Child Crime Prevention & Safety Center

Juvenile Court Disposition Hearing

Juvenile Court Disposition Hearing

In juvenile court, a minor’s trial is referred to as an adjudication hearing. If after presentation of evidence and arguments the judge finds that there is sufficient evidence to sustain the juvenile petition, the minor will next return to court for his or her disposition hearing, which is comparable to a sentencing hearing in criminal court. There are many different options available to the juvenile court judge when determining an appropriate disposition, and the court will receive input from probation, the prosecutor and the minor’s attorney before making any decision. There are several disposition options available to a juvenile court judge, including sending the minor home on probation, custody in a probation camp, placement in a foster home or commitment to the Division of Juvenile Justice.

What Does the Judge Consider When Making a Disposition Determination?

The juvenile court judge will consider a number of different factors when determining an appropriate disposition following a juvenile adjudication hearing. The judge will look at the age of the minor offender and his or her record if any. The judge will consider the severity of the offense and the facts and circumstances surrounding the minor’s conduct. The judge will also consider any mitigating information regarding the minor and any condition that may have contributed to the minor’s involvement in the underlying offense.

The judge cannot punish the minor for not confessing or for refusing to admit the allegations in the petition. In states like California for example, the judge can consider whether the juvenile violated California Penal Code Section 118 PC by committing perjury during the adjudication hearing.

In some cases, the juvenile court judge will proceed immediately to a disposition hearing after a minor’s adjudication hearing if the minor is found to have committed the conduct alleged in the petition. In other cases, the judge may want additional time to obtain a social study from the probation department or to review additional mitigating information provided by the minor or his or her parents. The judge can also request that a psychological evaluation be completed to determine if there are any underlying mental health concerns. If a minor is in custody, he or she has a right to have a disposition hearing within ten days of adjudication.

If there is a victim, that person has the right to attend the disposition hearing and can also provide a written victim impact statement or can speak directly to the judge at the minor’s disposition hearing. The minor also has the right to testify at his or her disposition hearing.

Disposition Options

There are a number of different disposition options available to a judge at a minor’s disposition hearing as dictated by the California Welfare and Institutions Code. If the juvenile court finds that the interests of justice would be served, the court can set aside the findings of the adjudication hearing and dismiss the petition pursuant to California Welfare and Institutions Code Section 782. The Court can also place the minor on informal probation where the minor would have to adhere to conditions set forth by the court but would not have to be monitored by the probation department.

The Court can place the minor on deferred entry of judgment where judgment would not be entered as long as the minor adheres to the conditions set forth by the court and commits no new offenses. In these cases, the action would ultimately be dismissed if the minor fully complies with his or her DEJ conditions.

The minor can be placed on formal probation, where he or she would be required to remain at home during the period of probation. If the minor does not have a suitable home environment, he or she can be placed on probation and required to stay at a relative’s home, at a group home or at a foster home. In more serious cases, the judge may require that the minor attend and complete a county probation camp and in the most serious cases, the minor can be committed to a locked detention facility operation by the Division of Juvenile Justice.