Learn About The Justice System


Learn about how juveniles who are accused of a crime are processed in Fresno County. 

Arrest: Getting Arrested

Hand in Handcuffs behind the backJuveniles accused of committing crimes will have contact with law enforcement officers with several possible outcomes.  These outcomes are based on the alleged behavior of the minor and on the officer’s discretion, given the circumstances.

A citation may be issued to the minor by a law enforcement officer.  A citation is similar to a ticket and allows the juvenile to appear at a later date on the charges contained in the citation.  A citation requires the juvenile to meet with a probation officer and the Probation Department or to appear in Juvenile Traffic Court.

An officer can arrest a juvenile for a crime and still release the juvenile to their parent or guardian.  When the crime is too serious to release the minor, the officer can take the juvenile into custody and book them into the Fresno County Detention Facility located at the Juvenile Justice Campus in Fresno, California.  For a minor to be arrested, the officer must meet legal standards for an arrest such as commission of a criminal act.

In the event of an arrest, keep in mind that it is illegal to resist arrest by any law enforcement officer:

  • Never resist arrest, no matter how unreasonable the arrest may seem.
  • You must permit a search of your home if a law enforcement officer comes to your home with a search warrant.

When a juvenile is arrested, all law enforcement agencies perform a clothed-body search referred to as a “pat-down” search.  Handcuffs are then placed on the juvenile and they are transported in a patrol car to the Juvenile Detention Facility for booking.


Hand Cuffs on top of a fingerprint card If a juvenile is placed in custody in Fresno County, a law enforcement agency has alleged that a crime has been committed and the violation of the law is so serious that they must be detained.  If admitted, the juvenile loses the freedom to come and go, and must conform to all rules and regulations of the institution.

  • The juvenile’s custody is accepted by detention staff;
  • The juvenile receives a brief medical assessment.  If the staff believes the juvenile is under the influence of drugs or alcohol or in need of medical attention, they are taken first to a medical facility for treatment, and then may be returned to the Juvenile Justice Campus for booking.
  • The juvenile is further evaluated to determine the following:
    • Emotional level and suicide risk
    • Drug history
    • Gang affiliation
  • Once the decision is made to admit the minor into Juvenile Hall:
    • The juvenile is photographed and fingerprinted.
    • The juvenile will be examined by the medical staff with a medical evaluation scheduled.
    • The juvenile is thoroughly searched to ensure no contraband (such as narcotics, weapons, matches, and cell phones) has been brought in.
    • The juvenile takes a shower and is issued clean clothes (underwear, socks, shoes, pants, and T-shirt).
    • The juvenile is assigned to a detention housing unit.

Custody/Housing Units

Picture of the inside of a Juvenile Housing Unit After the juvenile is booked, they are assigned to a housing unit based on their needs identified through classification.  Most juveniles remain in the same housing unit until a disposition has been decided.  Some juveniles with special needs are housed separately for their own protection.

All boys and girls are housed in separate housing units.

  • These units house 30 juveniles each and have one-person rooms equipped with a toilet.
  • They are self-contained with meals and educational classes provided within the unit.  The juveniles do not leave these units except in special circumstances, such as for medical checks or to visit family members, attorneys or other authorized visitors or to attend court.

Each housing unit has similar activities:

The juveniles are awakened each morning at approximately 6:00 a.m. and go to bed at 9:00 p.m.

  • All three meals are served within the unit.
  • There is an accredited school on-ground that conducts classes approximately 5 hours per day, 5 days per week, year-round.
  • The juveniles are given quiet time each day to work on homework, write letters or read.
  • The juveniles are given a minimum of one hour per day for outdoor sports (large muscle exercise).  The juveniles are required to participate unless medically excused.
  • The juveniles are also allowed other exercise and are given time for sponsored activities and visitation.
  • All activities and movements are supervised by Probation staff, including use of restrooms and showers and during sleeping periods.

All housing units maintain strict rules:

No loud talking at meal time, showers, or in the restroom, and no talking while moving about the unit.

  • When talking is permitted, never raise one’s voice.
  • One must always get permission before moving about the unit.
  • Walk with hands behind the back.
  • Do not look into anyone else’s room.
  • Show respect to staff and other juveniles.
  • Be on your best behavior at all times.
  • Keep rooms neat and clean at all times.
  • Misbehaving is punishable by loss of privileges, room confinement, or early bed-time.  If serious enough, new criminal charges could be filed.


Going to Court: When charges are filed:

Courtroom Gavel When a decision is made to detain a youth, all law enforcement reports are sent to the Fresno County Probation Department.  They have 24 hours for misdemeanors and 48 hours for felonies (excluding weekends and holidays) from the time of arrest to file charges in Juvenile Court.  Charges are specified and named in a legal document called a petition.  If the youth remains in custody, a Detention Hearing must be held on the first day court is in session after the petition, and alleged violations of the law by the youth are filed by the District Attorney’s (DA) Office with the Court.

If the probation officer decides not to submit to the DAs office to file a petition, the youth will be released from custody with other informal options available, such as:

• Requirement of a time-specific program of community service, counseling services, restitution payments and/or a program of informal supervision where the youth is required to observe good behavior for a period of six months and a restriction of activities may be imposed.
• No further pursuit of the matter 


Juvenile Court Hearings: What happens now

Scales of Justice Detention Hearing

Within 24 or 48 hours (excluding weekends and holidays and depending on the charges), the youth must be taken before a Judge in Juvenile Court for a Detention Hearing.

The purpose of a Detention Hearing is for the Judge to determine whether the youth should remain in custody or be released to his or her parents or guardian. The youth, his or her parents or guardian, the youth’s attorney, a Deputy District Attorney and a Deputy Probation Officer are present.

The Judge will consider the youth’s prior record, family behavior, school information., circumstances of the crime based on the police report, and other factors, if present. The youth’s parents and attorney will also be given the opportunity to comment on whether the youth should remain in custody. The Judge will then decide if the youth will remain in custody and can order continued detention.

Arraignment Hearing

If the youth has not been previously detained, the youth will be mailed a Notice of Hearing requiring the youth to appear in his or her first Juvenile Court hearing.   At the Arraignment Hearing, the Court will:
• Advise the youth of his or her rights
• Read the charges filed against the youth
• Appoint an attorney to represent the youth (usually a Deputy Public Defender)


Adjudication Hearing (Court Trial)

For in-custody juvenile cases, within 10 days of the arraignment (excluding weekends and holidays), the court trial must begin.   Out-of-custody youths are calendared for trial by court availability. Youths are not entitled to a jury trial and juvenile cases are normally closed to the public for confidentially and protection of the youth.  

All laws of evidence and constitutional rights afforded an adult are in effect for youths in Juvenile Court.   Proof of guilt must be beyond a reasonable doubt. The Judge determines whether the youth has committed the crime based on the evidence presented by the District Attorney’s office.  

If the Judge finds reasonable doubt, the charges are dismissed. If not, the Judge will find the matter (petition and charges) true and the case typically proceeds to a Disposition Hearing.  Disposition Hearings are held if the youth has admitted the charges (pled guilty) or if the Judge has found the charges true (found guilty).

Disposition Hearing (Sentencing)

Law Book This hearing is designed to allow the Court to review information and determine the most appropriate level of accountability for the youth’s actions and to assist in their treatment and rehabilitation.

A probation officer will have investigated the case and prepared a written report for the Juvenile Court.  The report provides recommendations for the outcome of the case based on the needs of both the youth and the community.

The Report of the Probation Officer will include the following information to assist the Court in reaching the appropriate disposition:
• Brief statement of the offense
• Prior delinquency history
• School academic and attendance record
• Drug/alcohol history
• Social history of the family
• Statements from the victim, the youth, and the youth’s parents
Upon review of all available information, the Judge reaches a decision that can vary from community probation to confinement in a state institution. 

Options include:
• Formal probation
• Community Service
• Curfew
• Fines and restitution
• Drug and alcohol counseling
• Mental Health counseling
• Search and seizure
• Group or foster home placement if the youth is not going to be allowed to return home
• Commitment at the Juvenile Justice Campus
• Commitment to the State of California, Department of Juvenile Justice
Youths placed on probation will be supervised by officers of the Fresno County Probation Department for the term of probation specified by the Judge.

WIC 786 Hearing
Pursuant to Welfare and Institution Code (WIC) 786, if a person who has been alleged or is found to be a ward of the Juvenile Court “satisfactorily completes” an informal program of supervision, pursuant to WIC 654.2, probation under WIC 725, or a term of probation for any offense, the Court shall order the petition dismissed. This means the Court will order all parties with information containing to the specific case and the specific youth to seal their records upon the completion of their grant of probation. If the person has committed an offense that is listed as a violation of WIC 707(b), that offense is not automatically sealed. That individual would need to request a sealing under WIC 781 when eligible. 
What is considered by the Court to be “satisfactorily completed?” WIC 786 (C)(1) denotes that satisfactory completion of an informal program of supervision or another term of probation described in subsection (a) shall be deemed to have occurred if the person has no new findings of wardship or conviction for a felony offense of misdemeanor involving moral turpitude during the period of supervision or probation and if the person has not failed to “substantially comply” with reasonable orders of supervision or probation that were within their capacity to perform.  
Probation typically sets non-appearance WIC 786 hearings 12 months after being placed on probation. Exceptions may occur for youth who have been ordered to be on probation until Further Order of the Court. Those matters are calendared when the youth is calendared for probation termination. 

Deferred Entry of Judgement (DEJ) Program
If a youth meets the criteria of WIC 790 and it is deemed by the Court that the youth can benefit from treatment, education and rehabilitation, the Court may place a youth in the DEJ program if the youth admits to the petition as filed for DEJ purposes. Upon acceptance for DEJ supervision, the Court will schedule a review hearing to review the youth’s performance in the program. If the youth has performed satisfactorily during the period in which DEJ was granted, at the end of that period the charge or charges in the wardship petition shall be dismissed and the arrest upon which the judgment was deferred shall be deemed never to have occurred and any records in the possession of the Juvenile Court shall be sealed, except that the prosecuting attorney and the probation department of any county shall have access to these records after they are sealed for the limited purpose of determining whether a youth is eligible for deferred entry of judgment pursuant to Section 790 and as described in subdivision (d).

Eligibility criteria:
(1) The youth has not previously been declared to be a ward of the court for the commission of a felony offense.
(2) The offense charged is not one of the offenses enumerated in subdivision (b) of Section 707.
(3) The youth has not previously been committed to the custody of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Division of Juvenile Facilities.
(4) The youth’s record does not indicate that probation has ever been revoked without being completed.
(5) The youth is at least 14 years of age at the time of the hearing.
(6) The youth is eligible for probation pursuant to Section 1203.06 of the Penal Code.
(7) The offense charged is not rape, sodomy, oral copulation, or an act of sexual penetration specified in Section 289 of the Penal Code when the victim was prevented from resisting due to being rendered unconscious by any intoxicating, anesthetizing, or controlled substance, or when the victim was at the time incapable, because of mental disorder or developmental or physical disability, of giving consent, and that was known or reasonably should have been known to the youth at the time of the offense.
(b) The prosecuting attorney shall review his or her file to determine whether or not paragraphs (1) to (7), inclusive, of subdivision (a) apply. If the youth is found eligible for deferred entry of judgment, the prosecuting attorney shall file a declaration in writing with the Court or state for the record the grounds upon which the determination is based, and shall make this information available to the minor and his or her attorney. Upon a finding that the youth is also suitable for DEJ and would benefit from education, treatment, and rehabilitation efforts, the Court may grant DEJ. Under this procedure, the Court may set the hearing for DEJ at the initial appearance under Section 657. The Court shall make findings on the record that a youth is appropriate for DEJ pursuant to this article in any case where DEJ is granted.

Suitability criteria:
Based on the finding that the youth is suitable for DEJ and would benefit from education, treatment and rehabilitation efforts. If found suitable, the Court will make findings on the record that a youth is appropriate for DEJ.

Lifting of DEJ:
If it appears to the prosecuting attorney, the Court, or the probation department that the youth is not performing satisfactorily in the assigned program or is not complying with the terms of the youth’s probation, or that the youth is not benefiting from education, treatment, or rehabilitation, the Court shall lift the DEJ and schedule a dispositional hearing. If after accepting DEJ and during the period in which DEJ was granted, the youth is convicted of, or declared to be a person described in Section 602 for the commission of, any felony offense or of any two misdemeanor offenses committed on separate occasions, the Judge shall enter judgment and schedule a dispositional hearing. If the youth is convicted of, or found to be a person described in Section 602, because of the commission of one misdemeanor offense, or multiple misdemeanor offenses committed during a single occasion, the Court may enter judgment and schedule a dispositional hearing.
(b) If the judgment previously deferred is imposed and a dispositional hearing scheduled pursuant to subdivision (a), the Juvenile Court shall report the complete criminal history of the youth to the Department of Justice, pursuant to Section 602.5.