a mental and physical burden, especially when the juvenile is subjected to stringent requirements. However, receiving a probationary term is preferable to going through the California Youth Authority or receiving more harsh punishments. If your child has an ongoing or current juvenile case, you need the assistance of an expert attorney who can guide you through the juvenile court system.

Our professional attorneys at the California Criminal Lawyer Group in Anaheim have a wealth of experience defending clients and assisting them through the juvenile probation process. Call us at 714-766-0965 to speak to one of our representatives.