5 Excellent Sentencing Options In Juvenile Cases

Juveniles who have committed a criminal or status offense and whose petitions filed by the probation department or prosecutor have been sustained by the court are subject to a number of different sentencing or disposition options. Although those under the age of 18 are not incarcerated in a jail or prison, some are committed to camps or other facilities where their freedom is restricted.

Depending on the severity or gravity of the offense, the prior record of the juvenile offender1, whether serious bodily harm was inflicted on the victim, the victim’s status and other factors, the possible dispositions include the following 4:

Informal Juvenile Probation

Informal probation under Welfare and Institutions Code Section 554 or 725, a petition is filed but the juvenile could receive informal probation2. This may entail a period of supervision for no more than 6-months where the minor enters a drug or alcohol treatment program along with the participation of the parent or parents.

Otherwise, the minor can be placed under the supervision of the probation department for 6-months and require that the minor attend a school program, have the parents and child participate in a counseling or education program and be subject to a curfew between the hours of 10:00 pm to 6:00 am unless accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

The child can also be subject to drug testing and/or making restitution to a victim. A parent can be required to make restitution if the child is not working or otherwise unable to make the payments.

This disposition is usually for non-violent first offenses including vandalism or trespass charges. Once the period of probation has passed and the child has not re-offended and has met all other terms of the probation, the petition is dismissed.

Diversion

Before a petition is filed, the parties can agree to a diversion disposition pursuant to W&I Section 654. The probation office can formulate a plan for the child that includes the participation of the parents in a treatment or education program for up to 6-months3. The parents may have to attend separate parenting programs within the community as well.

A child under this section could be sheltered within a community facility for up to 90 days. If the child successfully completes the program, no petition will be filed and the matter is dropped or dismissed. This does not prevent the probation department from filing a formal petition within the 6-month period or for 90-days after the 6-months has expired if the minor has failed to abide by the terms of the program.

Deferred Entry Of Judgement

A DEJ disposition requires the juvenile to admit to the allegations contained in the petition though it allows its dismissal should the juvenile complete a court-mandated program. These are for low-level offenses only and do not include violent felonies, sexual assaults, crimes involving firearms or gang-related crimes or any other of the 30 crimes listed under W&I Section 707(b).

Minors with a truancy history or first-offenders who are arrested for drug possession or sale are eligible for DEJ. The minor cannot have been previously been declared a ward of the court for commission of a felony, has never had probation revoked in the past and is at least 14 years of age.

The probation department can have the charge or charges dismissed no earlier than 12-months nor later than 36-months from the date of referral to the program.  While under a DEJ disposition, the minor is subject to warrantless searches of his/her person, residence or property.

The court may or may not impose a condition that the minor also be subject to random drug or alcohol testing though  a curfew will be imposed along with mandatory school attendance. Restitution and other terms of probation may also be required by the court.

Formal Juvenile Probation

Once declared a ward of the court, the minor can be sentenced to formal probation at home, at the home of a relative, group home or at a camp if the minor requires a higher degree of structure. If the minor is at a group home or other residence, the court can require any number of terms that the minor must comply with during the probationary period, including:

  • Curfew restriction
  • Mandatory school attendance
  • Community service
  • Avoiding association with certain persons
  • Alcohol or drug counseling
  • Restitution

If the minor is to be sent to a camp, there are a number of different types that the juvenile can attend. There are wilderness camps where forestry and fire-fighting skills are taught, military-style ones and those where treatment and counseling are emphasized.

California Division Of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) Commitment

The DJJ (formerly the California Youth Authority or CYA) disposition is for those minors who have committed serious felonies or any of the crimes enumerated in W&I Section 707(b), or for an offense for which sex offender registration is required. In certain circumstances if the child was at least 14 years of age and had been arrested for a 707(b) crime, the prosecution was able to directly file charges in adult court prior to the passage of proposition 57 and have the minor tried in adult court and be sentenced accordingly if found guilty.

Additional Resources On The Juvenile Court System

Next Steps If You Need Help

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If you want to understand why its important to have an attorney represent you.

If you would like to discuss a pending case with an attorney contact the Aizman Law Firm at 818-351-9555 for a free confidential consultation.

Footnotes

  1. California Welfare & Institutions Code Section 725.5- In determining the judgment and order to be made in any case in which the minor is found to be a person described in Section 602, the court shall consider, in addition to other relevant and material evidence, (1) the age of the minor, (2) the circumstances and gravity of the offense committed by the minor, and (3) the minor’s previous delinquent history. []
  2. Welfare & Institutions Code 725(a) – After receiving and considering the evidence on the proper disposition of the case, the court may enter judgment as follows: (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. []
  3. Welfare & 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 that brings the minor within the jurisdiction of the court or creates the probability that the minor will soon be within that jurisdiction. This section does not 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. []

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