Juvenile Court Services
Offenders are referred to the Probation Department primarily from one of the County's law enforcement agencies. Referrals are usually for youth who are not in custody but may be for a youth who has been arrested for a delinquent act. In either case, the Probation Department must take action on these referrals within certain timeframes. In many cases, youth referred to the Probation Department by a law enforcement agency may be handled informally without a formal request to the District Attorney's Office for the filing of a petition to declare a youth a ward of the Juvenile Court. In those cases, youth may be referred to community programs, and, upon successful completion, have the referral disposed of without further action.
The law requires that some offenders be referred to the District Attorney's Office for more serious cases of delinquency. there are also cases where the Probation Department decides if the formal involvement of the Juvenile Court is necessary. The circumstances of the incident, school attendance and participation, and the youth's history, which is information usually gathered though an interview with the youth and the parent, help determine if a formal referral is warranted.
When cases have gone through the formal Court process and are adjudicated, the youth may be referred to the Probation Department for a social study to help determine what course of action may be taken. Reports are provided for the Court's consideration at the time of disposition and are also provided to the District Attorney's Office and Defense Counsel. These reports may be written to determine suitability for certain types of less formal Court supervision or to provide information and recommendations for more severe sanctions. The more severe sanctions may include local detention at the Juvenile Hall, Los Prietos Boys Camp, or commitment to the State Division of Juvenile Facilities. Additionally, a youth may be removed from their home and placed in a foster care facility for a variety of reasons. In any case, Deputy Probation Officers who author reports in the Investigations Units consider the offense, the impact on a victim, parents' statements, school performance, gang involvement, substance abuse, and mental health issues. They recommend what conditions of probation should be ordered and make referrals to appropriate community service programs.
Both Intake and Investigations Officers utilize a validated risks and needs assessment tool in evaluating how to proceed with a referred offender. This assessment tool exists as a screener at the Intake level and as a comprehensive version for Investigations use. It is called the Santa Barbara Assets and Risk Assessment and was created by the Department of Education at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Each Juvenile Court is assigned a Senior Deputy Probation Officer who serves as a Court Hearing Officer for cases appearing before it. Court Hearing Officers represent the interests of juveniles appearing before the Court, provide any information and assistance that may be required in a hearing, and act as representatives of the Probation Department. They act independently of the District Attorney and defense counsel.