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Entering the Delinquency Court System

In most cases, a child under the age of 18 (minor) appears in delinquency court because they have been arrested and are accused of breaking the law. For minor offenses, such as a traffic ticket, refer to the Informal Juvenile and Traffic Court section of this website.

Upon arrest and investigation, the law enforcement agency determines whether the minor is released to the custody of their parent(s) or guardian(s), or if the minor is to be detained within Juvenile Hall.

If a minor is arrested, the police can:

  • Make a record of the arrest and let the minor return home.
  • Send the minor to an agency that will shelter, care for, or counsel the minor.
  • Make the minor come back to the police station.
  • Give the minor and their parent(s) a Notice to Appear. Read the notice and do what it lists.
  • Place the minor in Juvenile Hall (this is called "detention").

If the police want to talk to the minor about what happened, the police must tell the minor about their legal rights, called "Miranda rights." Miranda rights are the following:

  • The right to remain silent.
  • Knowing that anything the minor says will be used against the minor in court.
  • The minor has the right to a lawyer. If the minor or parent(s) cannot pay for one, the court will appoint one for them at the initial hearing. If the court has not yet appointed a lawyer, you may contact the Orange County Public Defender for advice. You can also search for a private attorney through the External Court-Related Links section within the court’s general self-help website.

Parental Responsibilities When Your Child is Arrested

As a parent (or guardian) you have legal responsibilities. You may also have financial responsibilities for any damage caused by your child. You may have to pay the victim if the court orders "restitution." Restitution is money to compensate for losses or damage caused by your child. For example, you may have to pay for what your child stole, or for the victim’s medical bills or lost wages. You may also have to pay for your child’s lawyer, juvenile hall services (like food and laundry), and fees to keep your child at the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. This can be expensive, so talk to the court about your financial ability to pay for these fees and costs. The court has a Financial Evaluation Office that you can contact at (714) 935-7411 for information regarding payments, obligations, and financial hearings.

You can also ask the probation officer where to seek financial, medical, and/or psychological assistance. It is a good idea to speak with a lawyer for legal advice and assistance.

Parents/Guardians have rights as well. The police must tell the parents/guardians if their child is detained. The police have to tell you where your child is and what rights he or she has. You probably will not need your own lawyer for this.

If the allegations against the minor are severe, the District Attorney obtains a police report and formally files the allegations with the court. This filing is called a "petition" and petitions can contain several allegations of law violations against a minor (i.e. vandalism, theft, and drug possession).

The Orange County Probation Department has created a video (English) (Spanish) that describes the juvenile delinquency court process within Orange County. In addition, the California Courts Juvenile Delinquency Self-Help Website contains a 13-minute video designed to help minors, parents, and victims of juvenile crime understand delinquency court.

Receiving a Notice from the Probation Department

Read the Notice from Probation carefully. It will probably tell the minor and parent(s) to go to the Probation Department to meet with a probation officer.

Four things can happen at the meeting. The probation officer may:

  1. Lecture the minor and let him or her go home.
  2. Let the minor do a voluntary program instead of going to court. The program could be special classes, counseling, community service, or other activities. If the minor finishes the program, he or she will not have to go to court. The parent may have to sign a contract that says what the minor has to do.
  3. Send the minor home and send the case to the District Attorney. The District Attorney will decide to file a petition (papers that mean that the minor will have to go to court) or not.
  4. Keep the minor detained and send the case to the District Attorney. The District Attorney will then file a petition, usually within two days after the arrest. The minor will have a detention hearing on the next day the court is open. The court is closed on Saturdays, Sundays, and court holidays.

Delinquency Hearings

Depending on the allegations charged against a minor and the minor’s ability to deny allegations, a series of judicial hearings will be scheduled to address the minor’s case. During these hearings the court will consider the age of the minor, how serious the crime is, and whether the minor has a prior criminal record. The court’s authority over juvenile delinquency matters is found within the California Welfare and institutions Code. (WIC § 600 et seq.)

Ultimately, the court can order that:

Below is a chart of how a minor goes through the juvenile court process. Within this process, there are several hearings that require a court decision:

Juvenile Delinquency Hearing Flow Chart

NOTE: A case/petition can be dismissed at nearly any stage.


Upon receipt of a petition alleging that the minor has committed a crime, the court will file the petition, assign the case to a delinquency courtroom, and notice the related parties. If the minor is detained within Juvenile Hall, the initial court appearance will be called a "detention hearing." At the detention hearing (unless the minor already has one) an attorney will be appointed for the minor, and the court will evaluate the District Attorney’s evidence in the case. The court will determine whether or not the detention of the minor is necessary to protect the minor, victims, and/or community. Unlike adult criminal court, there is no opportunity for a minor to request and post bail in juvenile court.

If the minor is not detained, a Notice of Hearing for an initial court hearing will have been sent to the minor and his/her parents. Read the Notice to Appear carefully, as it will tell you where and when the minor’s first appearance in court will be. When the minor arrives at court, they must check-in at the Juvenile Check-In Desk located on the first floor of the Lamoreaux Justice Center. The receptionist will take the minor’s name, and ask which parent(s) the minor has come to court with. The minor will then be told which courtroom to report to. Please note that several other hearings will be held in the same courtroom as the one the minor is assigned to, and it may take several hours of waiting time at the courthouse until your case is heard.

Tips for Parents/Guardians: It is important that you make a dedicated effort to appear at your child’s court appearance(s). Your presence, along with copies of any related documents (i.e. report cards, certificates of participation in sports or other youth programs, and/or proof of counseling services received) shows your support and may assist the court in determining a suitable disposition for the minor.

Whether or not the minor is detained, the court must determine whether the case warrants a trial in adult criminal court. If the court finds that the circumstances of the case may warrant a criminal trial in adult court, then the court will establish a hearing date to determine whether the case is suitable for adult criminal court. This type of hearing is called a "Section 707 Fitness Hearing" after Welfare and Institutions Code § 707. Cases that are transferred to adult criminal court usually involve minors over the age of 14 that are alleged to have committed serious offenses.

The court usually starts the first appearance hearing by telling the minor why they are detained or ordered to appear in court. The court will brief the minor and their parent(s) about what can happen in delinquency court, and explain that they have the right to have a lawyer.

If the minor does not have a lawyer, the court will appoint them one whether they can pay or not. If the court decides later that the parents can pay for a lawyer, the parents will be ordered to pay the county back for attorney services.

The minor can deny (or "contest") the allegations charged against them. This is similar to an adult pleading "not guilty" in adult criminal court. The minor has a right to question the person who prepared the evidence that lead to the petition, as well as the people who gave information at the detention hearing. The minor can also present evidence and subpoena witnesses to support their side of the story. However, for this hearing only, the court must believe that the petition is true. The court has to think about where the best place for the child is. This can mean that the minor is put on home supervision or placed at Juvenile Hall.

The court may take a minor out of their home because:

  • The minor did not obey a court order.
  • The minor ran away from a detention center or other residential program.
  • The minor would most likely run away if the court let them go.
  • The court needs to protect another person or property.
  • The minor needs protection because:
    • The minor’s home is not safe,
    • The minor is or may become addicted to drugs or alcohol,
    • The minor has mental or physical problems, and/or
    • The alleged offenses are particularly severe.

If the minor is ordered to be detained, the minor’s lawyer can ask the court for a new hearing; called a "rehearing." A rehearing can be requested to show the court new evidence about why the minor should not be detained.

If the minor decides to admit to the allegations within the petition, the court will immediately order appropriate sanctions against the minor or set the case for a dispositional hearing.


Sometimes called a "status conference," the purpose of a pre-trial hearing is to determine if the case can be settled without going to trial. If the case cannot be settled, then the court needs to determine if the attorneys are adequately prepared for a trial. Sometimes a pre-trial hearing is not held if the court and attorneys feel that one is not needed.


The purpose of a jurisdictional hearing is for a judge to determine whether the minor committed a crime. If the judge finds that the minor did commit a crime, this determination would give jurisdiction over the minor to the court. Similar to an adult criminal trial, the District Attorney (Petitioner) presents evidence and witnesses to show that the minor committed a crime. The minor’s attorney is also allowed to present evidence and witnesses in support of the minor’s denial of committing a crime.

There must be a jurisdiction hearing on the charges within 15 court days after the detention hearing if the minor is detained. If the minor is not detained, the hearing must occur within 30 calendar days after the arrest unless the minor agrees that the court can have more time.

The hearing could also be continued. The party that asks for the continuance has to have a very good reason. If the court grants a continuance, the new hearing will be set on the court’s calendar in the near future.

When the jurisdictional hearing starts, the judge reads the petition and explains what it says. The judge talks about what can happen at the hearing. The judge tells the parents or guardians that they may have to pay for fines or restitution if the minor is ordered to pay. The judge must decide if the minor understands the charges and what can happen. The judge then asks the minor if the allegations of the petition are true or false. The minor can admit that the allegations are true, or they can deny that the allegations are true and contest the District Attorney’s proof. Similar to a detention hearing, the District Attorney will show the court proof that supports the allegations.

The minor’s lawyer can:

  • Cross-examine the witnesses,
  • Object to evidence,
  • Present witnesses and evidence, and
  • Argue the case to the court.

Just like in adult criminal court, the minor has the right to remain silent. The judge then decides if the allegations within the petition are true.

There are no juries in juvenile delinquency court. If the judge decides that the petition is true, the court sets a dispositional hearing to decide how to care for, treat and guide the minor. If the judge decides the charges are not true, the judge will dismiss the petition.

If the judge decides the charges are true, a hearing is set right after the jurisdiction hearing or a hearing can be set in 10 days if the minor is detained, or 30 days after the District Attorney filed the petition. Or, if everyone agrees, the hearing can happen on a later date.


At the disposition hearing, the judge decides what to do for the minor’s care, treatment and guidance, including their punishment. Before the hearing, the probation officer has to write a "social study" of the minor for the court. Everyone who is part of the case gets a copy of this report before the disposition hearing.

This study has all the important information to help decide what should happen to the minor, like:

  • Family and school history,
  • Past criminal history,
  • A statement from the victim(s) if the current charges are felonies, and
  • Recommendations from the Probation Department or other parties.

At the hearing, the District Attorney and the minor can show the court evidence to help the judge decide. The victim can also give the court a written or oral statement at the hearing.

The judge has to consider many issues including:

  • How to protect the community and keep it safe,
  • How to remedy the victim’s injury or loss, and
  • The best course of action for the minor’s well-being and future.

When the parties are finished showing their evidence and information, the court can:

  • Set aside what the court decided (the "findings") in the jurisdiction hearing and dismiss the case. The judge does this if it is necessary for the interest of justice and the good of the minor, or if the minor does not need treatment or rehabilitation.
  • Put the minor on informal probation with the probation department for 6 months.
  • Make the minor a ward of the court. This lets the court make decisions over the minor instead of the parents. The court may make decisions about the care, treatment and guidance of the minor. The judge can take full control over the minor, or limit how much control the parent or guardian has over the minor.
  • Refer the minor to a suitability hearing for entry into the Deferred Entry of Judgment Program.

NOTE: Deferred Entry of Judgment, or DEJ, is an alternative to the juvenile delinquency process that was passed by California voters in March 2000 as part of Proposition 21. The DEJ program allows a minor charged with at least one felony to become eligible for a specialized probation program. If the minor admits to the charges and then successfully completes DEJ probation, the juvenile court dismisses the case and seals the minor’s arrest and court records. The minor’s arrest would then be deemed never to have occurred.

If the court takes jurisdiction over the minor, the minor will be considered a ward of the court and the judge can order different things. The list below starts with the less serious orders:

  • Send the minor home on probation with supervision.
  • Send the minor to live with a relative.
  • Put the minor in foster care, a group home or institution.
  • Send the minor to a local detention facility, ranch or county boot camp.
  • Send the minor to the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ).

If the minor is taken out of their home and put in a relative’s home, in foster care, or in a group home, a case plan for the future of the minor is created. The court will review the placement regularly at hearings in the future.

If the minor is detained in a secured facility, the judge has to decide the maximum amount of time the minor can be detained. If the minor goes to the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), it means the judge decided that it would be good for the minor to learn from the discipline or programs at the DJJ.

The judge can set terms and conditions for a minor on probation. These terms and conditions can be strict but reasonable, and the minor may have to give up some personal rights. If placed on probation, the judge can order the minor to:

  • Go to school without missing a day.
  • Go to counseling with the parents or guardians.
  • Comply to a curfew.
  • Follow every law.
  • Be tested for drugs and alcohol.
  • Do community service.
  • Go to a work program without pay.
  • Not see or speak with certain people.
  • Not drive, or limit when and where they can drive.
  • Be searched without a warrant.
  • Pay restitution to the victim or a fine.
  • Impose additional terms of probation to benefit the minor’s accountability and monitor rehabilitative progress.

NOTE: When a minor has to pay restitution or a fine, the parents or the person who has custody of the minor has the responsibility to pay the restitution and fine.

Even if the minor is sentenced to adult prison, he or she will stay at the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) until he or she is at least 16. If the minor is at least 16, the judge can send him or her directly to adult prison. Or if the minor’s sentence ends before he or she turns 21, the judge can let him or her stay at the DJJ the whole time. If the sentence is longer, the minor will go to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) on his or her 18th birthday.

Rights and Roles of Victims

As a victim of crime, you have rights. You have a right to information and a right to participate in the court process. To learn about these rights, read Your Rights and Role in the Juvenile Court Process: Information for Victims and visit the California Courts Victim Assistance website. For more information, read Victims Rights and Services , as well as different resources, information, and forms provided by the Office of Victim and Survivor Rights and Services - Juvenile Services Unit.

You may be able to recover for some of your losses by asking the court to order someone to pay "restitution." The State Restitution Fund is also available for crime victims.

Read the Juvenile Victim Restitution Brochure provided by the Orange County Probation Department, and visit the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Victim Services Juvenile Program website for further information.

You may also learn more about restitution to victims for offenses made by juveniles by reading: Restitution Basics for Victims of Offenses by Juveniles

Here are links to court forms and instructions that can help to file an order for restitution:

Delinquency Court FAQ

PLEASE NOTE: All juvenile matters are confidential pursuant to WIC § 827. Therefore, no information can be released over the phone because photo identification cannot be verified. This would include acknowledging there is a juvenile case matter or file on record.


You can access instructions and the applicable forms on the court’s Juvenile Case File Copy Request Web Page. Be sure to follow the instructions, and mail the applicable forms to:

Orange County Juvenile Court
ATTN: 827 Petition Desk
341 The City Drive South
P.O. Box 14169
Orange, CA 92863-1569

IMPORTANT: Only forms completed in ink or typed forms with original signatures will be accepted. Forms must be completed in their entirety. If you have any questions about obtaining juvenile court records please call (657) 622-6878.


Fill-out a copy of the JV-575 (Petition to Obtain Report of Law Enforcement Agency) . Be sure to follow the instructions, and mail the form to:

Orange County Juvenile Court
ATTN: 828 Petition Desk
341 The City Drive South
P.O. Box 14169
Orange, CA 92863-1569

IMPORTANT: Only forms completed in ink or typed forms with original signatures will be accepted. Forms must be completed in their entirety. If you have any questions about obtaining juvenile court records please call (657) 622-6878.

Non-Attorney requests:

Put your request in writing and address the letter to:

Presiding Judge of the Juvenile Court
Superior Court of California, County of Orange
Lamoreaux Justice Center
341 The City Drive South
Orange, CA 92868

Include the following information:

  • Minor’s full name at time of hearing
  • Case number
  • Minor’s birth date
  • Your relationship to minor
  • The reason you are requesting transcript
  • Specific hearing dates in which your request covers
  • State that you are willing to pay any and all costs of transcription
  • Your full mane, address and telephone number

If your parental rights have been terminated, or if you are not a party to the case, your request must be made via an 872 Petition. Fill out form JV-570 (Request for Disclosure of Juvenile Case File) and be sure to complete every section of the form. Also include the minor’s birth date in the "Child’s Name" section.

Once the request has been reviewed, the judge will make a finding, either granting or denying your request. If granted, the Court Reporter will be served with a copy of the order, and will contact you with an estimated cost. All fees for transcripts must be paid to the court reporter in full before the transcript will be prepared.

NOTE: It can take several weeks for a transcript to be prepared.

All transcript requests from attorneys must be submitted as follows:
  • Pleading format.
  • Include Request for Transcript.
  • Include Declaration in Support of Transcript.
  • Include Order for Transcript.
  • Request, declaration and order must be on separate caption pages, begin on line 7.
  • In addition to the details of the request, request must contain the words "an original and one copy to be prepared; the original transcript to be placed in the juvenile court file."
  • Court reporter name and number, if known, should be provided in Order for Transcript.
  • Designate who will be paying the transcription costs.

Contact your attorney or probation officer. If you do not have one you must come down to the courthouse with photo id.


Sealing of juvenile records can be initiated with the Orange County Probation Department. You can contact the Juvenile Investigations Unit of the Orange County Probation Department at (714) 935-6351 for more information on the process and fees to seal juvenile records.


Contact a Warrant Officer at the Juvenile Hall Custody Intake Unit at (714) 935-6660


When you arrive, check-in on the first floor Juvenile Check-In counter. The receptionist will tell you which courtroom to report to.


Contact Juvenile Hall at (714) 935-6660


Yes. If you do not retain an attorney for your child, one will be appointed at the initial hearing.


Depending on the severity of the alleged crime(s), your child may or may not be released back to you. If your child has not been released from custody you may contact Juvenile Hall at (714) 935-6660 for more information.


A Booking Officer will contact you with information on your child’s pending court appearance. You will also receive a "Notice to Appear" in the mail which will detail the date, time, and location of your child’s court appearance.


You must contact your attorney. If you do not have an attorney, you may call the courthouse the day before your hearing. You may also contact the

Juvenile Court

341 City Drive South, Suite 307
Orange, CA 92868-3205
Phone: (714) 935-7578
FAX: (714) 935-7559
Toll Free: (877) 880-7788

Orange County Public Defender’s Office at (657) 251-6090 for more information.


Costs related to your child’s arrest will vary depending on the amount of damage caused, and the time it takes to reach a resolution. The court could order fines, restitution, court fees, attorney fees, living & program expenses to be paid by the parent’s on behalf of their child.


Upon arrest, minors can be temporarily detained by a local law enforcement agency. Local law enforcement agencies have discretion to release a minor to the custody of their parent(s) or guardian. If the arresting agency chooses not to release a minor, they will be taken to Juvenile Hall for booking.


The Orange County District Attorney prosecutes juvenile crimes.


The Orange County Probation Department provides a web page dedicated to describing what happens when a minor is arrested.

Additional Resources

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