Learn About the Justice System

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


ARREST:  Getting Arrested

Juveniles 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.


Handcuffs and Finger Prints


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.




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:

When a decision is made to detain a minor, 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 juvenile remains in custody, a Detention Hearing must be held on the first day the court is in session after the petition, and alleged violations of the law by the juvenile are filed with the court.

If the probation officer decides not to file a petition, the juvenile 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 minor 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 





Detention Hearing

Within 24 or 48 hours (excluding weekends and holidays and depending on the charges), the juvenile 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 juvenile should remain in custody or be released to his or her parents or guardian.   The juvenile, his or her parents or guardian, the juvenile's attorney, a Deputy District Attorney and a Deputy Probation Officer are present.

The juvenile judge will consider the juveniles prior record, family behavior and school information.  The circumstances of the crime based on the police report will be considered. The juveniles’ parents and attorney will also be given the opportunity to comment on whether the juvenile should remain in custody. The judge will then decide if the juvenile will remain in custody and can order continued detention if: a juvenile has violated a prior court order, is a flight risk, or is a danger to self or others.

Arraignment Hearing

If the juvenile has not been previously detained, the juvenile will be mailed a Notice of Hearing requiring the minor to appear in his or her first Juvenile Court hearing.   At the arraignment hearing, the court will:

  • Advise the juvenile of his or her rights
  • Read the charges filed against the juvenile
  • Appoint an attorney to represent the juvenile (usually a Deputy Public Defender)

The matter will be set for a trial before the juvenile judge. Prior to the trial in Juvenile Court, a hearing may be held to negotiate a settlement of the case.  This settlement is an agreement usually for a lesser sentence in exchange for a "guilty plea."   This is referred to as a "plea bargain"  and will usually move the juvenile to a disposition hearing. 


Adjudication Hearing (Court Trial)

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

All laws of evidence and constitutional rights afforded an adult are in effect for juveniles in Juvenile Court.   Proof of guilt must be beyond a reasonable doubt. The judge determines whether the juvenile 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 juvenile has admitted the charges (pled guilty) or if the judge has found the charges true (found guilty).


Disposition Hearing (Sentencing)


This hearing is designed to determine the most appropriate way to hold the juvenile accountable for their 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 recommends what should be the outcome of the case based on the needs of both the juvenile 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 juvenile, and the juvenile's parents

Upon review of all available information, the judge reaches a decision that can be anything from community probation to confinement in a state correctional facility. 

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 juvenile is not going to be allowed to return home
  • Commitment at Juvenile Hall
  • Commitment to the state of California, Department of Juvenile Justice

Juveniles placed on probation will be supervised by officers of the Fresno County Probation Department for the term of probation specified by the judge.