Every year, thousands of juveniles are accused of engaging in crimes such as theft, underage drinking, driving under the influence of alcohol, burglary, and sex crimes. While the minor should comply with laws, they are not prosecuted the same way as adult defendants. The juvenile justice system focuses on rehabilitation. One of the rehabilitation methods used is probation that comes with terms and conditions. If your child has been arrested for a crime, you should hire an attorney who understands California criminal law and juvenile probation. At Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, our focus is beyond closing the case as soon as possible. We dedicate attention, energy, and time to ensuring our legal representation matches your needs and expectations.

The Goal of Juvenile Probation

Minors make mistakes, and sometimes the wrongdoings are so severe that they find themselves facing criminal charges. One of the case outcomes is the minor receiving probation.

Probation for a juvenile might be a voluntary agreement between the child and state officials aiming to avoid formal charges. The court might also impose probation once the minor has been adjudicated delinquent.

The purpose of probation for minor offenders differs from probation for adult defendants. The court enforces probation on adults as punishment for the crime and limits their freedom to stop them from committing another crime.

Juvenile probation achieves the rehabilitation goal by limiting the child’s liberty and offering them personalized services based on the alleged crime and the child’s needs.

Different Types of Juvenile Probation

Minor offenders face various forms of probation under the Welfare and Institutions statutes, including:

Informal Diversion

Per WIC 626b, a cop might refer your child to an informal diversion program. Since there are no charges filed, the court does not intervene. The law enforcement agency handling the case might have your child appear before a teen court of their peers or have the alleged victim and the minor resolve the issue.

Informal Probation (Non-Wardship)

Under the WIC 654, this diversion program is under the probation department’s authority without the need to report to juvenile court or court intervention. It is also referred to as voluntary probation.

Here the prosecution hasn’t brought a petition to the court, and the child remains in your home. The duration of the probation is six months. However, it might be a year from the date your child committed the alleged crime.

Your child might have committed a California felony and be eligible provided they have never been on probation under Welfare and Institutions Code 654.

Informal Probation (WIC 654.2)

Unlike WIC 654, this form of probation is under the court authority after the prosecutor files a formal petition. In place of sentencing, the petition is on hold for six months while your child engages in a diversion program with a probation officer.

Your baby must complete the program before the criminal charges are dismissed or face sentencing for their crime.

Wardship Probation

WIC 602 applies if the court found the minor to have broken the laws and placed them under formal probation. As a ward, the child’s supervision is under the court’s authority until the minor turns 21. And if committed to the Division of Juvenile Justice, the court will supervise your child until they turn 24.

Wardship Probation (WIC 725b)

The court takes control over the juvenile. Typically, the probation takes a maximum of six months, and your child should comply with all the conditions imposed.

Deferred Entry of Judgement (WIC 725a)

Your child admits to violating a misdemeanor, but the court places them on probation for six months. The court could extend the probation duration if your child fails to meet the terms. Your child isn’t a ward unless they fail to comply with the probation’s terms.

WIC 727

Under this provision, the juvenile is a ward, broke the law, and is under the court’s jurisdiction. The court administers the supervision, and the child should abide by all terms the court imposes.

Deferred Entry of Judgement Probation (WIC 790)

Suppose your juvenile child commits a California felony that isn’t serious and the child meets strict criteria. In that case, the entry of judgment is deferred, and the youth is placed on juvenile probation. The criteria include:

  • The child is above fourteen during their hearing.
  • The minor hasn’t previously been deemed a ward for committing a felony
  • The crime involved isn’t a Section 707b crime
  • Your baby hasn’t been sentenced to the DJJ
  • The juvenile qualifies for probation per PC 1203.6
  • The minor child has never had probation revoked in any previous court case
  • The alleged crime was not oral copulation, sodomy, rape, or sexual penetration conduct under PC 289 when the juvenile prevented the victim from resisting because:
  1. They were rendered unconscious by controlled substances, anesthetizing, or intoxicating, or
  2. The victim could not give consent due to physical or developmental disability or mental disorder and that the minor knew or ought to have known during the commission of the crime

Probation Officer

Once your minor child is placed on probation, the judge assigns a probation officer who monitors whether the ward is complying with the probation terms and conditions.

Additionally, you are required to report all violations by your child to the officer. In other words, you should collaborate with the probation department to ensure your child follows the probation terms.

Typically, approximately half of minor offenders who go through the juvenile justice system are granted probation. That means the probation officers are involved in different phases of the juvenile case. California courts depend a lot on the probation department’s assessment and recommendation on programs, among other dispositions.

Discussed below are the different roles played by probation officers:

During the Arrest

After your child’s arrest, the arresting police officer will place your minor in the juvenile hall, where the probation officer interviews them. The probation department can do any of the following:

Detain your child at the facility and have the judge decide within forty-eight hours whether the juvenile should remain detained. Please note that weekends don’t count.

Send your child home or any other appropriate placement with a court date before a judge.

Send the child home with a diversion program (the matter is between the child, your family, and the probation officer, and no petition is filed)

Per Senate Bill 190 that became effective on January 1, 2018, there are restrictions on solitary confinement for minors. A juvenile can’t be detained in a room for above four hours unless there is an emergency. 

Moreover, the law enforcement agency should, first, use less limiting measures unless acting so would result in threats to the law enforcers or other minor offenders.

Solitary confinement can’t be applied if it’ll compromise your child’s physical or mental health. It is worth noting that the changes in this law don’t apply to children in adult facilities or court holding facilities.

During Adjudication

The probation officer makes a recommendation on whether:

  • the probation department should bring a petition for adjudication
  • the child is fit to be tried in the California juvenile court or be transferred to the adult court

The prosecution team should file any section 707b criminal case. For other crimes, the probation department will put the following factors into account before determining whether to commend filing:

  • The attitude of your family and your child
  • If the commission of the crime involved threats of violence against somebody else or violence
  • If your child has severe challenges in family, school, or community
  • If the alleged crime is unclear and if established, a disposition is favored
  • Your child’s age, capabilities, and maturity

During Disposition Phase

As previously mentioned, when your child is found guilty, and on probation, the probation officer is allocated to them. It can be the officer who engaged in the initial intake and recommended bringing the petition.

Should formal probation be imposed, the child should meet with the officer regularly. It can be weekly, biweekly, or monthly or when the probation officer finds it suitable. Should it be informal, the officer might only contact your minor or occasionally meet with you or the juvenile.

The officer should monitor the child, ensure the terms are met, and help the child attend all the compulsory programs.

When on juvenile probation, the probation department or court will impose terms on the child depending mainly on:

  • The gravity of the crime committed
  • Your child’s history in the community and family
  • Your child’s criminal record

Some of the terms imposed include:

  • Going to school with unexcused absences or truancy
  • Engagement in anger management, drug, and alcohol program, or any other program the probation officer finds fit
  • Complying with curfew laws between 10:00 pm and 6:00 am unless in the company of an adult custodian guardian, or parent
  • Submitting to random alcohol and drug tests
  • Removing graffiti
  • Paying restitution to the county or alleged victim for asset damage
  • Being on restricted and electronic monitored movement
  • Being prohibited from associating with specific people or gang members or putting on gang colors
  • Refraining from the alleged victim

Drug Test

As far as drug testing during the probation is concerned, the probation officer will request the minor to submit urine samples. Common drugs tested include heroin, methamphetamine, lysergic acid diethylamide, angel dust, ecstasy, marijuana, and cocaine. It assists in identifying the minor’s drug(s) of choice so the drug can be flagged for testing.

A drug professional can determine the class of the drugs that have been administered or ingested. They use signs such as:

  • Eye changes like sensitivity to light, constriction, or dilation
  • Performance on a coordination test
  • Needle marks or injection sites
  • Movements showing muscle inflexibility

If one of these symptoms is noted, then the probation officer might conduct drug testing.

What Takes Place When Your Child Violates Probation Terms and Conditions

A probation term is a court order for a juvenile to engage in or to not engage in a given act. Failure to adhere could result in your child’s arrest and detention. 

The minor will face a Section 777 hearing, and the prosecution has to establish the violation by a preponderance of the evidence.

At times the court might give the child a break. There are also cases where the court might impose harsher conditions.

If your son/daughter fails to complete the imposed condition, they can be declared a ward of the court.

A Ward of the Court

The term means the juvenile court takes control and jurisdiction over the child as if it was their parent. It is known as wardship probation, provided it is imposed under WIC 725.

The following are likely to happen if the court declares wardship:

  • You still retain the custody of your child but with either unsupervised or supervised probation
  • The court might limit your control
  • The court might remove the minor from your custody

If a child is on juvenile probation per WIC 725 without being declared a ward of the court, it’s called non-wardship probation.

Placement in Juvenile Hall

If your child is deemed a ward, the judge might order placement in juvenile hall as a probation condition.

The juvenile court might also remove your son/daughter from home and take them to the juvenile hall if they discover that:

  • You haven’t offered appropriate education and care
  • The minor’s welfare requires removal
  • The minor hasn’t reformed following prior probation in your custody

It is worth noting that juvenile hall placement does not apply in non-wardship probation.

How to Ensure Your Child Prevails in their Probation Violation Hearing

If your child fails to meet any of the probation terms and is now facing an angry probation officer and judge, do not despair. Using the following strategies allow them to win the probation violation hearing, hence staying out of trouble.

Establish that they did not violate any probation condition

During the hearing, the judge determines whether:

  • the minor violated their probation terms, and
  • if they did the next course of action.

Suppose your criminal defense attorney can prove that the California juvenile probation department is misguided and your minor child did not break any condition. In that case, the probation is sustained, and more severe conditions are not imposed.

Fix the Violation that Could be Fixed

Fixing their violation means doing the condition that the court previously ordered your child to do before the probation violation hearing. For instance, if you as the parent owed one thousand and eight hundred dollars in restitution for a motor vehicle destroyed, make sure you pay the money as soon as possible.

Address the Failures

You cannot fix all probation violations. If your child tested positive for cocaine on their routine probation urine test, they can’t go back in time and make their test negative. In this case, encourage the minor to attend an alcohol and drug treatment program and voluntarily submit to drug tests. Let the minor do whatever they have to do to persuade the juvenile court that they are devoted to making their life better, although they messed up.

Make Positive Contributions in the Community

As previously mentioned, the epilogue for the hearing is the court’s decision whether they deem the minor a ward of the court or impose severe conditions. The answer to the decision is simple: Is your community better off with your child or not? If your child is spending their time at school, job, or volunteering in your community, the court might be lenient.

Look for Mentors

The chances of prevailing in the hearing significantly increase when your son/daughter has a person in your community come to the court of law and vouch for them. It can be a religious leader, a founder of a non-profit organization, or an entrepreneur. Let your child surround themselves with these people. Please encourage your child to demonstrate they are responsible.

Can Your Child’s Criminal Record be Dismissed or Sealed Once they Complete their Probation?

Yes, it is possible regardless of whether the minor child has been deemed a ward or not.

After your child completes probation, the juvenile court should order their petition dismissed and all petition records sealed.

To seal juvenile records means the California juvenile court closes the file, so its content does not exist anymore. They aren’t public records, and the state government agencies like law enforcers, probation department, Department of Justice, or juvenile court cannot access them.

Once the court dismisses the petition, all case proceedings and the arrest are considered not to have happened. Your child can reply according to inquiries by educational institutions, landlords, prospective employers, or organizations about the case proceedings and the arrest.

Other benefits of sealing the criminal record include:

  • Prospective employers cannot discriminate against your child for having a sealed record
  • Your child experiences the personal satisfaction of knowing that they have a fresh start in life and their childhood mistakes cannot haunt them.

However, the juvenile court won’t automatically seal a criminal record if any of the below Section 707b crimes was committed when the child was at least fourteen years of age:

  • Murder
  • Robbery
  • Rape with threats of severe bodily injury, violence, or force
  • Sodomy with threats of severe bodily injury, violence, duress, menace, or force
  • Kidnapping intending to engage in robbery
  • Attempted murder
  • Kidnapping causing bodily injury
  • Assault using force likely to result in great bodily injuries
  • Aggravated mayhem
  • Voluntary manslaughter
  • Torture

Constitutional Rights at the Probation Hearing

If your child is accused of a probation violation, they should know of their legal rights to avoid additional penalties. These rights include:

Entitlement to Legal Representation

Under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, the minor has the right to seek assistance from an advocate in any criminal proceeding. And if you cannot afford one, the government should appoint a public defender at no cost.

The attorney’s role cannot be overlooked; after all, it is hard to place a price tag on your child’s future, freedom, and life. While specific responsibilities of a lawyer vary depending on the nature of the violation, significant duties of your competent attorney include:

  • Advise your child of their legal rights and what to expect during the hearing
  • Ensuring your child’s rights aren’t violated during the hearing
  • Investigating evidence and facts presented and cross-examining witnesses

Other rights include:

  • The entitlement to present evidence and witnesses to support the minor’s case
  • The minor is entitled to be heard by a non-biased judge
  • Your child should be advised of the probation violation via a written letter

Frequently Asked Questions on Juvenile Probation

Any experienced juvenile defense attorney will tell you that they have answered the following questions repeatedly.

1.  How Long Will Your Child be On probation?

Several factors determine the length of juvenile probation, including:

  • The severity of the alleged crime
  • Your child’s compliance and progress while on supervision
  • The available custody time for their crime

2.  If Your Child is Placed on Probation or Considered a High-Risk Youth, will they be Referred for Services?

After your child has been referred to the probation department, the probation officer in charge will work with you to develop a case plan that addresses risk factors and behaviors that triggered the involvement with the California juvenile delinquency system. The case plan might include referrals for services like mental health evaluations, follow-up, community service, family therapy, alcohol, and drug abuse counseling, and academic tutoring.

3.  What are Your Financial Obligations during Juvenile Probation?

You should pay fines, fees, and restitution the court imposes.

4.  What Should You Carry During Your Initial Appointment with the Probation Officer?

Remember to carry the juvenile packet presented to you in juvenile court. Moreover, have your baby’s social security card and birth certificate.

5.  Who Can Access My Child Juvenile Probation Records?

Generally, juvenile records are confidential and need a release of information.

6.  Your Child Has been Placed on Probation, What Happens Next?

You should check with the probation department, Juvenile Services offices in your region. If this is the first time your child is facing probation, they should complete an assessment and orientation. The probation officer might also conduct regular school or home visits with the child and meet with you to determine how your child is doing.

Find a Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney

California’s juvenile delinquency system is confusing and complex. Your child might run into lots of challenging decisions and procedures as they navigate the process. To obtain a favorable case outcome, the guidance and advice of a seasoned attorney are paramount. The legal team at Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm understands the intricacies of juvenile probation. When you retain us, we can work diligently to ensure your child goes through the probation period without running into procedural issues. Contact us today at 714-740-7848 to learn more.