In most cases, a child under the age of 18 (minor) appears in delinquency court because they have been arrested and are accused of breaking the law. For minor offenses, such as a traffic ticket, refer to the “Traffic” section of this website.
Upon arrest and investigation, the law enforcement agency determines whether the minor is released to the custody of their parent(s) or guardian(s), or if the minor is to be detained within San Bernardino County Juvenile Probation Department:
If a minor is arrested, the police can:
- Make a record of the arrest and let the minor return home
- Send the minor to an agency that will shelter, care for, or counsel the minor
- Make the minor come back to the police station
- Give the minor and their parent(s) a Notice to Appear or Citation. Read the notice and follow the information on where to appear and the date of the hearing
- Place the minor in Juvenile Hall (this is called "detention")
If the police want to talk to the minor about what happened, the police must tell the minor about their legal rights, called "Miranda rights." Miranda rights are the following:
- The right to remain silent
- Knowing that anything the minor says will be used against the minor in court
- The minor has the right to a lawyer. If the minor or parent(s) cannot pay for one, the court will appoint one for them at the initial hearing. If the court has not yet appointed a lawyer, you may contact the San Bernardino County Juvenile Public Defender for advice. http://wp.sbcounty.gov/cao/countywire/?cat=26
You can also search for a private attorney through the External Court-Related Links section within the court’s general self-help website.
More Tips for Parents/Guardians
It is important that you make a dedicated effort to appear at your child’s court appearance(s). Your presence, along with copies of any related documents (i.e. report cards, certificates of participation in sports or other youth programs, and/or proof of counseling services received) shows your support and may assist the court in determining a suitable disposition for the minor.
Whether or not the minor is detained, the court must determine whether the case warrants a trial in adult criminal court. If the court finds that the circumstances of the case may warrant a criminal trial in adult court, then the court will establish a hearing date to determine whether the case is suitable for adult criminal court. This type of hearing is called a "Section 707 Transfer Hearing" after Welfare and Institutions Code § 707. Cases that are transferred to adult criminal court usually involve minors over the age of 14 that are alleged to have committed serious offenses.
The court usually starts the first appearance hearing by telling the minor why they are detained or ordered to appear in court. The court will brief the minor and their parent(s) about what can happen in delinquency court, and explain that they have the right to have a lawyer.
If the minor does not have a lawyer, the court will appoint them one whether they can pay or not. The attorney will discuss the allegations in the petition with the parents and the minor. If you have any questions, please discuss them with your attorney.
Some delinquency cases at the Juvenile Court are open to the public. A list of the public hearing cases is posted in the delinquency lobby each day.
The minor can deny (or "contest") the allegations charged against them. This is similar to an adult pleading "not guilty" in adult criminal court. The minor has a right to question the person who prepared the evidence that lead to the petition, as well as the people who gave information at the detention hearing. The minor can also present evidence and subpoena witnesses to support their side of the story. However, for this hearing only, the court must believe that the petition is true. The court has to think about where the best place for the child is. This can mean that the minor is put on home supervision or placed at Juvenile Hall.
The court may take a minor out of their home because:
- The minor did not obey a court order
- The minor ran away from a detention center or other residential program
- The minor would most likely run away if the court let them go
- The court needs to protect another person or property
- The minor needs protection because:
- The minor’s home is not safe
- The minor is or may become addicted to drugs or alcohol
- The minor has mental or physical problems, and/or
- The alleged offenses are particularly severe
If the minor is ordered to be detained, the minor’s lawyer can ask the court for a new hearing; called a "rehearing." A rehearing can be requested to show the court new evidence about why the minor should not be detained.
If the minor decides to admit to the allegations within the petition, the court will immediately order appropriate sanctions against the minor or set the case for a dispositional hearing.
The Juvenile Division consists of two separate offices that service a juvenile court in two locations in San Bernardino County. The Juvenile court is mandated by law to seek the rehabilitation of the minors and return them to their families. Their goal is to assist minors in correcting their current course of conduct and to help them become productive members of society. That mandate means that the District Attorney’s Juvenile Division is involved in many programs to assist in the rehabilitation of minors.
The San Bernardino County Public Defender represents juveniles charged with misdemeanor or felony crimes. They will be appointed to represent any minor who cannot afford to hire an attorney, unless the office has a legal conflict of interest with that defendant’s case. If a conflict is declared, an attorney from another firm will be appointed.