The Santa Clara District Attorney's Office must file a petition before a court date is scheduled for the youth. Once a petition has been filed, a “Notice to Appear” will be sent from the juvenile court to the youth and their parent/guardian. If the youth is in custody and the District Attorney has filed the case, the youth will be given their first court date within 72 hours of the arrest. If the youth is out of custody, the first court appearance is called an “Identification of Counsel Hearing” and can be scheduled for any date.
Prior to this first court date, all cases will be referred to the Public Defender Office (PDO) for legal representation. This will entitle a juvenile to a robust defense team. If the Public Defender Office discovers there is a conflict of interest in representing the youth, the case is referred to the Alternate Defender Office (ADO) or Independent Defense Counsel Office (IDO). If there is no conflict, PDO will keep the case and begin contact with the youth and their parent/guardian. PDO will schedule an intake interview with the youth and their parent/guardian to obtain the youth’s background and contact information, sign consent forms (to obtain medical or school records), and prepare the file for the youth’s first court appearance. The paralegal will also collect information related immigration issues, if applicable. An attorney will be assigned to represent the youth once these steps are completed.
The first court date will always be scheduled for 8:30 a.m., and parents/guardians are always asked to attend. All court visitors, including the youth, their parents/guardians, family members, and other support members, must walk through a metal detector and present photo identification when checking in. The courtroom where the youth’s first hearing is held will usually remain the same for all hearings going forward, to ensure the youth appears in front of the same judge at each hearing. The court will provide a note documenting court attendance so that the minor’s school absence is excused.
At the first court date, typically, the assigned attorney will meet with the youth and their parent/guardian, discuss the offenses alleged in the petition, confirm the parent/guardian’s contact information, and select the next court date with the youth. The attorney will have received a copy of the unredacted police report, which contains sensitive information, including contact information for witnesses. For this reason it is not given to the youth or their parent/guardian. During all court appearances, to ensure the youth’s privacy, only one youth and family is permitted in the courtroom at a time. Youth may generally not attend another youth’s court hearings.
If the youth is in custody, the attorney will advocate for the youth’s release. At the first court appearance, the detention hearing, the court has four options: 1) the court may keep the youth detained in Juvenile Hall; 2) release the youth to their parent/guardian, another responsible adult, or a children’s shelter on the Electronic Monitoring Program or Community Release Program; 3) release the youth to any of these three without additional program supervision; or 4) give the probation officer the discretion to decide whether to release the youth once services are in place.