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Juvenile Detention Hearings

Unlike in adult criminal cases, there is no bail in juvenile offenses in California. After a juvenile arrest and placement in custody, a minor is subject to a detention hearing. The purpose of the juvenile detention hearing is to determine whether a child should remain in custody awaiting the outcome of their case. If a minor faces criminal charges, it is crucial to ensure that they seek legal representation at every legal process stage, including the detention hearing. If a juvenile loses the detention hearing, they must remain at the juvenile hall until their case is resolved. If you need legal representation during a detention hearing in Van Nuys, California, Leah Legal can help.

Understanding a Juvenile Detention Hearing

The juvenile detention hearing is the first court hearing that a minor attends after an arrest and placement in custody. Even if the minor is released after an arrest on home supervision, they are still entitled to a detention hearing. The main difference between the adult justice system and the juvenile criminal justice system is that minors have no right to bail like adults. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure that you seek the best legal representation to increase the minor's chance of release during the detention hearing.

If a probation officer places a minor in custody, the only way to get them out of the juvenile hall is by convincing the judge during the detention hearing.  At the hearing, the judge will decide whether the minor should stay at the juvenile hall or whether the juvenile will go home pending the case's outcome.  The judge will consider several factors while determining whether to release the minor from custody or not.

Arraignment takes place at the detention hearing. This means that the judge informs the minor about their charges and their constitutional rights. The minor also enters a plea.  Besides informing the minor of the charges against them, the judge tells them about their right to counsel and right against self-incrimination. The minor also has a right to subpoena witnesses, present evidence, and the right to cross-examine or confront witnesses. 

The minor will finally enter a plea to the charges outlined in the petition. The juvenile justice system is different from the adult justice system, and the juvenile does not have to enter a guilty or not guilty plea. Instead, a juvenile may admit the allegations against them or deny the allegations. A minor may also not be content with the allegations. A minor also has the option of denying the claims by reason of insanity.

If the minor is not in detention, the first court hearing is the arraignment and not a detention hearing. During the arraignment, the judge will inform the minor about their charges and constitutional rights before the juvenile enters a plea to the allegations. 

When a Minor Has to Remain in Custody

At the juvenile detention hearing, the judge will consider several factors to determine whether a minor should remain in custody. Judges use the criteria outlined in the California Welfare & Institutions Code Section 635 while deciding whether a minor should remain in custody.

According to Section 635, a judge can only retain a minor in custody after finding out that the prosecutor made a prima facie case that the minor committed an offense. It should be evident that the minor:

  • Violated or failed to honor an order issued by the juvenile court
  • The minor escaped from the juvenile court's commitment.
  • The minor is a flight risk.
  • Detention is necessary as a matter of urgent or immediate necessity for the protection of the minor.
  • Detaining the minor is necessary for the protection of a person or property.

How does the judge determine whether a minor is a flight risk?

The judge will consider whether a child is likely to escape after their release from custody. The judge will also consider the minor's past actions. The juvenile court might be reluctant to release a minor if a child has a history of escaping from a juvenile detention facility. The juvenile detention hearing is similar to the bail system in the adult justice system. The judge considers the defendant's likelihood to appear in future court trials after release from custody. The minor's attorney will strive to prove that it is possible to rehabilitate the minor successfully and that the child is not likely to escape. 

Unless the court believes that it is in the child’s best interest to go home, they will not release them from custody. The court will consider the factors that triggered the minor's engagement in criminal activity. The court will also consider the minor's social life, including their likelihood to join criminal gangs. If the court feels that it would be unsafe for the minor to go back home, they may prefer to retain the juvenile in custody.

Before releasing a juvenile offender from custody, the court considers society's safety, other people, and property. If a minor has committed a violent offense and the court feels that they may pose a risk to the community, the judge may retain them in custody. A child is likely to remain in the juvenile hall if they face charges for violent offenses or sex crimes. If a minor has acted violently against people in the past, the court may not be willing to release them from custody.

The court will also consider whether a minor is likely to violate the juvenile court commitments. If a juvenile has a history of failing to appear for court appointments, the judge may decide to retain them in custody. However, the minor's attorney can point out that the minor will be present for all the future juvenile court commitments.

Before deciding whether to detain the minor, the judge will ask for other parties' input, including the probation officer, the district attorney, the minor, the minor's parents, or the minor's counsel.  An experienced attorney will seize every opportunity to convince the judge that the minor is not a danger to themselves or the community. An attorney will work to disregard any proof that indicates that the minor requires the detention. If the judge feels that the minor does not fit in the category that requires custody, they may release the minor.  The juvenile detention hearing is the initial stage in a juvenile court system. If the juvenile detention hearing's outcome is good, the other hearings might have a positive outcome.

Before concluding the detention hearing, the judge listens to the minor, the minor's attorney, and the probation officer. The judge may decide to have the minor detained at the juvenile hall. This will happen if the judge feels that release from custody is not in the juvenile’s best interest. The court will order the probation officer to ensure that the minor will be under favorable conditions while in detention. The minor will stay in detention until the following court date.

The judge may order the minor to go home and await the court hearing. This will happen if the judge feels that it would not be proper to continue detaining the minor. In some instances, certain services may be necessary to enhance the child's return home, and the court will order the supervision of these services.

The judge might also order home supervision of the minor. This means that the minor will still be under legal watch but will not be in a juvenile hall. The child will be subject to in-home detention/custody. The minor's guardian or parent must guarantee that the minor will be present during all the scheduled juvenile court hearings. If a minor gets home supervision instead of detention in a juvenile hall, they must adhere to certain conditions. The conditions include abstaining from drug use or possessing. The minor may also have to secure a job or attend mandatory counseling. 

When a Detention Hearing Occurs

If a juvenile is in custody for a non-violent or non-serious offense, a detention hearing occurs within 48 hours from the minor's placement in the juvenile hall. However, this period does not include holidays or weekends. If a juvenile has committed a misdemeanor offense involving violence or a felony offense, the hearing takes place within 72 hours from when the police took the minor into custody. The District Attorney must file a petition within 48 hours after the minor's placement in juvenile hall.

If the minor's attorney requests a rehearing, it must take place within three court days. However, if a particular witness is unavailable, the rehearing must occur within five court days from the initial detention hearing.

The minor's parents must receive a notification regarding the detention hearing. If the minor's parents do not receive a notice for the detention hearing, they may request another detention hearing within 24 hours to ensure that they are present.

If the judge decides that the child should remain in custody, the minor will remain in the juvenile hall until their next court date. The minor has a right to a jurisdiction hearing, also known as a trial, within 15 days. The jurisdiction hearing occurs in the Juvenile court. 

What is the role of the minor's parents and guardians during the detention hearing?

The court will inquire regarding the minor's overall conduct, including schooling attendance. The parent's or the guardian's testimony will play a crucial role during the detention hearing and might influence the judge's decision to detain or release the minor.  Therefore, the minor's parents or guardians need to seek legal counsel before giving testimony in court. 

As a parent or a guardian, you may be angry or disappointed at your child, and you may want the juvenile court to teach them a lesson. For instance, you might think it is appropriate for a minor to remain at the juvenile hall. However, it is essential to understand that the living conditions in a juvenile hall are not pleasant. Your child will stay with other offenders, some of which might be older, and some may have committed serious offenses. It might take weeks or even months before your child is granted freedom from the juvenile hall. Therefore, parents and guardians need to be cautious when contributing or giving their testimony during the juvenile detention hearing.  It is crucial to have an attorney guide you on what to say to avoid messing up the detention hearing outcome. 

What to Expect During the Detention Hearing

The court gives the juvenile a notice of the date, venue, and time of the juvenile detention hearing. The hearing usually occurs in the juvenile courtroom. The minor can have a criminal defense attorney represent them at the hearing. Most of the juvenile court proceedings are not open to the public. However, if the minor commits a serious crime, the juvenile hearing may be similar to an adult trial open to the public. For instance, drug crimes, gun offenses, violent crimes, and sexual crimes may attract public attention. However, an attorney can negotiate to have the juvenile court proceedings closed to the public to preserve the minor's privacy.

Typically, the parties present at a juvenile detention hearing include the minor, their attorney, the minor's parents or guardians, the probation officer, and any other relevant authority. Compared to a criminal court hearing, a detention hearing is informal. However, you still require an attorney because the hearing's outcome will determine whether you will go home or remain in custody.

The Role of a Probation Officer in a Juvenile Detention Hearing

When a minor faces charges for committing a crime, the court assigns a probation officer to the case. The probation officer will investigate the matter, consider the juvenile's criminal history, social issues, and conduct.

At the juvenile detention hearing, the probation officer will be present. The officer has to prepare a report before the heating. The officer will outline the minor's overall conduct in the report and recommend whether the court should release or continue detaining the juvenile. The probation officer presents their report to the court before the detention hearing. The probation officer may recommend the minor's detention while awaiting the case outcome if the juvenile has committed a severe offense. 

The probation officer may recommend the minor's release if the child has no history or prior criminal convictions. The officer may base their recommendation on the minor's performance in school.

In most cases, the court presumes that the probation officer's report is accurate. However, if you feel that the probation officer misrepresented some facts, you can challenge their report with an experienced attorney's help. If your attorney proves that the probation officer misrepresented specific points in their report, the judge may release a minor from custody even if the probation officer recommends otherwise.

Requesting for a Rehearing

If a minor loses at the detention hearing, their attorney may request for a rehearing.  An attorney may request a rehearing if they feel that the judge decided based on unreliable or questionable evidence.  For instance, a judge may have decided based on a law enforcement officer's report, yet the officer did not testify. In this case, the judge might order the law enforcement officer to attend the rehearing and testify. During the rehearing, also called a Dennis H hearing, the minor's attorney would cross-examine the law enforcement officer to ensure that everything is okay and accurate.

Community Detention Program (CDP)

If a judge is reluctant to remove a minor from detention, the minor's attorney may request to have the minor placed in a community detention program commonly abbreviated as CDP. CDP is a form of house arrest. If a juvenile is on CDP, they will have to wear a monitor, usually an ankle monitor. The juvenile justice will track the child via a phone line in your residence. Therefore, for your child to qualify for the CDP program, you must have a landline phone. The tracking equipment is available at the juvenile hall. Upon completing the CDP program, the tracking equipment is returned to the juvenile hall.

While under house arrest, the judge will most likely allow the minor to go to school and then back home. However, an attorney may request the judge to allow a minor to attend other essential programs like counseling, medical appointments, after school classes, and other crucial programs. If a minor has to be somewhere besides at home, you should ensure that the attorney is aware of requesting the court to have the minor leave home for a particular purpose.

What happens when a child violates the terms of the CDP? If a child fails to adhere to the CDP's necessary terms, the probation officer may recommend a minor’s detention at the juvenile hall. Therefore, while on CDP, the minor, their parent or guardian, and their attorney need to understand how CDP works.

Find a Juvenile Defense Attorney Near Me

Juvenile detention hearings are complicated. You require an experienced juvenile defense attorney who understands the proceedings of the hearings. You should look for an attorney who understands the juvenile system.  If you seek the best legal counsel and representation at a detention hearing in Van Nuys, CA, Leah Legal can assist. Contact us at 818-484-1100 and speak to one of our attorneys.