California

Juvenile Indigent Defense Delivery System

CA

California provides counsel to indigent youth through a county-based system which includes public defender offices, contract attorneys, and private appointed attorneys. The dominant form of indigent representation is public defender offices. The California Public Defender Association maintains an on-line list of websites for counties with public defenders. Juvenile indigent defense attorneys are paid by the local county. Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 218. Where there is a conflict preventing representation by a public defender, the court may appoint defense counsel, which is also paid for by the county. Cal. Penal Code § 987.2(a)(3). Certain counties have lists of conflict counsel from which the court is to choose. See, e.g., Sonoma Cty. Super. Ct. Local Rules of Ct. R. 8.6.

The California Appellate Projects (CAP) are non-profit law organizations responsible for improving the quality of appellate representation, including appeals taken from delinquency adjudications. A CAP office serves each of California’s appellate districts.

In 2015, the State Legislature passed AB 703, which outlines minimum training requirements for juvenile defense attorneys and recognizes the specialization of the field of juvenile defense. The bill makes clear the role of juvenile defenders and their obligation to provide effective, competent, diligent, and conscientious advocacy of the client’s expressed interests. Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 634.3.

Some standards also exist at the county level. For example, in San Bernardino County, “Any attorney representing parties in juvenile matters shall not seek certification of competency and shall not be certified by the Court as competent until the attorney has met minimum standards of competency.” An attorney meets the minimum standards where the attorney has either: “(a) Represented parties for at least six months in juvenile matters; or (b) Participated in at least eight hours of training or education in juvenile law. The training or education must have addressed Juvenile case law and statutes, the Rules of Court, Judicial Council forms, motions, trial techniques and skills, and writs and appeals. If the attorney seeks certification to represent parties in juvenile dependency matters, the training or education must also have addressed child development, child abuse and neglect, family reunification and preservation, and reasonable efforts.” Super. Ct. of Cal., Cty. of San Bernardino, Local Rules of Ct., R. 1692.4.

Juvenile Court Rules

In addition to statutes and case law, juvenile court proceedings are governed by court rules. These are often promulgated at the state level, but may also be passed at the local court level instead of, or in addition to, statewide rules. California’s juvenile court rules are called the Family and Juvenile Rules. Many counties in California have local rules; these can often be found on the California Courts’ website.

Right to Counsel

Beyond the right to counsel in juvenile court guaranteed by the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution and In re Gault, 387 U.S. 1 (1967), states often have state constitution or statutory provisions further expanding upon or delineating that right.

In California, youth in juvenile court have the right to counsel in status violation and delinquency proceedings. Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 634.

Juveniles have a right to court-appointed counsel in appeals of proceedings under Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code §§ 601 or 602. Cal. Rules of Ct., R. 8.403(a).

When appearing in court at the detention hearing, the youth must be informed of his or her right to counsel at every stage of the proceedings. Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 633.

Determination of Indigence

If the minor or his or her parent or guardian would like counsel but cannot afford it, the court may appoint counsel. The court “shall” appoint counsel if the minor appears at the hearing without counsel, regardless of indigency, unless the child waives their right to counsel. In the absence of a waiver, if a parent or guardian is determined to have the ability to pay, counsel shall be appointed at the parent or guardian’s expense. Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 634. The court can continue a hearing for up to seven days in order to make this determination.

Waiver of Counsel

In California, a juvenile may waive his or her right to counsel if the waiver is “intelligent.” Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 634. A totality of the circumstances test is used to evaluate whether a juvenile’s waiver of the right to counsel was knowing and voluntary. The totality of circumstances test “applies to minors as well as adults, and the age of the defendant is simply a factor, although an important one, to be weighed with many others in determining in any given case whether there has been a knowing and intelligent waiver of counsel.” People v. Lara, 432 P.2d 202, 219 (Cal. 1967).

Detention Provisions

When and how the court may decide to detain a child or otherwise place restrictions on the child’s freedom is defined by statute and court rules. In California, a detention hearing generally must occur as soon as possible, but no later than 48 hours after the child is taken into custody, excluding non-judicial days, after the petition is filed. Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 632(b). Provisions for the detention of juveniles are found in Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code §§ 625-641, and 657.

The U.S. Constitution and Supreme Court case law are also sources of due process rights beyond local and state statutes and provisions. NJDC’s Detention Page provides more information about detaining youth.

Post-Disposition Advocacy

The legal needs of children in the delinquency system rarely end at disposition, and states vary in the way they provide a right to representation on these post-disposition issues. California statutes list one post-disposition proceeding at which youth have a right to counsel:

NJDC’s Post-Disposition Page has more information on this topic from a national perspective.

Ages of Juvenile Court Jurisdiction

The age of a child who comes within the jurisdiction of the state’s juvenile courts is defined by state law. In California:

Youth in Adult Court

Despite the existence of juvenile courts, many youth are still tried as adults. California has three ways that youth can be prosecuted as adults:

Assessments

NJDC conducts statewide assessments of access to counsel and the quality of juvenile defense representation in delinquency proceedings around the country. These assessments provide a state with baseline information about the nature and efficacy of its juvenile indigent defense structures, highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the indigent juvenile defense system, and provide tailored recommendations that address each state’s distinctive characteristics to help decision-makers focus on key trouble spots and highlight best practices. The NJDC State Assessment Page provides more information about state assessments.

NJDC has not yet conducted an assessment of the juvenile indigent defense system in California. If you would like to collaborate with NJDC to fundraise for, plan, or engage in an assessment in this state, please contact us.

 

Current through June 2017.