When you face criminal charges as a minor, you are subject to provisions under the juvenile justice system. These guidelines extend to your probation terms if the juvenile judge decides to issue probationary orders based on your case facts. Upon learning of the potential charges, you must secure access to an experienced criminal attorney to help you navigate the system.

Your parents can look into various options to ensure you work with a skilled and experienced criminal attorney. As a parent, you want the best for your child, including the assurance that they will receive fair probation terms, so you must partner with an attorney who fully understands the juvenile system.

At Chula Vista Criminal Attorney, you will receive high-quality legal services to ensure your child’s best interests are central to every consideration. Our team has worked on many juvenile probation cases, equipping us with the necessary experience and input in your matter. We are ready to support your minor who faces criminal charges in Chula Vista, California, and allow them fair probation terms.

The Process Leading Up to Juvenile Probation

Any violation of the law attracts consequences, including for persons under the age of eighteen. As a minor, you are accountable for your actions under the juvenile justice system. It was developed to provide more suitable legal processes for minors without exposing them to harsh adult court conditions. Based on this, about half of the cases handled in the juvenile system result in probation for the minor instead of confinement and other serious penalties.

The Arrest Process

The first step in the juvenile justice process involves an arrest, whereby law enforcement takes you into custody for interviews and questioning. At this stage, the probation officer working in the juvenile department is responsible for interviewing you to determine the exact nature of your actions.

This interview stage is important because it forms the foundation for any subsequent legal action against you. Upon listening to your narrative, the probation officer can make several directives based on the information they obtain. For example, they may place you in a diversion program, meaning they will return you home without filing a formal petition against you in juvenile court.

Alternatively, if your case involves significant legal violations, the probation officer can issue you a court date and allow you to go home with a probation judge. With this order, you will remain subject to the court’s determination of your case and may receive probation directives.

Minors involved in serious law violations that may attract felony charges will likely face detention under a probation officer’s orders for up to two days, pending their court arraignment. If your case falls within this category, you will be held accountable in court for adjudication. The procedure is the equivalent of a trial in adult court, and you want to consult your attorney early enough to help prepare your defense.

The Trial (Adjudication) Process

The assigned probation officer will have to determine whether to advance your matter to adjudication, where trial on your case occurs. They will also write a recommendation letter to the prosecutor to handle your case in juvenile court, indicating your fitness to face trial. If any concerns would make the probation officer push for your trial in adult court, they will also indicate them in the letter.

Before presenting your matter to court, the probation officer should unbiasedly assess your conditions to establish whether the trial will be beneficial. The factors for their consideration include the nature of your crime, specifically whether it involved violence. If you participated in violent crimes, the officer would likely classify them as more serious. This increases your chances of adjudication and even a transfer order to adult court.

Your family's and peers' influence on you is also an important consideration for the probation officer, as your environment can determine the success of your case. For example, if your parents and close friends are willing to help you access rehabilitative resources, there would be less urgency to proceed to trial, and probation would be more suitable.

The probation officer will also consider your age and ability to adjust through the trial process when determining whether to move your matter to court. If you seem more likely to benefit from a probation program after the adjudication, they will advocate for it to push for your improvement.

The Disposition Hearing

A disposition hearing is the equivalent of a sentencing hearing in juvenile court. It allows the juvenile judge to issue court directives to you after adjudication. During the disposition hearing, you will learn your case outcome, including whether you will face probation. 

Before your disposition hearing, your criminal attorney should inform you of the different types of juvenile probation in California to help you understand the possible case outcome. The information is also crucial because you will understand the various expectations to meet when you begin.

Types of Juvenile Probations Issued in California

Every juvenile’s case is different, as some may engage in serious crimes while others participate in minor offenses. Due to this, the Welfare and Institutions Code (WIC) provides for different probation orders that a juvenile judge can issue. Each order results in different outcomes, some more lenient than others. The different types of juvenile probation are:

1. Deferred Entry of Judgment Probation

If your charges involve a felony offense that is not too serious, you may receive probation orders in place of the judgment under the provisions of Section 709 WIC. The juvenile court expects you to meet your probation terms and complete them as specified before dismissing your case, so you must show compliance.

Although deferred entry of judgment probation is available in many cases, you must meet the eligibility criteria before the juvenile judge can issue orders. The criteria list aims to prevent juvenile members with a serious past from accessing the deferment as it would not be proportional to their offense. The main factors to meet before qualifying for deferment are:

  • Your Crime Charges Should Not Involve Offenses Under Section 707(b) WIC

Section 707(b) of the Welfare and Institutions Code lists serious felony crimes that minors may commit and creates a category of offenses not to be deferred. The restriction on deferment is because these crimes are detrimental to the victim and attract serious penalties, even in adult court. Additionally, minors accused of committing these offenses may pose a security threat to the public, so probation terms are unsuitable.

Examples of offenses listed under Section 707(b) include murder, assault with a firearm, attempted murder, sexual assault, armed carjacking, and arson, among others. In court, the prosecutor must show your involvement in any charged offense by proving all elements of the crime. If not, your criminal attorney can help you dispel the accusation that you have committed a Section 707(b) offense, making you eligible for probation again.

  • You are At Least Fourteen Years Old

Your age is important, as it establishes your ability to appreciate and learn from a probation program. Minors should therefore be fourteen at the hearing to ensure they understand the importance of deferment probation. You also demonstrate that you can meet the court's expectations toward completing your probation program by meeting the age threshold.

  • You Do Not Have a Past Court Order to a Department of Juvenile Justice(DJJ) Facility

 Minors sentenced to a DJJ facility may face a difficult time in subsequent juvenile cases because it indicates severity in their case or a lack of compliance. A DJJ sentence is often a last resort reserved for minors with difficult personalities who cannot learn and reform from alternative sentencing options. For example, multiple violations of previous probation orders may warrant confinement in a facility to place you under stricter supervision.

Since the court is keen to exclude you from deferment probation if you have past DJJ orders, you must ensure that your previous record meets the criteria. If you have a justified reason for receiving a previous DJJ order, your attorney can help you raise it in court to increase the chances of your entry into probation.

  • You Were Compliant With All Previous Probation Orders

Although you may not receive a DJJ order for violating probation directives, the juvenile court handling your case may still have records of previously revoked probations. If so, the presiding juvenile judge will have a basis for denying you entry into deferred probation and subjecting you to harsher sentences instead.

  • You Have Not Previously Been a Ward of Court for a Felony Crime

Past felony offenders in adult and juvenile courts are often disadvantaged because of their history. A felony offense is the most serious crime classification, and having it on your record results in less leniency in subsequent cases. Since the court applies this restriction strictly, you do not qualify for probation if you have a previous felony declaration as a ward of the court.

2. Wardship Probation

If you violated the law but did not commit a serious felony, you may face wardship probation in line with Section 727 WIC. Under the guidelines, the juvenile court should first declare you a ward of the court, meaning you are ‘guilty’ of the criminal charges. You will have thus undergone the adjudication process leading up to the disposition, where the judge makes the declaration.

Wardship probation operates under the court’s direct supervision instead of working with a probation officer. Due to this, you are answerable directly to the presiding judge about your progress during the probation period. Your attorney can help you make continuous progress reports to the court to indicate your progress with its directives. Upon meeting all requirements, the juvenile judge will close your case, and you can apply for record sealing.

3. Non-Wardship Probation for 6 Months Deferred Entry of Judgment

You can attain non-wardship probation through the deferred entry of judgment if you admit to your involvement in a misdemeanor offense, as provided under Section 725(a) WIC. In return, the court does not declare you a ward of the court, meaning you are not found guilty of the offense charged. Despite this, the court still places you in a probation program where you must comply with all probation terms.

The juvenile judge will assess your case facts and determine the most relevant terms to provide for your rehabilitation and restitution to victims. You will also receive a timeframe within which the judge expects you to meet all probation conditions to measure your compliance rate. Presently, you should complete the probation terms within six months in California.

While the timelines are to push for cooperation, you can apply for an extension if you cannot meet the probation terms within the stipulated period. In doing so, we will also resolve a justifiable reason for your non-compliance. For example, if you were sick or had to complete important academic projects before completing probation, your attorney can help you raise these reasons in court.

Although the court may consider your justifications, you may receive a ward of court declaration for continuous non-completion of your probation terms. The judge will resolve this outcome if they are dissatisfied with your justifications or if you blatantly disregard the terms.

4. Wardship Probation Under Section 725(b) WIC

You may also face similar probation terms to those under 725(a) WIC. A difference between the two provisions is that the juvenile court will make you a ward of the court under Section (b), making you answerable for the charged offense.

Therefore, entry into wardship probation is a consequence of your involvement in crime, not a deferred entry of judgment like under Section (a). You will remain on probation for six months and must comply with all court directives within this time to receive a case dismissal order.

5. Informal Probation Under the Juvenile Probation Department

Cases that do not involve a serious crime or harm to others may attract an informal probation order, whereby the probation officer does not file a petition in court. Under the guidelines of Section 654 WIC, the probation officer does not need to involve the court in any way, provided you meet all the probation terms necessary to complete the program.

The probation officer handling your case can issue an informal probation order for felony and misdemeanor offenses. They do this as long as they know your offense lacked serious detrimental outcomes for anyone’s safety or important legal provisions.

Your probation terms will require you to remain at home under an ‘at home on probation program’ that lasts six months to one year. While at home, the probation officer may issue additional directives to promote security, restitution, and compliance.

If you fail to complete the probation terms required, you risk having your case moved to court supervision, where the juvenile judge oversees your probation. They may issue sentencing if they observe your non-compliance, leading to a more serious case outcome.

6. Informal Probation Under the Court’s Supervision

The provisions under Section 654.2 WIC allow the court to step in if you fail to comply with informal probation under the Department of Juvenile Probation. Once the court takes over, the court will take on the supervisory role, and you are answerable to the presiding judge instead of the probation officer.

If you are non-compliant with the probation terms, you may face a formal sentencing hearing where a judge will take over and issue alternative and harsher sentences for your case. The regular provisions in regular cases will apply, leaving you at risk of confinement in a DJJ facility.

7. Informal Diversion Programs

The most lenient type of probation is an informal diversion program provided for under Section 626(b) of WIC. Under the provisions, you do not face any criminal charges, and the court does not intervene in your case. Instead, the probation officer working with you encourages you to explore peer-to-peer trials where you can resolve issues with the alleged victims of your actions.

Probation Terms Often Issued in the Juvenile System

The probation officer or presiding juvenile judge will choose the probation terms applicable to your case depending on your circumstances. They can apply for any type of probation, and you will need to undertake them to receive a ‘case closed’ or ‘dismissed’ status. These directives are, therefore, a broad list of terms, and your orders may involve a combination of directives. Common probation terms include:

Compliance With Random Drug Tests

Many juvenile cases involve drug abuse or distribution by minors, warranting random drug tests. The regulations make the tests random to promote consistent compliance from you, and you need to submit to the tests every time.

If you are under a probation officer’s supervision, they may organize to have you take the test at home, as you are also likely to be under the at-home probation order. Court supervisees may have to meet a drug tester in a specified location, like the local clinic, or within court grounds for the test. 

Paying Restitution to Victims

Your criminal actions will also likely result in property damage and emotional and physical harm to the victims. The harm they face can be costly, meaning they need restitution to help them return to their original lives before you act against them.

Restitution may take on monetary obligations, and the court will calculate the estimated amount necessary to offer the victim. Other times, restitution involves providing acts of service to the victims, depending on your capacity as a minor. For example, if you committed a DUI that destroyed someone’s fence, you can help repair it as part of restitution. The presiding judge will use discretion and consider the victim’s preferences when issuing orders.

Avoiding Further Contact With Victims

Sometimes, you may receive a preliminary order to avoid victims of your actions because you have previously endangered their safety. Meeting this requirement is necessary to complete your probation sentence, so you want to take it seriously. If you are likely to meet the victim in school or any other social place, you must work out useful measures to ensure you do not come into direct contact.

Involvement in Drug, Alcohol, or Behavioral Therapy

Participation in drug, alcohol, or behavioral therapy programs is also a commonly issued probation directive to improve your mental and physical well-being. If the presiding judge suspects you may be addicted to drugs or alcohol, they will order you to seek mandatory rehabilitative services and therapy sessions.

Similarly, if the judge or probation officer notes that you have a difficult attitude, you may have to attend mandatory behavioral therapy sessions and report your progress.

Mandatory School Attendance

Juvenile court systems receive multiple truancy cases that result in criminal offenses committed by the truants. If your case involves this, the judge or probation officer must ensure you attend school without any unexplained absences. They may liaise with your school teachers to log your daily attendance and report any days you miss classes.

Outcomes of Non-Compliance With Probation Terms

If you are unable to meet your probation terms without proper justification, you risk facing the following consequences:

  • Mandatory community service orders.
  • Case reinstatement into trial.
  • Referral to a camp program.
  • A formal warning from the juvenile probation department.
  • Confinement in a juvenile facility.

Contact a Criminal Attorney Near Me

Your child’s involvement in a criminal offense requires you to quickly retain an attorney, especially if they are set to face trial in juvenile court. Your lawyer understands the details related to the probation system. This way, they can easily direct the minor to meet all requirements and complete their probationary terms smoothly. Your attorney’s input is also essential to help establish whether the juvenile court is operating using accurate case facts for your minor’s current position.

At Chula Vista Criminal Attorney, we work hard to ensure you receive quality legal services to help you navigate juvenile probation specifications. Our goal is to ensure you understand the requirements you must meet, depending on the type of probation you receive. By working closely with us, you can expect a smooth transition through the juvenile justice system until the completion and closure of your case. Our experience in handling juvenile matters makes us a trustworthy partner, and we are available to help any minor seeking juvenile probation information in Chula Vista, California. For more information on juvenile probation, call us today at 619-877-6894.