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The Juvenile Division prosecutes felonies and misdemeanors committed in San Diego County by those who are under the age of 18 at the time of the crime. Juveniles who are prosecuted for criminal acts are referred to as minors. The juvenile justice system is geared toward rehabilitation not punishment, which is why rules within the juvenile system are so different than those in the adult system. In addition, Most juvenile hearings are confidential under Welfare and Institutions Code Section WIC 676.
Deputies review reports submitted by police agencies to determine whether a crime has occurred. The deputies decide which charges should be filed against the minor and include those charges on the charging document, which is called a petition. At the time of issuing, a Deputy District Attorney will review each minor’s prior criminal history and statistical information to determine the minor’s eligibility for deferred entry of judgment and/or informal supervision by the Probation Department.
There are four delinquency departments in San Diego Juvenile Court. Each courtroom is assigned a Deputy District Attorney who appears on the cases on behalf of the people of the State of California. The Calendar Deputy District Attorney reviews police reports, Probation reports and other documents when making arguments to the court on how a minor’s case should be resolved.
The team consists of a team leader, an assigned Deputy DA and legal interns. The motions team handles arrest warrants and the majority of pre-trial motions filed with the court. The bulk of the motions are filed under the California Welfare and Institutions Code Section 654 (informal supervision). However, there are a wide variety of other motions filed, including evidence suppression, requests for probation modification, plea withdrawal, speedy trial, and sealing. The motions team also assists the division with appellate issues and motions for modifications on Prop. 47 cases which allowed for the reclassifications of numerous felony crimes to misdemeanors and the recalculations of the imposed penalties
This team handles all disputed matters, including, but not limited to: trials, evidentiary hearings, restitution hearings, contested dispositions and prima facie hearings. Trial team deputies review police reports, determine which witnesses should be subpoenaed, prepare the case for hearing, conduct the hearing and appear at the disposition hearing (sentencing) in cases where the minor is found to have committed a crime.
This team combats the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) in San Diego County through prevention and education, through protection and through prosecution. Deputy District Attorney Fanny Yu represents the office in training law enforcement agencies, new social workers with Child Protective Services, behavioral health and the medical community, school staff, students and parents, and the community at large regarding CSEC issues in San Diego. The Deputy DA also works closely as the CSEC liaison with Juvenile Court, Probation, Child Welfare Services, victim services organizations such as STARS & North County Lifeline, the Human Trafficking Task Force, the Public Defender’s Office, and with dependency attorneys, to identify minors who have been victimized or are at risk for victimization. The Deputy DA assesses the potential victim’s safety, and collaborates through a multi-disciplinary team on a case plan. The team vertically handles juvenile delinquency cases involving minors who have been recruited or exploited or who are at high risk for exploitation, as well as juvenile offenders who exploit or recruit victims. An important part of Deputy DA Yu’s role as the human trafficking team leader is being informed and educated on the commercial sexual exploitation of children and human trafficking legislation and effectively representing the DA’s Office on committees and steering groups with other partner agencies.
This team handles cases related to sexual assault, pornography, sex trafficking, child exploitation, sexting, child abuse and domestic violence among teens. Two Deputy District Attorneys from this team handle all of these cases and hearings as opposed to different deputies from different teams handling them. The team issues cases after reviewing police reports and victim interviews. They handle detention hearings, readiness hearings, settlement conferences, trials, probation violations, motions to seal records and disposition (sentencing) hearings. The team works closely with the victim/witness advocate assigned to the Juvenile Division and with law enforcement agencies throughout the county on juvenile law as it relates to this type of case. The team also collaborates with Probation’s Juvenile Sex Offender Management Unit, Child Welfare Services, and certain victim services organizations on these sensitive cases.
There are four specialized calendars in Juvenile Court: Dual Calendar, J-Fast, Truancy and Drug Court.
This calendar consists of minors who have an active dependency case and a new delinquency case. In some situations, a minor can be supervised by both Probation and Health Human Services Agency, with one court addressing their needs from both jurisdictions at the same time.
In addition to being a juvenile team, this is also behavioral health court, which handles cases where minors have delinquency cases and mental health issues that are hindering them from being successful on probation. Minors receive assistance through traditional justice partners and they also wrap and mental health services. Wrap services include a parent partner and youth partner to help both the family and minor address issues within the family and obtain needed services in the community.
Cases are handled by the truancy team during a once-a-week court calendar at the Juvenile and Vista courthouses. Truancy partners include the San Diego County Office of Education, all 42 school districts in the county, Probation, Public Defender, law enforcement agencies, drug treatment facilities, Vista Hill, community based organizations, mentors, a judge, and the Children’s Initiative. The truancy team leader works closely with school districts by attending attendance review hearings, providing mediation services for elementary school districts, and assisting the schools and families in working out programming and support to keep students from being referred to truancy court. Mediation services have expanded greatly during 2016 with the Truancy Team Leader meeting with school representatives, truant children at the elementary grade level and the truant’s parents to help resolve issues that have become barriers to school attendance.
This court provides comprehensive drug and mental health treatment within a probationary setting. The Drug Court calendar is held twice a week at the Juvenile Court and one day a week at the Vista Courthouse. The Drug Court team consists of judges, a Public Defender, a District Attorney, Probation Officers, two therapists from SAY San Diego and substance abuse professionals. The program identifies minors whose criminal conduct is primarily motivated by drug or alcohol abuse issues and who have failed to respond to traditional probation intervention. Once identified, we rehabilitate them with an emphasis on intensive substance abuse therapy.
Additionally, to ensure that crimes with the highest potential to significantly affect the public are handled in an efficient manner, certain cases are assigned to one prosecutor for the length of the case. This means one Deputy District Attorney handles the case from beginning to end.
These types of cases include:
- Drug Court
- Mental Competency
- Teen Prostitution, Teen Relationship Violence (TRV) and Sexual Assault
- Vehicular Manslaughter
In 2016, the Juvenile Division handled a wide variety of crimes including simple misdemeanors, robberies, residential burglaries, drug smuggling, undocumented immigrant smuggling, sexual assaults, arson and murder. In an unfortunate case in 2016, a juvenile was charged with murder for intentionally stabbing his friend to death. The minor was tried in Juvenile Court and true found. The minor will be held accountable for his actions and receive education and rehabilitative services.
The Juvenile Division continues to work closely with juvenile justice partners throughout the county to ensure the highest level of services are available to the youth in order to provide appropriate rehabilitative services and reduce recidivism. The juvenile justice system, which is driven by Probation and the courts, has focused on evidence-based practice and trauma informed care. In order to incorporate these theories into juvenile justice, the Juvenile Chief and Assistant Chief are involved in numerous probation and community programs. These include Crossover Youth Project, Positive Youth Justice Initiative, Alternatives to Detention, Graffiti Arts Mural Project, Probation Tattoo Removal Program, and Mid-City Restorative Justice Mediation Project. Chief Dwain Woodley is also a member of the Juvenile Justice Coordinating Counsel and gives regular updates to the Juvenile Justice Commission. Assistant Chief Lisa Weinreb sits on the Board of Mental Health America and the International Bipolar Foundation.