When a youth violates a court-ordered probation condition, the law permits law enforcement and the Probation Department to bring that youth into custody.
Law enforcement has authority (but is not required) to take temporary custody of a youth who is a ward of the court, if there is “reasonable cause” to believe that the youth has violated a condition of probation. Once a youth is in temporary custody, law enforcement has several options on how to respond, including the option to deliver the youth to the custody of the Probation Department.
The Probation Department may have the discretion to bring that youth into detention, if the legal requirements are otherwise present. Under California law, the Probation Department must immediately release any youth delivered to its custody, unless it determines that continuance in the home is contrary to the youth’s welfare and one of the legal bases for detention is present. Violating a court-ordered condition of probation is one of the legal bases for detention. Thus, if the Probation Department determines that a youth has violated a probation condition and that it would be contrary to his or her welfare to return home, Probation can exercise its discretion to detain the youth. However, Probation is not required to detain youth in this category, and instead could exercise its discretion for release. Additionally, if Probation decides to detain, it has options other than secure detention, including Home Supervision and non-secure detention. If a Probation Department has a policy of always detaining youth on the basis of an alleged probation violation, such a policy would not be proper, as the law requires Probation to make detention decisions on an individualized, case-by-case basis. For a full discussion of these laws, see the Youth Law Center’s publication, Juvenile Justice Transformation: Navigating the Legal Landscape, Part 2: A Legal Map of Youth Detention in California.
If the Probation Department exercises its discretion to detain a youth in custody for a probation violation, he or she will be brought to court for a detention hearing. The law presumes that the court will release the youth, unless certain statutory factors for detention are present. One of the factors for court-ordered detention is a violation of a probation condition. If a youth is otherwise eligible for detention, the court is permitted, but not required, to order the youth to be detained. However, again, the court is not required to detain youth in this category, and also has options other than secure detention, including Home Supervision and non-secure detention. For a full discussion of these laws, see the Youth Law Center’s publication, Juvenile Justice Transformation: Navigating the Legal Landscape, Part 3: A Legal Map of Youth Detention Hearings in California.
Although the law does not require that a youth who violates a probation condition be detained, such youth are frequently booked into juvenile halls across the state. In 2019, one report on detention practices across the state found that 1 in 5 youth in juvenile facilities were booked for probation violations, averaging about 550 youth each month.