Juvenile Court and Probation from 2008 to 2017
After arresting a minor, police either release the minor into the custody of a legal guardian, or refer the minor to the probation department. After a juvenile has been referred to probation, a probation officer investigates the incident and determines whether the case should be closed at intake, the minor should be placed in a diversion program or on informal probation (usually six months), or if the case should be handled formally by the Juvenile Court. If the case proceeds for formal processing, the district attorney files a petition with the Juvenile Court to initiate court action, after which a judge decides whether the case should be dismissed or whether the minor committed a crime and, if so, what type of disposition is most likely to rehabilitate the minor. This page presents information on the juvenile court and probation process in 2017 and includes trend data from 2008 to 2017.
- In 2017, 71,791 juveniles were referred to probation departments; 87.5 were from law enforcement. The majority of referrals are for misdemeanors, one-third are for felonies and a little under one-sixth are for status offenses.
- The number of juvenile referrals has declined from a peak of 220,896 in 2008. In 2017, 31.6 percent were subsequent referrals and 68.4 percent were new referrals
- In 2017, 29.3 percent of juveniles with known detention status were detained prior to adjudication, 94.2 percent of which were detained in secure facilities.
- Of all juveniles referred to a probation department in 2017, 34.3 percent were closed at intake and 53.3 percent were petitioned to Juvenile Court. Of those petitioned to Juvenile Court, 45.7 percent were for felonies and 36.2 were for misdemeanors, and 18.1 percent were for status offenses.
- Of the juveniles handled formally by the juvenile court, nearly two-thirds (62.0 percent) were made wards of the court; 17.7 percent were dismissed. Of those made wards of the court, 52.9 percent returned to their own or a relative’s home and 29.9 percent were housed in a secure county facility.
Probation referrals by juvenile probation disposition, 2008-2017
Note: In November 2016, California voters passed Proposition 57, which ended the process of juveniles being transferred directly (direct filed) to adult court by county prosecutors. The new law was effective immediately, making 2016 the final year, and a partial year, where direct file data would need to be tracked as a part of the Juvenile Justice in California publication. Proposition 57 did leave in place the process of juveniles being transferred to adult court by a juvenile court judge via fitness hearings.