Juvenile Probation

There are several different programs available to the juvenile court. They are typically referred to by the code section that defines them. There are three broad categories and several subcategories (W&I = Welfare and Institutions Code).


300 W&I

It is important to understand that children in this category are before the court through no fault of their own. They are the victims of abuse or neglect inflicted upon them by others (usually a parent or guardian).

601 W&I

Often called "Status Offenders." These are minors who have committed offenses that are only unlawful because of their age. Typical examples are truancy, smoking cigarettes or running away from home. Minors in this category cannot be taken to the juvenile hall.

602 W&I

These are minors that have committed criminal offenses. They can be arrested and housed in the juvenile hall, when appropriate.

For the protection of the minor, the juvenile court intentionally uses different words than are used in adult court.


The first court hearing. Similar to an adult arraignment hearing. They are notified of charges and rights, and an attorney is appointed if needed. Note that juveniles do not have a right to bail (unless being tried as an adult).


The juvenile equivalent to a trial. Note that juveniles do not have a right to a jury trial (unless they are being tried as an adult). Also, strictly speaking, juveniles are not convicted, the allegations are either found to be true or not true by the court.


The juvenile equivalent to a sentencing hearing.

Juvenile Programs

654 W&I

Informal probation. A special program for the first offenders, although there are some limitations depending on the age of the offender and seriousness of the offense. This is administered by the probation department in lieu of court proceedings and typically lasts six months. If the minor complies with program rules, the case will be dismissed. It does not count as a "conviction" (see below). This is a voluntary program, the minor and his/her parents may decline the program and take it before the judge instead.

725 W&I

Six months formal probation without the minor being declared a "ward" of the court. If the minor fails to satisfactorily comply with court orders during the six months, they can be declared a ward of the court.

727 W&I

Formal probation that can last up to age 18, or even 21 in some circumstances. The minor is declared a "ward" of the court for placement at home, in a foster home, group home or juvenile hall. This type of placement supersedes any previous civil court orders (like custody in a divorce, etc).