In California, a ward of the court is a judge's decision for the delinquency court to assume the treatment and the general control of the juvenile offender. If the juvenile court finds your child guilty of committing a serious felony offense, the juvenile court may make the child a ward of the court. After the child becomes a ward of the court, the delinquency court may prevent his/her parent from taking full control of the child.

However, the juvenile court has several options for the wardship. The judge may decide to place the child under the Division Of Juvenile Justice or probation. The child may face hectic penalties like payment for fines and restitution fees. Thus, once your child commits a felony offense and faces conviction, you need to work with a criminal defense attorney to fight your child's charges and let him/her not become a ward of the court.

At Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, our attorneys are familiar with the juvenile justice system. If your child faces a conviction in Orange County, CA, call our lawyers for representation and the best outcome of the case.

Understanding Ward Of The Court In California

Before your child becomes a ward of the court, the juvenile court considers various factors, like the severity of the crime, the circumstances surrounding the case, and the maturity level of the offender. Also, the court considers the child's past delinquency records. Your child may remain under detention before the court stops the wardship. Once the minor becomes a ward of the court, he/she becomes subject to unsupervised or supervised probation.

Sometimes, the court puts the junior offender under probation, controlled by probation officers. The offenses which make the juvenile court place the junior offender on supervised probation are burglary and possessing controlled substances. Alternatively, the juvenile court may place your child under probation under no supervision. However, the delinquency court will place reasonable and appropriate conditions against the child.

Understanding how your child becomes a ward of the court and its effects may be challenging until your child becomes a subject to the court. As a parent/guardian, if your child becomes a ward of the court, you should seek legal help from a competent juvenile attorney. The attorney will take you through the entire process and show you the possible alternatives to the wardship.

Requirements Of Juvenile Probation

When the court places your child under probation, he/she has to follow certain requirements of probation. While the court is determining the terms and the condition of the probation, it must ensure the junior offender's crime relates to the conditions. The junior offender should observe the following requirements:

  • The child should adhere to driving restrictions.

  • Your child should honor the provisions of the curfew.

  • The law restricts a minor offender from participating in gang-related actions.

  • The juvenile court may order the minor offender to participate in a guidance and counseling program.

  • Wearing a monitoring device.

  • The law will limit the child from associating with a particular group of people.

  • The child should attend school without violating the state's truancy laws.

The state's laws require every child to attend school. The law applies to children aged between 6 to 18 years. The children must attend schools in their district despite being in elementary, middle, or high school. Under the state's law, the child is chronically truant when they miss more than ten percent of their school annually.

But, the state's law allows several truancy excuses. For example, the court could excuse the child from going to school when:

  • The child is sick.

  • The juvenile has dental, vision, or medical treatment appointments.

  • The health officer has ordered a quarantine.

  • The junior offender requires time to visit their family members for funeral activities.

  • The minor wants to attend a naturalization program for him/her to become a US citizen.

  • The child wants to spend their time with their family member participating in military duty.

  • The juvenile is set to serve on a precinct board at times of election.

  • The junior offender was absent from school because of justifiable reasons approved by the school.

If the juvenile has ample evidence to be absent from school, the court will not label him/her as a truant.

Rights of The Minor During The Wardship

According to California laws, a minor is entitled to certain rights, even when under probation. Although the court imposes several probation requirements, the terms and conditions of the probation should be reasonable. The terms and the conditions should focus on rehabilitating and reforming the minor. Any probation requirement the court imposes should:

  • Relate to noncriminal conduct.

  • Be related to the minor's offense.

  • Ban or forbid actions that could result in future criminal behaviors.

Other rights the minor enjoys after becoming a ward of the court include:

  • Internet and computer access - When the minor offender is far from home, he/she has the right to internet and computer access. If the probation officer denies the child access to a computer or internet, the officer breaks the law.

  • Family visitation - When the probation department places your child in a foster home, the law allows their parents/guardians to visit them.

  • Gender identity - As the probation officer places the minor in an external facility, he/she must place them according to their gender.

Placing a Minor Far From Home

After your child becomes a ward of the court, the juvenile court may place them in a suitable placement far from home. But the court only takes the child far from home when it's evident home probation was unsuccessful. Again, the juvenile court will take the minor away from their home if it's in their best interest to remain far from their guardian/parents. In California, the following are the possible placement options:

  • Private institutions

  • Foster homes

  • Relative's homes

  • Public agencies

Placement In a Foster Home

Placement in foster care involves placing the minor in a facility outside his/her home. Placing the junior offender in foster care entails having them stay with their extended family or relatives. Also, the juvenile court may allow the junior offender to stay with recognized non-relatives. Sometimes, the juvenile court may put the minor under a licensed care facility. Additional placement options involve residential group homes and therapeutic programs.

After your child becomes a court ward, the court assumes critical responsibility concerning his/her custody. The court decides on the child's care, conduct, support, maintenance, and supervision. Concerning the health of the youth, the court makes a crucial decision on medical treatment. Before the court places the junior offenders under foster care, the judge considers the following factors:

  • The junior offender needs further monitoring.

  • The child's parents don't provide the proper education, guidance, and training.

  • The minor's best interest is to take them far from their parent's physical custody.

  • The junior offender was under probation under their guardian's homes but did not show improvement.

After the court orders the junior offender to move away from their guardian/parent, the probation officer recommends an optional area for the child's stay. When choosing the best place, the probation expert considers the child’s and the parent's recommendation. In Orange County, the probation department selects a suitable place.

While choosing the place, the probation officer should select an area with a home setting where the minor feels home. The places should meet minors' needs and be less restrictive. To choose the best placement places, the court conducts a hearing. The juvenile judge evaluates the minor's results on a social study performed by his/her probation expert. The court also considers evidence like the victim's impact statement.

Alternatively, the child and their guardians provide relevant evidence or any material at the hearing. Also, the probation expert recommends the child's placement. The juvenile court may decide to reject the recommendation.

Other Alternatives Of Placement For The Ward

Besides foster home placement, the juvenile court may put them under their extended family members. The court prefers placing the minor with relatives than placing them in different facilities. Once the court puts the child with family members, the court orders the family members to act like his/her guardians. So, the relative is held liable for making any decision that requires legal consent. The decisions may include the child's medical care and education.

If it's impossible to put the juvenile under relative supervision, the court places the minor in a foster institution or certified home treatment. Sometimes the juvenile delinquency court may put the juvenile outside the state.

After rehabilitating the minor, the court returns him/her to their family. Note that the period of placement varies from one child to the other. When determining the placement time, the court considers the following factors:

  • If the offender will pose risks to the community.

  • The minors and their family needs.

  • Whether the child has completed treatment programs.

Ward of The Court Confinement

Once the junior offender fails to perform well under the probation placement, the juvenile court may opt to place them under a camp, forest ranch, or juvenile hall. Placing the minor in the facilities is physical confinement. Since punishing the minor isn't the main agenda in a juvenile system, the juvenile court may opt for the confinement of the junior offender.

According to the law, confinement is compulsory for violent offenses involving using a gun. If the offenders have a severe mental disorder or condition, the juvenile court may put them in an optional facility. Primarily, the juvenile delinquency court places the child in a facility within their county. The confinement period varies depending on the crime in question.

Duties Of a Probation Officer In California

The probation expert informs the juvenile judge about the progress of the offender. The juvenile judge receives the report during the child's disposition hearing. In the report, the probation officers report about:

  • The child's arrest record.

  • The minor school report.

  • Anything the officer feels is suitable for the offender.

  • Any statement obtained from the alleged victims.

  • Statements from the child's family or any other people who know the junior offender.

The probation department enforces the conditions and the terms of the probation by ensuring the minor offenders adhere to them. Also, the probation expert assists the child when enrolling in school and community programs like job training and counseling. The law requires the officer to meet your child monthly. Again, the probation experts place the child in a camp, foster home, relative's home, or institution. As a parent, if your child is in another home, you should support them and assist the child in understanding how to become responsible.

Payment of Fees, Restitution, and Fines

Sometimes, the juvenile court may issue severe penalties on the offender. The penalties may be similar to adult offenses. However, the court should determine if the child will pay the fines. The fine isn’t part of the restitution fee.

Restitution is the money paid to the court to compensate for the economic losses faced because of the juvenile's behavior. So, if your child causes damage to public property, the court will require them to the government agencies responsible for repairing the damaged properties. The minor pay restitution for:

  • Medical costs suffered by the alleged victim when is seeking treatment

  • Stolen or damaged properties

  • Lost wages by the alleged victim for the suffered injuries

  • Mental health losses when the victim sustained mental illness

Besides the restitution fee, the law allows the child to face restitution hearings. Again, the restitution amount varies based on the circumstance and the severity of the crime. Once the court finds the child guilty of a felony case, the minor pays up to $1,000 restitution fees. Alternatively, if the child is guilty of committing a misdemeanor felony, the restitution fee is up to $100.

Parental Financial Responsibility

Remember, as we mentioned above, the court will require your child to pay for the economic losses suffered, among other fines. However, the minor may be unable to pay due to inadequate finances. Therefore, his/her parents/guardian will be responsible for paying the restitution and fines. The court considers the parent's financial capabilities before imposing the fines. If the parents seek to escape paying the restitution and fines, then they should prove the following before the court:

  • They didn’t appear in the court at the time of the hearing and other proceedings resulting in fines, restitution, and fees.

  • Before the delinquency court sustained a petition, the court didn't notice the parents.

  • The parents cannot pay.

Division of Juvenile Justice

The department deals with juveniles who commit serious and violent felonies. As the court places the junior offender in the Division of Juvenile Justice, it should consider the community's safety and protection. Again, the court must consider the interests of the junior offender. Before the court commits the minor to the probation facility, it should have evidence showing the junior offender would benefit from the placement. The juvenile judge should also have evidence that the less restrictive options won't benefit the minor.

In California, the juvenile delinquency court only sends the child to the Division of Juvenile Justice facility if he/she becomes a ward. Again, the delinquency court may place the child under the Division of Juvenile Justice when they commit crimes outlined in the WIC. When the court sends your child to the facilities, they risk facing prolonged commitments. Before the court places the child under the Division of Juvenile Justice, it must consider the following:

  • The age of the offender

  • The public's safety and protection

  • The benefits of addressing the injuries of the victim

  • Individual risk needs

  • Education needs of the minor

  • The interests of the junior offender

Hearings Conducted In a Juvenile Delinquency Court

The California juvenile courts were established for juvenile offenders. The courts focus on rehabilitating junior offenders below the age of 18 years. The offenders receive programs and treatment for him/her to become responsible and reproductive members of society. Your child may remain in detention for up to five days, depending on their day of arrest, before they file a petition. While at the detention center, the probation expert may decide to:

  • Let the junior offender remain under control or go home

  • Put the minor in a detention center

  • Let the child go back and promise the court they will appear according to the court dates.

  • The probation expert may order the juvenile to remain in the detention center.

The juvenile court has various hearings a minor may attend, including:

Detention Hearing

After the arrest of your child, the court first holds a detention hearing. During a detention hearing, you have the right to work with an attorney with many years of experience to help you during your child's trial. While at the hearing, the juvenile court judge may decide your child goes home if there isn't concrete evidence they are involved in criminal activities.

When the prosecution team has insufficient evidence to support the minor involved in the criminal activities, the child's attorney may ask for a hearing within three days. In California, the hearing aims at determining whether the child will stay in detention or go home. During the hearing, the court reads a petition, and then the minor admits or denies having engaged in the crime. After the reading of the petition, the juvenile judge may release the minor, place them in a holding facility, or on home care since children are not entitled to bail at the juvenile court.

Pretrial Conference

The pretrial conference involves trying to solve issues without facing trial for the minor. The case moves to a transfer hearing If the pretrial hearing fails to settle the case.

Transfer Hearing

Transfer hearing occurs to determine if the child will face trial as a grown-up or juvenile. When the judge decides the minor is not eligible for trial in juvenile court, the trial is held in adult criminal court.

Jurisdiction Hearing

The hearing occurs for the judge to decide whether the child is guilty of committing the alleged crime or not. At many times, the minor admits to having committed an offense. It occurs in the juvenile court, whereby the juvenile court judge examines the presented evidence and uses similar rules to adult hearings. Hiring a competent attorney will guide your child on how to conduct themselves during the court hearing.

Before the court admits the minor committed the crime, they advise your child on their waives and rights, including the right to a case, trial, self-incrimination, and the right to question the witness. Sometimes, the court may ask your child to complete a notice showing he/she understands their rights. If the minor commits a felony crime and admits it, the court places them in a DEJ program. When the minor completes the program, a disposition hearing is conducted.

Disposition Hearing

The hearing occurs when the juvenile court finds your child guilty. The hearing aims at determining the kind of punishment the judge should issue against the minor. At the court, the juvenile judge declares your child a court’s. The judge may declare the following:

  • The minor offender to remain home under a six months probation supervision

  • The court conducts a review hearing to assess the progress of the child in their new placement.

  • The court places the child on probation then sends them to a camp.

  • The juvenile delinquency court places the child on probation, then stays in a relative's home, an institution, or a foster home.

It might be challenging to go through the above juvenile processes, especially when it's the first offense. Thus as a parent, don't hesitate to hire a criminal defense attorney for your child. The attorney will help the child and assist you as a parent in making the right decision that won't affect your child's future. Again, the attorney will examine the case and guide the best option that suits your child's case.

Find A Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

Law enforcement officers may arrest your child for committing a California violent felony. The child may become a ward of the court, which could affect both the present and future life of the child. So, if the police arrest your child for committing a criminal offense in Orange County, you need to seek legal help from an experienced lawyer.

The defense attorney should be competent to build a strong defense to convince the juvenile court that your child is innocent or to reduce the charges. At Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, we have reputable lawyers with in-depth experience representing juvenile offenders. The lawyers will build a strong defense to help secure the release of your child. Call us at 714-740-7848 and speak with one of our defense attorneys.