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Special Courts for Minors

About Special Courts for Minors

The Juvenile Justice Court knows that a lot of minors in Juvenile Justice Court have some of the same problems. So, they have special courts and programs to help minors and their families deal with these problems.

The Drug Treatment Court is a special process that closely supervises minors who are addicted to drugs. The Court is made up of a team of people from the DA’s Office, the Public Defender's Office, Juvenile Probation, the Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Service and other agencies. This program has worked for some repeat offenders.

Attached is the Juvenile Treatment Court Protocol.

  • Are all minors eligible for Drug Treatment Court?

    Not all minors qualify for this program. The Court considers minors who have:

    The Court selects minors who really want to change their life.

    • A history of drug and/or alcohol use
    • Committed crimes (called criminal offenses)
    • Not been charged with sex crimes
    • No violent charges
    • No convictions for selling more than $100 of drugs
    • Not gone to Drug Treatment Court before
  • When does the Drug Treatment Court Program start?

    If a minor who goes to Drug Court gets accepted to the program, he or she will start right after the Disposition Hearing. The program lasts 1 year. The judge will make a decision about the minor’s case but will delay the sentence for 1 year. During that year, the minor will go to Court every other week so the Court can see how they are doing.

    When the minor goes to Court every other week, the team looks at:

    The team knows it’s hard to stay sober. They will support the minor for making an effort and will provide the treatment recovery services the minor needs. But, the team will also hold the minor responsible if he or she isn't motivated.

    • How the minor is doing
    • If the minor is keeping appointments
    • The results of the drug tests
    • If the minor has started taking drugs again
    • If the minor is motivated
  • Does the Drug Treatment Court Program have special conditions?

    Yes. To finish the program, the minor must:

    • Go to drug counseling
    • Go to a court review every 2 weeks
    • Contact the community worker that supervises them every week
    • Go to school regularly
    • Have drug tests every week
    • Go to ‘12-step’ meetings at least twice a week. This can be Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous or Cocaine Anonymous.
    • Write in a journal 2 times a week
  • Does the Drug Treatment Court help give support to the minor and the minor’s family?

    Yes. The Probation Department will connect the minors and their families to other resources that can help them, including:

    • Mentor programs
    • Parent support groups
    • Alumni groups
    • Family conference program
    • Smoking cessation program, and
    • Special education advocates
  • What happens when the minor finishes the Drug Treatment Court Program successfully?

    If the minor finishes the program successfully, the Court will dismiss the charges and any fines or fees. Plus, the Court will give the driver’s license back with no restrictions. The minor will also get a graduation certificate.

  • What happens if the minor doesn’t finish the Drug Treatment Court program successfully?

    If the minor doesn’t seem to be doing well, the Court can end the treatment program at any time. Then, the probation officer will make recommendations and the judge can impose the original sentence or order a stricter one.

Santa Clara’s Juvenile Justice Court started a Domestic Violence/Family Violence Court in 1999. The Court focuses on changing the way the abusive minor acts and on supporting the victim. The Court wants everyone to work together to help deal with domestic violence.

Everyone who works with the Domestic Violence/Family Violence Court gets special training. Probation officers, DAs, Public defenders, and Judges meet once a month to make new procedures and change old ones. Experts know how domestic violence can affect kids, families and the community. They understand that kids who see violence can really suffer.

These children may:

Sometimes, abused kids even learn how to abuse others. When they grow up, they may continue the cycle of violence.

  • Commit suicide
  • Do badly in school
  • Have problems with relationships
  • Get pregnant as teens
  • Abuse drugs and alcohol, or
  • Be delinquents
  • What special programs or services are there to help those involved in a domestic or family violence case?

    Juvenile Probation has special programs to:

    The Juvenile Probation Department can help victims by connecting them with groups that can give them:

    The Victim Witness Program tells victims how to get money from the state, for themselves and their kids.

    • Investigate and completely supervise the minors
    • Stop juvenile violence before it starts
    • Teach juvenile offenders and batterers how to stop violence
    • Help and support victims
    • Tell victims and abusers where else to go to get help and support
    • Emotional and financial support
    • Medical attention, counseling or other services they need
    • Information about domestic violence, and
    • Help with a safety plan
  • How does a case get sent to Domestic Violence/Family Violence Court?

    When the DA files the petition of a minor who has had problems with domestic violence, it sends the case to the Domestic Violence/Family Violence Court.

    Minors who go to this special court will have:

    • A detention hearing
    • A jurisdiction hearing, and
    • A disposition hearing
  • Do all minors that go to Domestic Violence/Family Violence Court get probation?

    If the minor admits the charges are true or the judge says the petition is true, the minor may be put on probation. Probation has conditions. This means the minor must obey certain rules.

    In most cases, the conditions include:

    • No contact with the victim
    • Attending a 26-week batterer’s program, or other special classes
    • Drug or alcohol treatment, and
    • Family counseling
  • Can the minor live at home while on probation?

    If the parents have a problem with violence or drugs, the minor won’t live with them until they get help.

  • How long does probation last?

    Probation usually lasts 1 or 2 years. During probation, the minor has to go to review hearings in court so the judge can review their progress. These hearings can be once a month at first and then less often if the minor is doing better.

  • What if the minor gets in trouble again?

    If the minor gets in trouble again while on probation, they’ll go back to Court to deal with the new charge and a violation of their probation. If this happens, the judge may give them a harsher punishment.

Some minors charged with a felony for the first time don’t have to go through the juvenile justice process. They can do a special program, called Deferred Entry of Judgment (DEJ), instead. If they finish the program successfully, doing everything the Court told them to do, the judge will dismiss the case.

Also, the minor’s record will not show the arrest and the Juvenile Justice Court records will be sealed.

  • Who decides if the minor can participate in the DEJ program?

    The District Attorney (DA) will look at the charges and can suggest the minor be placed in the program and the defense lawyer and judge must agree.

    To qualify, the minor must:

    If the minor is recommended for DEJ, the DA will file a declaration with the Court. It says, for the record, why they decided to suggest the minor for DEJ.

    The minor and the minor’s lawyer will get a copy of the declaration and a notice that says:

    • Not have been a ward of the Court for a felony
    • Not have committed any of the serious felonies listed in WIC 707(b)
    • Not have gone to the Division of Juvenile Justice
    • Not have failed probation before
    • Be at least 14 years old
    • Be eligible for probation
    • What will happen during the program
    • What the minor has to do
    • What the DA, Court and program will do
    • That the minor has to say the charges are true
    • What will happen if the minor finishes the program
    • What will happen if the minor doesn’t finish the program
  • What happens if the minor gets into the DEJ program?

    The Court will send the case to Juvenile Probation. Probation makes a report. Probation will put their findings in the report to tell the judge if education and treatment can help the minor. Probation also has to say which programs the minors will need to be involved in.

  • Does the DEJ program have special conditions?

    The judge will make the final decision on what special programs and conditions the minor will have. The judge can also order the parents or guardians to go to counseling or classes with the minor.

    The judge can also set conditions for the minor, like:

    • Searches without a warrant
    • Drug tests
    • Sticking to a curfew
    • Going to school
    • Paying restitution (compensation) to the victim, and
    • Community service
  • What happens if the minor doesn’t finish the DEJ program successfully?

    The judge can take the minor out of the DEJ program if the minor doesn’t obey all the conditions. The judge can also take the minor out of DEJ if the DA files more misdemeanor charges against him/her. If this happens, the judge will schedule a Disposition Hearing for the original charge. This means the minor’s case will go back into the regular juvenile justice system and the minor may get a harsher outcome.

  • Do many minors in our county participate in the DEJ program?

    Santa Clara County has the most minors in the DEJ program in California. The minors in DEJ do more community service and pay restitution (compensation) faster than in regular juvenile detention. Our goal is for 25-30% of all first offenders to go to DEJ.

Santa Clara County started the first Mental Health Court in the country in 2001. The Court is for minors with mental disorders who break the law. The juvenile justice system is not the right answer for most cases when the minor has a serious mental disorder.

Some minors go back to Juvenile Justice Court over and over because of their mental problem. A survey found that on one day, 215 out of 303 minors in Juvenile Hall were already getting some kind of mental health services. Half of them needed medicine for their conditions.

  • How does the Court know a minor has a mental health problem?

    A team of people in the court system work together to spot and treat minors with serious brain disorders. The team can include:

    In our county, minors who are arrested are checked for mental illness. Probation staff will also check to see if the minor ever went to a mental health provider in Santa Clara County in the past.

    If the minor has mental health problems or went to a mental health provider, probation’s mental health staff will do a full set of tests. Then, a team from different agencies may do more tests to make a treatment plan.

    • Judge
    • Juvenile Probation Department
    • County Mental Health Department
    • DA’s Office, and
    • Public Defender’s Office
  • Can any minor with a mental health problem go to Mental Health Court?

    Mental Health Court takes cases where a minor is charged with a property or drug crime — except selling drugs. It is also handles cases where the minor offender has a brain disorders like:

    • Major depression
    • Bipolar disorder
    • Schizophrenia
    • Severe anxiety
    • Developmental disabilities, or
    • Autism
  • Does a minor with a mental health problem have to go to Mental Health Court?

    No. If the minor doesn’t want to go, they’ll go back through the regular juvenile justice process. If the minor wants to go to Mental Health Court, they have to admit the charges are true. Then, the minor will go on probation and will be strictly supervised.

    The minor must also get individualized treatment and rehabilitation services. Most minors return home and get services. The services should help them stay at home, in school and in live their communities while they get the mental health care they need.

  • Do all minors that go to Mental Health Court get probation?

    No. Some stay in custody. It depends on how serious the crime was.

  • Does the minor have to go back to Mental Health Court?

    Yes. The minor goes back to court often to report on how he or she is doing. The Court wants to know if the minor is:

    • Going to counseling,
    • Taking his or her medication, and
    • Obeying all other condition of probation.
  • Does the Mental Health Court give any support to the parents?

    Yes. The probation officer and mental health case manager will work closely with the parents to support them and guide them.