The Fresno County Public Defenders also have an office at the Fresno County Juvenile Court, located at 3333 East American Avenue, Building 701, Suite E, in Fresno (Phone: 559-600-6155). After you enter through the main doors, turn right and the office will be three doors down.
When a juvenile is formally charged by the Fresno County District Attorney with the commission of an act which violates a criminal law, the juvenile and his or her parents or guardian are ordered to appear at the juvenile court. (A "juvenile" is any person that was under the age of 18 at the time of the alleged criminal act. The document filed by the District Attorney, alleging that the juvenile committed a criminal act, is called the "petition.") A juvenile is entitled to appointed counsel unless the juvenile appears in court with an attorney. In the overwhelming majority of juvenile delinquency cases, the courts will appoint the Public Defender Office.
The California Courts have prepared a video which provides general information about juvenile delinquency proceedings.
Our attorneys appear with minors at their first court appearance, called an "Arraignment", if the minor is not detained in juvenile hall, or a "Detention Hearing", if the minor is detained in juvenile hall. Prior to the first court appearance, our attorneys review the charges alleged in the petitions with the juveniles and their parents and advise the minors of their rights. At the detention hearing we frequently seek to convince the court to release a detained minor on supervised home detention or electronic monitoring.
On occasion, at the arraignment hearing, our attorneys are able to convince the court that a minor should be placed on Informal Probation. Sometimes other settlements can be reached at the arraignment hearing. However, if the District Attorney and the charged juvenile cannot reach a settlement, the case is then set for a further hearing, called a "Trial Confirmation." Prior to the trial confirmation, an interview with the minor is completed. If further investigation is required, our attorneys prepare an investigation request and give it to an investigator.
At the trial confirmation, a case may settle. However, if the case does not settle, then it is confirmed for a court trial, called an "Adjudication Hearing." The adjudication hearing is set to begin within 15 court days of the detention hearing for detained minors, or within 30 days of the arraignment for non-detained minors. Prior to the adjudication hearing our attorneys have subpoenas served on necessary witnesses, research evidentiary issues, and file appropriate legal motions. At the adjudication hearings we are diligent advocates on behalf of our clients.
In the event that the court finds the allegations true, our attorney will appear with his or her client at the Disposition Hearing, afterwards. At the disposition hearing the court will consider the arguments of defense counsel before determining whether the minor should be placed on probation or whether the minor should be placed outside his home, including a commitment to the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), formerly known as the "California Youth Authority."
In some cases, where a minor has reached the age of 16 years (or in some cases, 14 years) and is alleged to have committed an offense listed in Welfare and Institutions Code Section 707(b) or (c), the District Attorney will file a petition with the Juvenile Court, asking the court to find that the minor is unfit to be handled in Juvenile Court. Our attorneys represent minors at these hearings, called "Fitness Hearings." If the court grants the petition, and finds the minor "unfit", the case is transferred to the adult court for all further proceedings.
The Public Defender Office plays an important role in providing legal services to minors in the juvenile justice system.