Juvenile Detention Hearings in California

When a minor is arrested in California and held in custody, the first hearing the minor will have is a detention hearing.  The purpose of the hearing is to determine whether or not the child needs to stay in custody (usually in juvenile hall) pending outcome of the case.

It is very important that a minor who faces criminal charges have legal representation at each stage in the process.  This includes the detention hearing...because if the minor loses the detention hearing, he or she will most likely have to stay in juvenile hall until the case gets resolved.

Our California Juvenile Criminal Defense Attorneys know the best arguments to make so the court let your child go home.1

"One  difference between the adult and juvenile criminal justice systems is that  minors don't have a right to bail, like adults do.  That's why it is so  important to make a persuasive case for release during the minor's detention  hearing."

In this article, we explain what happens at your child's detention hearing in juvenile court in California.  We cover:

1. What is a detention hearing?

1.1. No right to bail

1.2. Determine if minor has to stay in custody

1.3. Minor gets "arraigned" whether or not in custody

2. When does a minor have to stay
in custody?

2.1. Section 635 criteria

2.2. Dennis H hearings

3. When does the detention hearing
take place?
4. Do parents need to be notified about
the hearing?
5. What happens if my child has to stay
in custody?

If you have further questions after reading this article, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group for a consultation.

You might also be interested in reading our related juvenile justice articles Juvenile Criminal Defense in California, Fitness Hearings in California, Constitutional Rights of Minors, Adjudication Hearings (Trials) in California Juvenile Court, Disposition (Sentencing) Hearings in California Juvenile Court, Probation in California Juvenile Court Cases, The Juvenile Court Process in California, Sealing Your California Juvenile Records, and Juvenile Crimes that Count as Strikes under California's Three Strikes Law.

1. What is a detention hearing?

If a minor is arrested and held in custody, the detention hearing is the first court hearing the minor will attend.  Even if the minor has been released on "home supervision" the minor is considered to be in custody and entitled to a detention hearing.

(The factors the probation officer uses to decide whether or not a minor has to stay in juvenile hall between arrest and detention hearing is another matter and is discussed in our related article The Juvenile Court Process in California. 2)

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1.1. No right to bail

In adult cases, whether someone needs to stay in jail while the case proceeds often comes down to money.  The adult can post bail in California and get out of jail.

But there is no right to bail in juvenile cases.  A minor cannot "bail out" like an adult.

If the probation officer wants to keep your child in custody, the only way to get your child out is by convincing the judge at the detention hearing.

1.2. Determine if minor has to stay in custody

At the detention hearing, the judge will decide if the minor can go home pending outcome of the case or whether the minor has to stay at juvenile hall.

The judge makes the decision based on a specific set of factors, which we discuss in Section 2 below.

1.3. Minor gets "arraigned" whether or not in custody

The minor also will be "arraigned" at the detention hearing.  This means the minor will

  • Be informed of the charges
  • Be informed of his or her constitutional rights
  • Enter a plea

The judge will inform the minor of the charges being lodged against him or her.3

The judge also will inform the minor that the minor has the right to counsel, right against self-incrimination, right to confront and cross-examine witnesses, right to subpoena witnesses, and right to present evidence.4

Finally, the minor will enter a plea to the charges alleged in the petition.  The minor does not enter a plea of "guilty" or "not guilty" like an adult.  Instead the minor can do any of the following:

  • Admit the allegation (plead guilty)
  • Deny the allegation (plead not guilty)
  • Not contest the allegation (plead no contest)
  • Deny the allegation by reason of insanity (California's insanity defense)
If the minor is not in custody....

If the minor is not in custody...and there is no "detention" issue...then the first court hearing is just referred to as the arraignment.  The judge will inform the minor of the charges and his/her constitutional rights and the minor will enter a plea to the allegations.

Let's look at an example:

Example:  Thomas is arrested on Tuesday night for violating Penal Code 211 pc robbery with the use of a gun in violation of Penal Code 12022.53 pc personal use of firearm enhancement.

Because of the seriousness of the charges, the cops take Thomas to Eastlake Juvenile Hall & Court and book him into juvenile hall.

On Thursday, the district attorney files formal charges against Thomas.

On Friday, Thomas has a detention hearing.  The judge informs Thomas of the charges in the petition and also informs Thomas of his constitutional rights.

Thomas denies the allegations in the petition. The judge accepts the plea but decides that Thomas is a danger to the community and has to stay in juvenile hall pending resolution of hi case.  (Alternatively, the judge might let Thomas go home with an ankle bracelet.)

Change the facts:  Lafayette is picked up by cops for shoplifting video games and for possessing a small bag of pot.  He is arrested for violating Penal Code 488 pc petty theft and Health & Safety 11357 hs possession of marijuana. Lafayette is not detained.  He is released to his mother's custody.

Lafayette is subsequently notified by mail that a petition had been filed against him and that he and his mother need to appear at Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall & Court on September 4.

Lafayette comes as directed to Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall & Court on September 4.  He is arraigned. The judge informs him that he is being charged with petty theft and possession of marijuana.

The judge also tells Lafayette that he has the right to counsel and to other rights as well.  Lafayette denies the allegations and the judge sets the matter for a pre-trial conference on September 20.

Lafayette is lucky that he gets to go home.  But if he does not come back to court on September 20 then the judge can issue a warrant for his arrest and have the cops book him into juvenile hall.
2. When does a minor have to stay in custody?

At the detention hearing, the judge will look at specific criteria set forth in California Welfare & Institutions Code Section 635 to determine whether the minor needs to stay in custody. 5

2.1. Section 635 criteria

In order to keep a minor in custody, the judge must find that the prosecutor has made a prima facie case that the minor has committed a crime, AND that

  • the minor has violated an order of the juvenile court, or
  • the minor has escaped from the commitment of the juvenile court, or
  • the minor is a flight risk, or
  • it is a matter of immediate and urgent necessity for the protection of the minor that the minor be detained, or
  • it is reasonably necessary for the protection of the person or property of another that the minor be detained.

In order to help make the decision, the judge will ask for input from the district attorney, the probation officer, the minor, the minor's counsel and the minor's parents.

Our California Juvenile Criminal Defense Attorneys use this opportunity to persuade the judge that our minor client is not a danger to himself or to his community and does not fit into the other categories that require custody.

2.2. Dennis H hearings

If the minor loses the detention hearing, the minor's attorney can ask for a re-hearing.  The defense lawyer will ask for a re-hearing if the judge made a detention decision based on questionable evidence.

For example, if the judge made a decision based on a recommendation that referred to a police report - but the police officer who wrote the report did not testify - then the judge will order the police officer to come back at the re-hearing and testify in person.

At the re-hearing (also called "Dennis H." hearings, contested detention hearings and prima facie hearings) the minor's defense attorney will cross-examine the police officer to make sure everything is accurate.6

Let's explore this idea by looking at our previous example:

Example:  Thomas is arrested for robbery with a gun.  He is held in custody at the Riverside Juvenile Hall. At his detention hearing, the probation officer recommends that Thomas be kept in custody.  The probation officer bases this opinion in part upon a police report that mentions Thomas had "four prior police contacts" within a month.

The judge agrees with the probation officer and remands Thomas back to the Riverside Juvenile Hall.

Thomas' attorney requests a re-hearing so that the police officer who wrote the report can come into court and testify as to the nature of the alleged "four prior police contacts."  It might make a difference to the judge if those four police contacts had never happened or if they were innocent in nature.
3. When does the detention hearing take place?

If a minor is in custody for a non-serious and non-violent misdemeanor matter, the detention hearing must take place within 48 hours of the minor's being taken into custody.  This does not include weekends or holidays.

If the minor is in custody for a felony or a misdemeanor involving violence, the detention hearing must take place within 72 hours of the minor's being taken into custody.7 (In these cases, the district attorney must file the petition within 48 hours of the minor's being taken into custody.)

If the minor requests a Dennis H. hearing, it must take place within three court days (or if a witness is unavailable, within five court days) of the initial detention hearing.8

4. Do parents need to be notified about
the hearing?

Yes.  Parents must be informed of the time and place of their child's detention hearing.

If parents do not receive actual notice of the hearing, they can request that another detention hearing be held within 24 hours so they can be present.9

5. What happens if my child has to stay in custody?

If your child is kept in custody, your child will remain at juvenile hall until his or her next court date.  Under the law, your child is entitled to a jurisdiction hearing (which is the name for "trial" in juvenile court) within 15 days.

Our related articles discuss the various juvenile halls and how to visit your child while detained at

Our California Juvenile Criminal Defense Attorneys Can Help...
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If you or loved one is charged with a juvenile and you are looking to hire an attorney for representation, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. We can provide a free consultation in office or by phone. We have local offices in Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena, Long Beach, Orange County, Ventura, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside, San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and throughout California.

We invite you to review our related articles Juvenile Criminal Defense in California, Fitness Hearings in California, Constitutional Rights of Minors in California, Adjudication Hearings (Trials) in California Juvenile Court, Disposition (Sentencing) Hearings in California Juvenile Court, Probation in California, Probation in California Juvenile Court Cases, The Juvenile Court Process in California, Sealing Your California Juvenile Records and Juvenile Crimes that Count as Strikes under California's Three Strikes Law.

You may also be interested in our articles Penal Code 211 pc robbery, Penal Code 12022.53 pc personal use of firearm enhancement, Penal Code 488 pc petty theft, Health & Safety 11357 possession of marijuana, Post Bail in California and California's insanity defense.

Helpful links:

Prison Law Office

Center of Juvenile and Criminal Justice

Ella Baker Center Books Not Bars Campaign

Youth Law Center

Juvenile Law Center

Burns Institute For Juvenile Justice & Equity

References

1Our California Juvenile Criminal Defense Attorneys have local Los Angeles law offices in Beverly Hills, Burbank, Glendale, Lancaster, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Pasadena, Pomona, Torrance, Van Nuys, West Covina and Whittier.  We have additional law offices conveniently located throughout the state in Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, San Jose, Oakland, the San Francisco Bay area, and several nearby cities.

2California Welfare & Institutions Code Section 628 provides:  "(a) Upon delivery to the probation officer of a minor who has been taken into temporary custody under the provisions of this article, the probation officer shall immediately investigate the circumstances of the minor and the facts surrounding his or her being taken into custody and shall immediately release the minor to the custody of his or her parent, legal guardian, or responsible relative unless it can be demonstrated upon the evidence before the court that continuance in the home is contrary to the minor's welfare and one or more of the following conditions exist:  (1) The minor is in need of proper and effective parental care or control and has no parent, legal guardian, or responsible relative; or has no parent, legal guardian, or responsible relative willing to exercise or capable of exercising that care or control; or has no parent, legal guardian, or responsible relative actually exercising that care or control.  (2) The minor is destitute or is not provided with the necessities of life or is not provided with a home or suitable place of abode.  (3) The minor is provided with a home which is an unfit place for him or her by reason of neglect, cruelty, depravity or physical abuse by either of his or her parents, or by his or her legal guardian or other person in whose custody or care he or she is entrusted.  (4) Continued detention of the minor is a matter of immediate and urgent necessity for the protection of the minor or reasonable necessity for the protection of the person or property of another.  (5) The minor is likely to flee the jurisdiction of the court.  (6) The minor has violated an order of the juvenile court.  (7) The minor is physically dangerous to the public because of a mental or physical deficiency, disorder or abnormality."

3California Welfare & Institutions Code Section 700 provides:  "At the beginning of the hearing on a petition filed pursuant to Article 16 (commencing with Section 650) of this chapter, the judge or clerk shall first read the petition to those present and upon request of the minor upon whose behalf the petition has been brought or upon the request of any parent, relative or guardian, the judge shall explain any term of allegation contained therein and the nature of the hearing, its procedures, and possible consequences.  The judge shall advise those present that if the petition or petitions are sustained and the minor is ordered to make restitution to the victim, or to pay fines or penalty assessments, the parent or guardian may be liable for the payment of restitution, fines, or penalty assessments. The judge shall ascertain whether the minor and his or her parent or guardian or adult relative, as the case may be, has been informed of the right of the minor to be represented by counsel, and if not, the judge shall advise the minor and such a person, if present, of the right to have counsel present and where applicable, of the right to appointed counsel.  The court shall appoint counsel to represent the minor if he or she appears at the hearing without counsel, whether he or she is unable to afford counsel or not, unless there is an intelligent waiver of the right of counsel by the minor; and, in the absence of such a waiver, if the parent or guardian does not furnish counsel and the court determines that the parent or guardian has the ability to pay for counsel, thecourt shall appoint counsel at the expense of the parent or guardian.  The court shall continue the hearing for not to exceed seven days, as necessary to make an appointment of counsel, or to enable counsel to acquaint himself or herself with the case, or to determine whether the parent or guardian or adult relative is unable to afford counsel at his or her own expense, and shall continue the hearing as necessary to provide reasonable opportunity for the minor and the parent or guardian or adult relative to prepare for the hearing."

4California Rules of Court, Rule 5.534 (k) provides:  (1) The court must advise the child, parent, and guardian in section 300 cases, and the child in section 601 or section 602 cases, of the following rights:  (A) Any right to assert the privilege against self-incrimination; (B) The right to confront and cross-examine the persons who prepared reports or documents submitted to the court by the petitioner and the witnesses called to testify at the hearing; (C) The right to use the process of the court to bring in witnesses; and (D) The right to present evidence to the court. (2) The child, parent, guardian, and their attorneys have:  (A) The right to receive probation officer or social worker reports; and (B) The right to inspect the documents used by the preparer of the report.  (3) Unless prohibited by court order, the child, parent, guardian, and their attorneys also have the right to receive all documents filed with the court."

5California Welfare & Institutions Code Section 635 provides:  "The court will examine the minor, his or her parent, legal guardian, or other person having relevant knowledge, hear relevant evidence the minor, his or her parent, legal guardian, or counsel desires to present, and, unless it appears that the minor hasviolated an order of the juvenile court or has escaped from the commitment of the juvenile court or that it is a matter of immediate and urgent necessity for the protection of the minor or reasonably necessary for the protection of the person or property of another that he or she be detained or that the minor is likely to flee to avoid the jurisdiction of the court, the court shall make its order releasing the minor from custody.  The circumstances and gravity of the alleged offense may be considered, in conjunction with other factors, to determine whether it is a matter of immediate and urgent necessity for the protection of the minor or reasonably necessary for the protection of the person or property of another that the minor be detained.  The court shall order release of the minor from custody unless a prima facie showing has been made that the minor is a person described in Section 601 or 602.  If the probation officer has reason to believe that the minor is at-risk of entering foster care placement as defined by Section 11402, then the probation officer shall submit a written report to the court containing all of the following: the reasons why the minor has been removed from the parent's custody; any prior referrals for abuse or neglect of the minor or any prior filings regarding the minor pursuant to Section 300; the need, if any, for continued detention; the available services that could facilitate the return of the minor to the custody of the minor's parents or guardians; and whether there are any relatives who are able and willing to provide effective care and control over the minor."

6In re Dennis H., 19 Cal.App.3d 350, 355 (1971) ("Once a minor has exercised his right to demand the physical presence of the declarants, it becomes the duty of the court to see that those persons are present at the continued hearing or lose the right to rely on the written declarations and affidavits.  It would seem clearly to follow from what has been said in In re William M., and in the foregoing parts of this opinion, that, if the probation officer has tendered, and the court has received, written reports meeting the requirements as to form and content above set forth, he may rest his case on those reports, unless the court desires to examine the witnesses in person or the minor invokes his statutory right of confrontation. Of course, if the probation officer, having the benefit of the physical presence of his declarants, desires to withdraw the written report and present his case on oral testimony, he is free to do so.  Counsel for the respondents has expressed a fear that a ruling on the issues in the case at bench favorable to the minor might lead to demands for confrontation in all cases.  We do not share that fear. Every trial lawyer knows the risk that cross-examination may strengthen and not weaken the force of direct testimony; that risk is even greater when the cross-examination substitutes a live witness for a document.  Only in cases such as the one at bench, where information available to counsel had suggested that cross-examination might resolve ambiguities in the documents in favor of his client, is a demand likely to be made.")  SEE ALSO California Welfare & Institutions Code Section 630 provides:  "(a) If the probation officer determines that the minor shall be retained in custody, he shall immediately proceed in accordance with Article 16 (commencing with Section 650) to cause the filing of a petition pursuant to Section 656 with the clerk of the juvenile court who shall set the matter for hearing on the detention calendar.  Immediately upon filing the petition with the clerk of the juvenile court, if the minor is alleged to be a person described in Section601 or 602, the probation officer or the prosecuting attorney, as the case may be, shall serve such minor with a copy of the petition and notify him of the time and place of the detention hearing.  Theprobation officer, or the prosecuting attorney, as the case may be, shall thereupon notify each parent or each guardian of the minor of the time and place of such hearing if the whereabouts of each parent or guardian can be ascertained by due diligence.  Such notice may be given orally.  (b) In such hearing the minor has a privilege against self-incrimination and has a right to confrontation by, and cross-examination of, any person examined by the court as provided in Section 635."

7California Welfare & Institutions Code Section 632 provides:  "(a) Except as provided in subdivision (b), unless sooner released, a minor taken into custody under the provisions of this article shall, as soon as possible but in any event before the expiration of the next judicial day after a petition to declare the minor a ward or dependent child has been filed, be brought before a judge or referee of the juvenile court for a hearing to determine whether the minor shall be further detained.  Such a hearing shall be referred to as a 'detention hearing.'  (b) Whenever a minor is taken into custody without a warrant on the belief that he or she has committed a misdemeanor not involving violence, a threat of violence, or possession or use of weapons, if the minor is not currently on probation or parole, he or she shall be brought before a judge or referee of the juvenile court for a detention hearing as soon as possible, but no later than 48 hours after having been taken into custody, excluding nonjudicial days, after a petition to declare the minor a ward has been filed.  In all cases involving the detention of a minor pursuant to this subdivision where the minor will not be brought before the judge or referee of the juvenile court within 24 hours, the decision not to bring the minor before the judge or referee within 24 hours shall be subject to written review and approval by a probation officer who is a supervisor as soon as possible after it is known that the minor will not be brought before the judge or referee within 24 hours.  However, if the decision not to bring the minor before the judge or referee within 24 hours is made by a probation officer who is a supervisor, the decision shall not be subject to review and approval.  (c) If the minor is not brought before a judge or referee of the juvenile court within the period prescribed by this section, he or she shall be released from custody."

8California Rules of Court, Rule 5.764. Prima facie hearings "(a) Hearing for further evidence; prima facie case (§ 637)  If the court orders the child detained, and the child or the child's attorney requests that evidence of the prima facie case be presented, the court must set a prima facie hearing for a time within three court days to consider evidence of the prima facie case.  (b) Continuance (§ 637)  If the court determines that a prima facie hearing cannot be held within three court days because of the unavailability of a witness, a reasonable continuance not to exceed five court days may be granted. If at the hearing petitioner fails to establish the prima facie case, the child must be released from custody."

9California Welfare & Institutions Code Section 637 provides:  "When a hearing is held under the provisions of this article and no parent or guardian of such minor is present and no parent or guardian has had actual notice of the hearing, a parent or guardian of such minor may file his affidavit setting forth such facts with the clerk of the juvenile court and the clerk shall immediately set the matter for rehearing at a time within 24 hours, excluding Sundays and nonjudicial days from the filing of the affidavit.  Upon the rehearing, the court shall proceed in the same manner as upon the original hearing.  If the minor or, if the minor is represented by an attorney, the minor's attorney, requests evidence of the prima facie case, a rehearing shall be held within three judicial days to consider evidence of the prima facie case.  If the prima facie case is not established, the minor shall be released from detention.  When the court ascertains that the rehearing cannot be held within three judicial days because of the unavailability of a witness, a reasonable continuance may be granted for a period not to exceed five judicial days." SEE ALSO California Rules of Court, Rule 5.762. Detention rehearing's "(a)  No parent or guardian present and not notice.  If the court orders the child detained at the detention hearing and no parent or guardian is present and no parent or guardian has received actual notice of the detention hearing, a parent or guardian may file an affidavit alleging the failure of notice and requesting a detention rehearing.  The clerk must set the rehearing within 24 hours of the filing of the affidavit, excluding noncourt days.  At the rehearing, the court must proceed under rules 5.752 5.760.  (Subd (a) amended effective January 1, 2007.  (b) Parent or guardian noticed; parent or guardian not present (§ 637)  If the court determines that the parent or guardian has received adequate notice of the detention hearing, and the parent or guardian fails to appear at the hearing, a request from the parent or guardian for a detention rehearing must be denied, absent a finding that the failure was due to good cause.  (Subd (b) amended effective January 1, 2007.)  (c)  Parent or guardian noticed; preparers available (§ 637)  If a parent or guardian received notice of the detention hearing, and the preparers of any reports or other documents relied on by the court in its order detaining the child are present at court or otherwise available for cross-examination, there is no right to a detention rehearing."

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