Juveniles, too, are subject to legal consequences should they contravene the law. The legal system may punish their actions with time in juvenile hall or send them to a new home. The juvenile system also allows juvenile offenders to remain in their communities while serving a series of court-mandated activities issued as punishment for their offenses.

These are alternatives to prison time or relocation to new homes and are considered probation terms. The judge will require the juvenile to report to the school, serve community service terms, attend counseling, submit to a DNA test, pay restitution fees, regularly report to a probation officer, or any other activity directed by the courts. Juvenile probation cases are complex. You need legal representation to maneuver the complexities. At Orange County Criminal Lawyer, our team will represent and guide throughout the entire hearings.

Understanding Juvenile Probation

Juvenile probation is alternative sentencing for juvenile offenders. It allows them to remain in the community under the supervision of the court. Probation is available as a pre-sentencing option as well as for juveniles incarcerated within a juvenile facility.

Certain areas are key to understanding probation better. A detailed analysis is provided below. It is important to comprehend the juvenile probation system and the roles probation officers play, probation violation, the various stages involved in a probation process, and the types of juvenile probation.

Juvenile Probation Officers

In adult criminal proceedings, prosecutors and defense attorneys play the leading role. In juvenile proceedings, probation officers take center stage. The officers advise judges as well as district attorneys on how to handle juvenile cases. During the arrest, adjudication, and disposition stages from the juvenile’s arrest to the juvenile proceedings’ stage, their input is required during arrest, adjudication, and disposition stages.

Below is a look at the aspects a probation officer is involved in:

  1. Arrest Phase

When juveniles commit crimes, law enforcement officers will arrest them. The youngster is then presented in a juvenile hall for an interview with a probation officer. The hall is a jail equivalent for adult offenders. All minors are entitled to have their parents and attorneys present during this interview. The officer, following the interrogation, can take either of the following actions.

  • Detain the juvenile in the juvenile hall — If so, a detention hearing should be held within 8 hours to determine if the youngster should remain in detention.
  • Send the minor home or a suitable placement with instructions on when to show up before a juvenile court judge.
  • Send the juvenile home with a probation program — The probation program allows the juveniles to go home with their parents under strict adherence to the conditions set. If the parents should supervise their children upon release, then this is unsupervised home probation. If the probation department is in charge of the supervision, the juvenile is under supervised home probation. Juveniles released under home probation programs should attend school, pay restitution as directed, and adhere to the set curfew rules.

Solitary confinement and detention periods for juveniles was an issue that was of concern to many. This concern brought forth Senate Bill 190, which came into effect in January 2018. The law restricted detention time for juveniles to 4 hours except when there is an emergency. Further, the law prohibited juvenile facility staff from using restrictive measures against minors, including holding minors in solitary confinement.

  1. Adjudication Phase

Probation officers at this stage recommend to district attorneys whether to file a petition against the juvenile. The district attorney has also to receive the okay from the probation officers that the juvenile is fit to stand trial within the juvenile system. Therefore, in the same advice, the probation officer could recommend that the juvenile stand trial in adult court.

All crimes under Welfare and Institutions Code 707(b) are prosecutable. The prosecution of crimes not included on this list is subject to the recommendations of the probation officers. They consider the guidelines under California’s Rules of Court, Rule 5.516(c), before recommending prosecution to the district attorney. The rules include:

  • The juvenile’s capabilities, age, and maturity.
  • The child’s, guardian’s, or parent’s attitude.
  • Whether the problems at school, home, or in the community involving the child warrant formal court action to achieve a desirable outcome.
  • Whether the alleged conduct involved physical harm or a threat of bodily injury or damage to another or their property.
  • Any additional circumstance that supports the view that formal court action will promote the welfare of the children and the public’s safety.
  1. Disposition Phase

Disposition is sentencing in juvenile court. If the juvenile is placed under formal probation, the child will meet the probation officer regularly. That is weekly, bi-monthly, or whenever the probation officer deems it necessary. In informal probations, the meetings with the juvenile are infrequent, and the probation officer may opt for calls.

Parents’ guardians’ and probation officers all work together to ensure the juvenile adheres to the conditions set during the disposition stage. Therefore, in the spirit of cooperation, parents and guardians should report to the probation officers should the juvenile violate the requirements set by the judge.

Disposition conditions are similar to the probation program as mentioned above. The judge may issue additional terms, including:

  • Stay-away orders.
  • Completing community service.
  • Attendance of anger management classes.
  • Completing anti-gang classes.
  • Enrolling in substance abuse programs.
  • Graffiti removal.
  • Any other activity the judge may deem necessary in transforming the juvenile’s behavior.

Disposition Hearing in Juvenile Court

Disposition hearings determine the punishment a juvenile should face for committing a criminal offense or violating probation. Disposition hearings come after an adjudication hearing, a minor’s court. When you think of disposition hearings, liken it to sentencing hearings in adult court.

Various factors affect when the disposition hearing takes place and is worth addressing them:

  1. Probation Officer’s Report

Judges take into account a probation officer’s recommended sentence before making their final determination. If the judge has the report during the adjudication hearing, he/she will convene a disposition healing immediately after the adjudication hearing. However, should the officer require time to make his/her recommendation, the judge will convene the disposition hearing after the report's submission.

  1. Mental State of the Juvenile

All accused persons should be of sound mind during their trial. It is no different in juvenile court. A judge will order a psychological assessment should there be any inclination that the child is suffering from mental health issues. Therefore, the judge can only convene a disposition hearing after the evaluation.

  1. The Juvenile is in Custody

A disposition hearing should be convened within ten days following the trial if the juvenile is already in custody. Be rest assured, our attorneys will introduce evidence casting your child in good light. It helps in seeking leniency from the judge. The victim is also given the opportunity in a disposition hearing to read a victim impact statement or speak should they choose to. The juvenile is also accorded an equal opportunity to testify in the hearing.

Sentencing Options a Juvenile Could Face in a Disposition Hearing

While sentencing aims at punishing the juvenile for their wrongdoing, they also serve to provide the minor with the tools needed to reshape their behavior and become productive members of society. As such, the judge, based on the case’s circumstance, could opt for any of the following options.

  • Dismissal of the charges in the interest of justice.
  • Informal or formal probation, as discussed earlier.
  • Commitment to the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ).

Drug Testing During Probation

Juveniles are expected to be drug-free during the probation, and in compliance with this requirement, they will be subject to random drug testing. The common drugs drug recognition experts and the probation officers will be testing for include cocaine, heroin, LSD, methamphetamines, ecstasy, marijuana, or any other your child used.

Drug recognition experts will first look for possible signs of drug use. The experts will be keen on injection marks on the child’s body and the reaction of their eyes to light. They will further conduct coordination tests before administering a drug test. It is in your child’s best interest to be on the lookout for any drug use and inform your attorney.

Probation Violation

When juveniles contravene the court’s set conditions for their probation, they violate the court’s directives. As such, the court will take action. Probation officers report the violation to the court and request a probation violation hearing. In the hearing, the officer will allege that the defendant (probationer) violated the conditions of their probation contract. They will further propose that your child face punitive consequences for the violation.

Probation officers rely on the following as their basis of a probation violation.

  • The probationer failed to attend or complete a court-mandated program.
  • New criminal charges have been introduced against the probationer.
  • The probationer failed to pay restitution fees, appear in court, or report to the probation officer. as agreed upon as a condition of their probation.
  • Using, possessing, or distributing illegal drugs.
  • Failing to report to the probation office when required.
  • Visiting prohibited places and interacting with individuals not cleared by the probation department.

Based upon the above, probation officers will request the court to issue an arrest warrant against the probationer for them to be presented before the court. Alternatively, probation officers can send a notice of the alleged violation(s) to the probationer via mail.

Violation proceedings kick off once the juvenile is presented before the court. In the first hearing, the probationer is presented in court and notified of their alleged violation. In the same hearing, the judge determines probable cause supporting the allegations that the probationer violated their probation.

There are several consequences the judge considers as punishment or probation violation depending on the severity of the violation. The judge could:

  • Issue a warning to the juvenile.
  • Require the youth to take part in community service.
  • Order the child to attend additional programs, including drug or alcohol-related reform programs.
  • Wear an ankle monitor to observe his/her movements in real-time.
  • Confinement to juvenile hall.
  • Revoke informal probation issued under the Welfare and Institutions Code 654.
  • Revoke probation issued under the Welfare and institutions Codes 725 or 790, and declare the juvenile a ward of the court and be committed to home on probation (HOP). If the matter before the judge is a non-wardship issue, a hearing will be held. The hearing is based on the report from the probation department. Further, should the home on probation be challenged, the courts allow a disposition hearing. Your attorney will produce evidence supporting the argument that it is in the juvenile’s best interest to remain at home.

In instances where the child is already a ward of the court and is on home probation, prosecutors will challenge the probation under a 777 petition. The petition should contain a report from the probation department detailing the youth’s violations of their probation. Your attorney will challenge the findings in the report while presenting evidence in support of the probation remaining in place.

Types of Juvenile Probation

Juvenile probations are issued based on the matters presented before the court. Specific Welfare and Institution Codes detailed below guide judges, law enforcement officers, the probation department, and attorneys. They are:

Wardship Probation, WIC 602

Under WIC 602, the juvenile is a ward of court and is under formal probation if he/she is found to have violated the law. The courts will supervise the juvenile’s probation until they are 21 years. However, if the juvenile was committed to the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), the court’s authority over the juvenile terminates when they attain 24 years.

Informal Diversion, WIC 626(b)

Under this section, the court is not involved because no charges are introduced. The arresting officers commit the youth to an informal diversion program through the probation department. Further, the department may convene a reconciliatory meeting between the offender and the victim or require the juvenile to present in a teen court with his/he peers as participants. Both approaches seek a resolution to the matter.

Informal Probation (non-wardship), WIC 654

Informal probation or voluntary probation is a diversion program by the probation department. The department addresses the matter, issues the terms of the probation without the court’s intervention. This means that the department will not also report to the court. The juvenile will remain home on probation for a period of 6 to 12 months. Felony offenders may also qualify for informal probation as long as they have not been on probation before under WIC 654. 

Informal Probation, WIC 654.2

The probation department also handles a WIC 654.2 probation following a formal petition filed by prosecutors. The juvenile will be required to participate in a 6-month diversion program during which the petition remains on hold. Charges are only dismissed and sentencing discarded if the youth completes the program. 

Deferred Entry of Judgment (6months) (non-wardship), WIC 725(a)

Under WIC 725(a), the courts place the juvenile under 6-month probation following admission to misdemeanor violations by the youth. The judge may extend the period should the youth fail to complete the terms of the probation. Under this section, the juvenile is not a ward of the court. However, a violation of the terms and failure to complete the probation programs will inform the court’s decision through the probation department to make the youth a ward of the court.

Wardship Probation, WIC 725(b)

Under this section, the courts assume primary responsibility for the juvenile. The probation terms and conditions remain in effect for six months.

Wardship Probation Under WIC 727

Under this section, the court is in full charge of the process and the juvenile’s probation. Wardship probation happens when the youth is deemed to have violated the law and is, therefore, a ward of the court.

Deferred Entry of Judgment Probation, WIC 790

Non-serious felonies are punishable by a deferred entry of judgment as per WIC 790. Deferred entry of judgment refers to a judge subjecting the offender to formal probation instead of harsh penalties following felony charge convictions. WIC 707 lists several crimes as punishable felonies. They include:

  • Arson
  • Murder
  • Kidnapping with bodily injury
  • Robbery with bodily harm
  • Attempted murder
  • Armed carjacking
  • Sexual assault
  • Assault with a firearm. Assault with an object likely to cause significant bodily harm is a punishable offense under WIC 707.
  • Rape
  • Other violent offenses.

The presiding judge will decide what amounts to a non-serious felony based on the evidence presented against your child. Further, he/she will be guided by the specific terms and conditions under WIC 790 in his/her final ruling. Here is a look at some of the terms and conditions the judge takes into account.

  • The juvenile should be at least 14 years at the time of the hearing.
  • The youngster has no record of being declared a ward of the court owing to a felony offense he/she committed.
  • The offense in question is not a WIC 707(b)
  • There is no record of the juvenile’s revoked probation from previous matters before the court.
  • The youth has not been sentenced to the Department of Juvenile Justice(DJJ).
  • The offense is not among those listed under PC 289, crimes of a sexual nature if the victim was incapacitated through intoxication or by use of drugs, legal or otherwise. This rule applies if the victim was mentally incapacitated at the time of the sexual crime, suffered from a physical or developmental disability, and the minor should have reasonably known of the victim’s condition(s).

During a probation hearing, your child enjoys certain rights. They include:

  • The right to have legal representation.
  • The right to be informed of the violations that are the subject matter of the hearing — A letter sent to you (the parent or guardian of the juvenile) should detail the violations.
  • The right to present evidence and witnesses in their defense.

Should any of these rights be violated, your attorney will raise the issue and challenge the process.

As a parent or the legal guardian, you too have rights that should not be violated throughout the legal process. It is in your best interest to be aware of them. They include the right:

  • To request an attorney for your child.
  • To be notified of your child’s arrest and detainment.
  • To be peasant at your child’s hearings.
  • To be informed of your child’s constitutional rights with regards to the entire process.
  • For your child’s proceedings to remain confidential.

It is worth noting two issues that many consider as rights. In most cases, they are wrong. While you have the right as a parent or legal guardian to be informed when the child is detained or arrested, you don’t have the right to be present during the interrogation of your child by the police. You should inform your child to remain silent, as is their right until your attorney is present.

Further, you do not have the right to take your child home pending the outcome of their case. The judge has the final say on this. He/she will consider the case before him/her while considering the probation department’s recommendations before deciding on the child’s fate. The judge’s decision will be in the best interest of the child.

The courts expect you to meet your obligations. You bear the financial burden throughout the process. Therefore, you will be required to pay in full all restitution fees and the legal costs associated with the case.

Find an Orange County Criminal Lawyer Near Me

It is challenging dealing with juvenile delinquency as a parent or guardian. It becomes more stressful when you have to deal with probation violations. Besides, the legal process requires the best legal minds to help you navigate through it. Hiring a criminal defense attorney to handle your juvenile’s criminal defense should be your first step. Our team at Orange County Criminal Lawyer is ready to handle your case. We tailor our efforts to ensure the best outcome. Contact us at 714-262-4833 for a case assessment.