Understanding Juvenile Probation In California

Juveniles, or youths up to age 18, who commit crimes may be brought into the juvenile court system where their cases are adjudicated and dispositions (sentencing) ordered by the court if found in violation of the law unless charges are deferred.

Dispositions for juveniles generally include placement in a foster home; community service;  payment of a fine or restitution to victims; commitment to a ranch, juvenile hall or camp; commitment to the DJJ or Department of Juvenile Justice and/or probation.

Juvenile probation is varied. If a child becomes a ward of the court, then the court has authority and jurisdiction over the youth and may remove the child from the home if in its judgment there are circumstances that warrant it.

Probation is granted to about half of all juvenile offenders who come into the system. This requires that probation officers be involved in all phases of a juvenile matter. Courts depend heavily on a probation officer’s assessment and recommendations regarding programs and other dispositions.

The Role of the Probation Department During a Juvenile Case

Probation officers play a key role in a juvenile case from arrest to disposition.

Arrest Phase

If the juvenile has committed a serious offense, then the arresting officer will take the youth to juvenile hall to be interviewed by a probation officer. The options for the probation officer following the interview are:

  • Send the juvenile home with a diversion program. This is a matter between the probation officer, youth and family only and no petition is filed.
  • Send the juvenile home or other suitable placement with an court date before the juvenile court judge.
  • Detain the juvenile at the facility and have a judge determine within 48 hours (weekends do not count) if the youth should remain in detention.

Note: Under SB 190 which went into effect on January 1, of 2018 there are now limits on solitary confinement for juveniles. Juveniles cannot be held in room confinement for more than 4 hours except during an emergency. Additionally staff must use less restrictive measures first unless doing so would pose a threat to other juveniles in the facility or staff. Solitary confiement cannot be used if it will compromise the mental or physical health of the juvenile. This change in the law will not apply to minors in court holding facilities or adult facilities.

Adjudication Phase

A probation officer can make recommendations to the prosecutor’s office on whether to file a petition for adjudication or whether the juvenile is fit to be tried within the juvenile system or be referred to adult court.

Any 707b case requires filing by the prosecution. For other offenses, the probation officer will consider certain factors in whether to recommend filing:

  • If the offense involved violence or the threat of physical violence against another person
  • If the youth is experiencing serious problems in school, family or within the community
  • The attitudes of the youth and family
  • If the conduct in question is disputed and if proven that court disposition is preferred
  • The age, maturity and capabilities of the youth
Disposition Phase

When a juvenile is sentenced and placed on probation, a probation officer is assigned to him or her who may or may not be the one who did the initial intake and made a recommendation on filing a petition. If formal probation is imposed, the youth must meet with the probation officer on a weekly or bi-monthly basis or whenever the officer deems appropriate. If informal, the probation officer may only call on the juvenile or meet infrequently with the youth and family.

The probation officer is responsible for monitoring the juvenile and assisting the youth in attending all required programs and ensuring that other terms and conditions are met. The youth’s parents or guardian are involved as well and are required to report any violations to the probation officer.

When placed on probation, the court or probation office will impose certain terms and conditions on the juvenile depending on the severity of the offense and the youth’s record and history within the family and community. Commonly imposed terms and conditions include:

  •  Attending school with no truancy or unexcused absences
  • Participation in a drug and alcohol program, anger management or other program selected by the probation department
  •  Submission to random drug and alcohol testing
  • Abiding by a curfew
  • Making restitution to a victim or county for property damage
  • Removing grafitti
  • Being banned from wearing gang colors or associating with known gang members or certain other people
  • Staying away from the victim
  • Being on electronic monitoring and restricting movement
Drug Testing

Regarding drug testing during probation, the probation department will have the juvenile submit a urine sample. Drugs such as cocaine, marijuana, heroin, methamphetamine, ecstasy, angel dust and LSD may be the subject of the test. It helps to know what the juvenile’s drug or drugs of choice have been so that these drugs may be flagged for testing.

drug recognition expert may be used to determine the category of possible drugs that have been ingested or administered. Signs of drug use include:

  • Eye changes such as dilation, constriction, reaction to light
  • Injection sites or needle marks
  • Performance on coordination tests
  • Movements indicating muscle rigidity

If any of these signs or others are noted, then testing for a certain category of drugs may be done.

Types Of Juvenile Probation

Juveniles are subject to a number of different types of probation found in the state statutes under the Welfare and Institutions Code (WIC):

WIC 626(b) Informal Diversion

Under this provision, a police officer may just refer the youth to an informal diversion program. No charges are ever filed so the court never intervenes. The service agency handling the matter may have the juvenile appear before a teen court of his/her own peers or have the offender and victim meet to resolve the matter1.

WIC 654 - Informal Probation (non-wardship)

This is a diversion program that is entirely under the authority of the juvenile probation department without court intervention or the necessity to report to the court. This is also called voluntary probation. In these cases, the prosecution has not filed a formal petition with the court. The youth remains in the home and is on probation for 6-months. Though it may be up to one year from the date the offense was committed2.

The youth could have committed a felony and still qualify so long as the juvenile has not previously been on probation under WIC 654.

WIC 654.2 - Informal Probation

Similar to WIC 654, this type of probation is, however, under the authority of the juvenile court following the filing of a formal petition by the prosecutor’s office. In lieu of sentencing, the petition is on hold for 6-months while the youth participates in a diversion program with the juvenile probation department.

The youth must successfully complete the program before all charges are dismissed or face sentencing for the charges that prompted the petition3.

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

Under this provision, the juvenile admits to a misdemeanor violation but the court has placed the youth under probation for 6-months under the authority of the probation department that may be extended if the juvenile has not completed all the terms and conditions imposed. The youth is not a ward of the court under this provision unless he or she fails to complete or abide by the terms of probation4.

WIC 725(b) - Wardship Probation

The youth is determined a ward of the court that retains authority and jurisdiction over the juvenile5. Probation is only 6-months with certain terms and conditions to be followed

WIC 727 - Wardship Probation

The youth is a ward of the court, was deemed to have violated the law, and is under the court’s jurisdiction and not the probation department. The youth’s supervision is administered by the court only and the juvenile must abide by whatever terms and conditions are imposed by the court.

WIC 790 - Deferred Entry of Judgment Probation

If the youth commits a felony which is not serious and the youth meets certain criteria, then the entry of judgment is deferred and the youth placed on probation. There are strict criteria for this form of probation:

  1. The youth is at least 14 years of age at the time of the hearing6.
  2. The juvenile has not previously been declared a ward of the court for the commision of a felony offense7.
  3. The offense is not a 707b offense8.
  4. The juvenile has not been sentenced to the DJJ or Department of Juvenile Justice (previously the CYA)9.
  5. The juvenile has never had probation revoked in previous cases before the court10.
  6. The youth is eligible for probation under Penal Code Section 1203.6 ((Welfare And Institutions Code 790(a)(6): California Law).
  7. The offense charged is not rape, sodomy, oral copulation, or an act of sexual penetration specified in Section 289 of the Penal Code when the victim was prevented from resisting due to being rendered unconscious by any intoxicating, anesthetizing, or controlled substance, or when the victim was at the time incapable, because of mental disorder or developmental or physical disability, of giving consent, and that was known or reasonably should have been known to the minor at the time of the offense11.

A 707b offense includes a long list of serious criminal offenses including but not limited to:

  • Murder
  • Attempted murder
  • Arson
  • Rape with force
  • Other forcible sex offenses
  • Kidnapping with bodily harm or for robbery or ransom
  • Assault with a firearm or by other means likely to cause great bodily harm
  • Armed carjacking
  • Certain other violent felonies
  • Sexual assault
WIC 602 - Wardship Probation

This provision is applicable if the court found the juvenile to have violated the law and has placed the youth under formal probation. As a ward of the court, the juvenile’s supervision  is under its authority until age 21 but if committed to the DJJ, then up to the age of 24.

The Effect of a Probation Violation on an Existing Case

Any time a person on probation violates a term or condition, the court can terminate probation following a VOP or violation of probation hearing. At the hearing, a judge determines if you violated a term or condition by the standard of preponderance of the evidence.

If it is a minor violation such as breaking curfew, the court may not violate you or it may change the terms but allow you to remain on probation.

The consequences for violating probation may consist of any of the following:

  • Revoke probation and go forward with the petition if a 654 probation
  • If a 725 or 790 deferred probation matter, the court can revoke probation and declare the juvenile a ward of the court. The youth can be on HOP or “home on probation.” If a non-wardship matter, the youth is only entitled to a hearing based on a report provided by the probation department regarding a disposition. If the court wishes to remove the child from the home, the youth is entitled to a disposition hearing and the court will consider any evidence that indicates that remaining in the home is to the child’s benefit.

If the juvenile is already a ward of the court and on HOP, the prosecutor may file a 777 Petition12 to revoke probation. The probation department prepares a report outlining how well or poorly the youth has done in abiding by the terms and conditions of probation. The youth may be represented by an attorney at this hearing, or any other phase, and present evidence in the youth’s behalf.

  • A warning from the probation department or court
  • An order to attend other or additional programs
  • Perform community service
  • Wear an ankle bracelet for electronic monitoring
  • Attend in-patient alcohol or drug program
  • Confinement to juvenile hall
  • Referral to a camp or ranch program or group home
Related Articles You May Be Interested In:

Footnotes

  1. Welfare And Institutions Code 626(b) – Deliver or refer the minor to a public or private agency with which the city or county has an agreement or plan to provide shelter care, counseling, or diversion services to minors so delivered. A placement of a child in a community care facility as specified in Section 1530.8 of the Health and Safety Code shall be made in accordance with Section 319.2 or 319.3, as applicable, and with paragraph (8) or (9) of subdivision (e) of Section 361.2, as applicable. []
  2. Welfare And Institutions Code 654 -In any case in which a probation officer, after investigation of an application for a petition or any other investigation he or she is authorized to make concludes that a minor is within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court or will probably soon be within that jurisdiction, the probation officer may, in lieu of filing a petition to declare a minor a dependent child of the court or a minor or a ward of the court under Section 601 or requesting that a petition be filed by the prosecuting attorney to declare a minor a ward of the court under subdivision (e) of Section 601.3 or Section 602 and with consent of the minor and the minor’s parent or guardian, delineate specific programs of supervision for the minor, for not to exceed six months, and attempt thereby to adjust the situation which brings the minor within the jurisdiction of the court or creates the probability that the minor will soon be within that jurisdiction. Nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent the probation officer from filing a petition or requesting the prosecuting attorney to file a petition at any time within the six-month period or a 90-day period thereafter. If the probation officer determines that the minor has not involved himself or herself in the specific programs within 60 days, the probation officer shall immediately file a petition or request that a petition be filed by the prosecuting attorney. However, when in the judgment of the probation officer the interest of the minor and the community can be protected, the probation officer shall make a diligent effort to proceed under this section. The program of supervision of the minor undertaken pursuant to this section may call for the minor to obtain care and treatment for the misuse of or addiction to controlled substances from a county mental health service or other appropriate community agency. The program of supervision shall require the parents or guardians of the minor to participate with the minor in counseling or education programs, including, but not limited to, parent education and parenting programs operated by community colleges, school districts, or other appropriate agencies designated by the court if the program of supervision is pursuant to the procedure prescribed in Section 654.2. []
  3. Welfare And Institutions Code 654.2(a) - If a petition has been filed by the prosecuting attorney to declare a minor a ward of the court under Section 602 , the court may, without adjudging the minor a ward of the court and with the consent of the minor and the minor’s parents or guardian, continue any hearing on a petition for six months and order the minor to participate in a program of supervision as set forth in Section 654 .  If the probation officer recommends additional time to enable the minor to complete the program, the court at its discretion may order an extension.  Fifteen days prior to the final conclusion of the program of supervision undertaken pursuant to this section, the probation officer shall submit to the court a followup report of the minor’s participation in the program.  The minor and the minor’s parents or guardian shall be ordered to appear at the conclusion of the six-month period and at the conclusion of each additional three-month period.  If the minor successfully completes the program of supervision, the court shall order the petition be dismissed.  If the minor has not successfully completed the program of supervision, proceedings on the petition shall proceed no later than 12 months from the date the petition was filed. (b) If the minor is eligible for Section 654 supervision, and the probation officer believes the minor would benefit from a program of supervision pursuant to this section, the probation officer may, in referring the affidavit described in Section 653.5 to the prosecuting attorney, recommend informal supervision as provided in this section. California Law []
  4. Welfare And Institutions Code 725(a) – If the court has found that the minor is a person described by Section 601 or 602, by reason of the commission of an offense other than any of the offenses set forth in Section 654.3, it may, without adjudging the minor a ward of the court, place the minor on probation, under the supervision of the probation officer, for a period not to exceed six months. The minor’s probation shall include the conditions required in Section 729.2 except in any case in which the court makes a finding and states on the record its reasons that any of those conditions would be inappropriate. If the offense involved the unlawful possession, use, or furnishing of a controlled substance, as defined in Chapter 2 (commencing with Section 11053) of Division 10 of the Health and Safety Code, a violation of subdivision (f) of Section 647 of the Penal Code, or a violation of Section 25662 of the Business and Professions Code, the minor’s probation shall include the conditions required by Section 729.10. If the minor fails to comply with the conditions of probation imposed, the court may order and adjudge the minor to be a ward of the court. []
  5. Welfare And Institutions Code 725(b) – If the court has found that the minor is a person described by Section 601 or 602, it may order and adjudge the minor to be a ward of the court. []
  6. Welfare And Institutions Code 790(a)(5), California Law []
  7. Welfare And Institutions Code 790(a)(1), California Law []
  8. Welfare And Institutions Code 790(a)(2): California Law []
  9. Welfare And Institutions Code 790(a)(3), California Law []
  10. Welfare And Institutions Code 790(a)(4): California Law []
  11. Welfare And Institutions Code 790(a)(7 []
  12. Welfare And Institutions Code 777 – An order changing or modifying a previous order by removing a minor from the physical custody of a parent, guardian, relative, or friend and directing placement in a foster home, or commitment to a private institution or commitment to a county institution, or an order changing or modifying a previous order by directing commitment to the Youth Authority shall be made only after a noticed hearing. (a) The notice shall be made as follows: (1) By the probation officer where a minor has been declared a ward of the court or a probationer under Section 601 in the original matter and shall contain a concise statement of facts sufficient to support the conclusion that the minor has violated an order of the court. (2) By the probation officer or the prosecuting attorney if the minor is a court ward or probationer under Section 602 in the original matter and the notice alleges a violation of a condition of probation not amounting to a crime. The notice shall contain a concise statement of facts sufficient to support this conclusion. (3) Where the probation officer is the petitioner pursuant to paragraph (2), prior to the attachment of jeopardy at the time of the jurisdictional hearing the prosecuting attorney may make a motion to dismiss the notice and may request that the matter be referred to the probation officer for whatever action the prosecuting or probation officer may deem appropriate. (b) Upon the filing of such notice, the clerk of the juvenile court shall immediately set the same for hearing within 30 days, and the probation officer shall cause notice of it to be served upon the persons and in the manner prescribed by Sections 658 and 660 . (c) The facts alleged in the notice shall be established by a preponderance of the evidence at a hearing to change, modify, or set aside a previous order. The court may admit and consider reliable hearsay evidence at the hearing to the same extent that such evidence would be admissible in an adult probation revocation hearing, pursuant to the decision in People v. Brown, 215 Cal.App.3d (1989) and any other relevant provision of law. (d) An order for the detention of the minor pending adjudication of the alleged violation may be made only after a hearing is conducted pursuant to Article 15 (commencing with Section 625 ) of this chapter. Findlaw []

Related Posts