California Welfare & Institutions Code 601 WIC states that children from 12 -to 17-years old who are habitually truant or beyond their parents’ control can be declared wards of juvenile court. But peace officers must first refer truant or unruly children to social services before issuing them a notice to appear in court.
The full text of the statute reads as follows:
WIC 601 (a) Any minor between 12 years of age and 17 years of age, inclusive, who persistently or habitually refuses to obey the reasonable and proper orders or directions of the minor’s parents, guardian, or custodian, or who is beyond the control of that person, or who is a minor between 12 years of age and 17 years of age, inclusive, when the minor violated any ordinance of any city or county of this state establishing a curfew based solely on age is within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court which may adjudge the minor to be a ward of the court.
(b) If a minor between 12 years of age and 17 years of age, inclusive, has four or more truancies within one school year as defined in Section 48260 of the Education Code or a school attendance review board or probation officer determines that the available public and private services are insufficient or inappropriate to correct the habitual truancy of the minor, or if the minor fails to respond to directives of a school attendance review board or probation officer or to services provided, the minor is then within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court which may adjudge the minor to be a ward of the court pursuant to this section. However, it is the intent of the Legislature that a minor who is described in this subdivision, adjudged a ward of the court pursuant solely to this subdivision, or found in contempt of court for failure to comply with a court order pursuant to this subdivision, shall not be held in a secure facility and shall not be removed from the custody of the parent or guardian except for the purposes of school attendance.
(c) To the extent practically feasible, a minor who is adjudged a ward of the court pursuant to this section shall not be permitted to come into or remain in contact with any minor ordered to participate in a truancy program, or the equivalent thereof, pursuant to Section 602.
(d) Any peace officer may issue a notice to appear to a minor who is within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court pursuant to this section. Before issuing a notice to appear under this subdivision, a peace officer shall refer a minor who is within the jurisdiction of this section to a community-based resource, the probation department, a health agency, a local educational agency, or other governmental entities that may provide services.
Under WIC 601, California juvenile courts may declare that a minor 12-to-17-years old is a “ward of the court” if either:
- the minor consistently defied their parents’ or guardians’ reasonable orders;
- the minor violated a local aged-based curfew ordinance;
- the minor accrued four or more truancies in one school year;
- a school attendance review board or probation officer determined that the minor’s habitual truancy cannot be corrected by available public or private services; or
- the minor defied the orders of the school attendance review board, probation officer, or services provided.
Once a minor becomes a ward of a California juvenile court, the court takes control and responsibility for the child. But if the cause of the wardship is reason 3, 4, or 5 described above, then the court will not remove the child from the parental home except for the purpose of going to school.
Before peace officers can issue a “notice to appear” in juvenile court to truant or disobedient minors, the officers must refer them to either:
- community-based services;
- the probation department;
- a health agency;
- a local education agency; or
- other government entity that provides services.
And any minors who are adjudged wards of the court under WIC 601 are not allowed to have contact with other minors in the truancy program.1
See our related article, Does California’s Juvenile Court Have Jurisdiction Over Children of all Ages?
- Welfare & Institutions Code 601 WIC – Persons subject to jurisdiction of court as ward for refusal to obey orders of parents, violation of curfew, or truancy. See, for example, In re R.M. (Cal. App. 1st Dist., 2018), 231 Cal. Rptr. 3d 573, 22 Cal. App. 5th 582; In re R.T. (Cal., 2017), 220 Cal. Rptr. 3d 770, 399 P.3d 1, 3 Cal. 5th 622.