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Juvenile Justice frequently asked questions

What is the juvenile justice process like?

The Santa Clara County Superior Court has information about the juvenile just process.

Where is the Santa Clara County Juvenile Justice Courthouse?

The Juvenile Justice Courthouse is located at 840 Guadalupe Parkway, San Jose, CA 95110​.  The phone number is (408) 808-6200.

What time do I need to show up for court?

Typically, 8:30 AM.  Cases are called from 8:30 A.M. until 12:00 P.M. during the morning session.  Please make sure that your school and/or your parents work understand that you are expected to be there for the entire session as it may take that long to have your case called.  This is outside the control of the Public Defender Office.  

If you have court scheduled during an afternoon session, make sure to be at court by 1:30 P.M.  Your attorney will notify you if you are assigned to an afternoon session.

Are hearings open to the public?

Generally, juvenile court hearings are confidential and not open to the public.

There are exceptions outlined in Welfare and Institutions Code § 676:  The youth, their parent(s), advocates, interpreters, family members, and victims are allowed to attend court.

Do I need to hire a lawyer for court?

Youth cannot appear in juvenile court without an attorney. Youth are entitled to legal representation at all stages of the court process throughout their case, so the Public Defender’s Office is appointed to represent the youth at the first court date. You can also choose to hire your own attorney if that is your/your family’s preference.

If you have questions regarding an attorney representing you and/or your family member, you may have the youth call the public defender office’s juvenile intake line at (408) 299-7040.

If the Public Defender’s Office has a conflict, the youth will be referred to the Alternate Defender’s Office (ADO), or Independent Defense Counsel Office (IDO), which also provide free legal representation. Please see below for important information regarding specialized qualifications of appointed attorneys in Juvenile Court.

I received a letter from the Public Defender’s Office in the mail.  Do I have to be represented by the Public Defender’s Office?

The Public Defender’s Office sends notification letters to all youth who we know have an upcoming court date.  The letter describes our office’s intake and interview process.  If you choose to hire a private attorney, you do not need to contact the Public Defender’s Office for an intake interview. If you do not hire your own attorney, please follow the instructions in the Public Defender notification letter right away to start the process for getting a lawyer assigned to your case.  Delays in the intake/interview process may cause delays in your legal case.

You can choose to hire a private attorney. Whether you have an attorney through the Public Defender Office or a private attorney, the juvenile attorney represents the child’s expressed interest, not those of their parent(s). In other words, the attorney must represent that youth’s voice in court even though the parents are paying the attorney’s fees or advocating for a certain outcome. There are outstanding attorneys in the private bar who represent juveniles. Please note that because that private attorney is not “appointed counsel” by the Court, that attorney is not legally required to have specialized training in juvenile law as discussed on this site. Therefore, if you plan to hire an attorney to represent your child, you may consider requesting information during the consultation outlining an attorney’s experience in juvenile law and the specific areas discussed below.

What is the address of the Public Defender Office’s Juvenile Unit?

120 W. Mission Street, San Jose, CA 95110

However, we do have a satellite office at the Juvenile Center located next to the Probation Department and the Juvenile Courts. That office is located at 840 Guadalupe Parkway in San Jose which is where you will meet with the juvenile paralegal for your pre-court interview.

What is the phone number for the Public Defender Office’s Juvenile Unit?

(408) 299-7040.  Call this phone number to schedule an appointment or to be routed to a specific juvenile attorney if you do not have their phone number.

What is the Public Defender’s intake/interview process for out-of-custody cases?

Before a lawyer can be assigned to your case, our office first needs to conduct an intake process that includes: interviewing you, reviewing your case, and determining whether there are any other reasons why we would not be able to represent you (for example, there might be a conflict, which means an attorney from another office must represent you). 

To start this intake process, it is very important that you:

  1. Call the Public Defender Juvenile Intake Line at: (408) 299-7040.
  2. Schedule a specific time for an interview.
  3. Interview with the Public Defender Paralegal at the designated time.  You will speak with the paralegal about your case outside the presence of your parents for the purposes of confidentiality, and then with your parents about process, general information, etc. This is done in order to safeguard the “attorney-client privilege” since the juvenile paralegal is part of your legal defense team. Anything you can tell the paralegal is covered by the attorney-client privilege, so the paralegal and your attorney cannot share it with anyone without your express permission, including your parents. You may waive that privilege and share details with your parents or have your lawyer speak directly with your parents.
  4. Follow up on any other instructions given to you by the Public Defender Paralegal.  

All of these steps should be completed at least one week before your first court date.

I have just learned that my assigned attorney is from the Alternate Defender Office (ADO).  How can I get in touch with my attorney there?

The phone number for the Alternate Defender is (408) 970-2700.  The address is: 2305 Bering Drive, San Jose CA 95131

Please visit the Alternate Defender website for more contact information.

I have just learned that my assigned attorney is from the Independent Defense Counsel Office (IDO).  How can I get in touch with my attorney there?

The phone number for the Alternate Defender is (408) 758-4250.  The address is: 373 W. Julian Street, Suite 300, San Jose, CA 95110.

How do I find out who my child’s Probation Officer is, and how can I get a hold of them?

You can call the Probation Department at (408) 278-5800 or visit the Probation Department's website for more information.

Where is Juvenile Hall?

Juvenile Hall is located at 840 Guadalupe Parkway, San Jose, CA 95110​.  The phone number is (408) 278-5850.

What happens if my child is taken to Juvenile Hall?

A staff member of the Juvenile Probation Department will contact you. 

If you are not contacted right away, call (408) 278-6010.  The probation officer will ask you some questions, including questions about your child’s social history and whether you would want your child to be released home to you.

  • To make an appointment to see your child at Juvenile Hall, call (408) 278-5810.
  • If there is an emergency, and you need to contact your child at Juvenile Hall, call (408) 278-5820.

You will be given a court date for your child’s detention hearing, where the judge will decide whether to release your child from custody.  In some cases, a youth may be released sooner than that if no charges are ultimately filed by the District Attorney’s Office.

When will my child be released from Juvenile Hall?

This depends on the seriousness of the crime, the youth’s delinquency history, and other information regarding whether the youth poses a threat to the community or are at risk of not showing up at their next Court date.

The Probation Department makes recommendations to the judge on whether the youth should be detained. It is the judge’s decision to determine if the youth will be released and under what conditions they will be released. The judge will consider factors such as the seriousness of the offense, if there have been previous contacts with law enforcement, and how likely the youth is to appear for their next court date. 

A Juvenile Court hearing, called a “detention hearing”, must occur within 3 court days from the day that a youth is brought into custody at Juvenile Hall.

The juvenile court judge has just released my child from Juvenile Hall on the Electronic Monitoring Program (EMP).  What do I need to do to bring my child home?

After your child’s hearing in court, a probation officer will give you a slip of paper showing the judge’s decision to release your child on EMP. 

Take this slip of paper to the Police Admissions station at Juvenile Hall located at 840 Guadalupe Parkway, San Jose, CA 95110.  (408) 278-5820.  From there, you will receive further instructions about the EMP program. 

The entire process for your child to be released from Juvenile Hall on EMP takes about 1-2 hours.

What should I bring to my child’s first court date?

Bring anything that you think might be helpful for the attorney to know about your child.  Items described below are just a few examples that might apply to your child:

  • Names, phone numbers, and contact information of any other adult with whom your child can stay (particularly relatives) if you do not think your child can be released home to you.
  • Copy of the IEP (Individualized Education Program).  Assessments from Triannual IEPS are usually the most helpful.
  • SSI documents, preferably with documentation showing qualifying circumstances.
  • Medical records showing cognitive or intellectual assessments.
  • School paperwork with documentation of any disabilities, special education programs, counseling programs, or accommodations.
  • Paperwork from any community-based organization that has been supporting your child.

My child has been ordered to pay restitution and/or other court costs.  Can I, as the parent, be held responsible for paying those costs, too?

Yes.  As a parent or legal guardian of a youth under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court, you are also responsible for paying restitution, fines, and fees that are imposed by the judge in your child’s case. However, there is a limit to a parent’s liability.

Because the Public Defender Office represents the child, if a parent is contesting their court-ordered responsibility​ for the youth's restitution order, the parent will be referred to the Independent Defense Counsel Office (IDO) for legal advice.  If you are a parent who is interested in receiving more information about your rights related to restitution, you can contact the IDO at (408) 758-4250.

How do I set up restitution payments?

You may be required to set up an account to pay restitution, fines, and fees with the Santa Clara County Department of Tax and Collections(DTAC).

You can set up an account by phone:

(408) 326-1000 (general line)

(408) 326-1003 (account representative line)

You can also make a payment by phone:

(877) 729-4773

If you do need to go in person, the Department of Tax and Collections is located at 852 N. First Street San Jose, CA 95112.  DTAC does offer the ability to schedule an appointment​ (and cut down on the long wait times).

Can I have a jury trial in juvenile court?

You are not entitled to a jury trial in juvenile court. Trials are be heard and decided by a juvenile court judge.

What is the Victim Offender Mediation Program (VOMP)?

The Victim Offender Mediation Program utilizes restorative justice principles and provides juveniles and victims the ability to meet face-to-face (or remotely) in a structured setting with neutral mediators to address what happened, the impact on the parties, and how the damage can best be repaired. The program, rooted in restorative justice principles and transformative mediation, takes into consideration everyone affected by the crime, including the victim, offender, parents, siblings, schools, and the community. Mediation is free, voluntary, and confidential. (If all parties agree, the mediated agreement may be shared with third parties, such as the court, Probation, District Attorney, and defense counsel.)

The VOUM is located at 2310 N. First Street, Suite 100, San Jose, CA 95131.  The phone number is (408) 993-4127

Where is the William F. James Ranch?

The William F. James Ranch is located at 19050 Malaguerra Avenue, Morgan Hill, CA 95037.  The phone number is (408) 201-7600.

How long can a person be on juvenile probation?

At this time, there is no legal minimum amount of time that a youth will be placed on probation. The length of time a youth is on probation depends on how quickly they complete the requirements of their probation, which can range anywhere from 6 months to, in rare cases, a few years.  A youth may be kept on juvenile probation up until the age of 21, and in some limited cases, up to the age of 25.

What happens if I violate the conditions of probation?

The consequences of violating the conditions of probation depend on how serious the violation of probation (VOP) is.  Violations may be handled informally with a verbal warning from the probation officer.  Or the probation officer may ask the court to impose additional terms and conditions of probation.  Or a youth may be taken into Juvenile Hall for the violation.  If a youth is detained at Juvenile Hall for the VOP, they will have a court hearing for the detention.

Can I join the military if I am on probation?

Each military branch has its own requirements.  Some military branches require you to be off probation before enlisting.  Some offenses may make you ineligible for military service. Speak with your attorney about how your case affects joining the military.  You can also contact the recruiter for the branch of service that interests you for specific information.

I just turned 18 years old.  Can I stop coming to juvenile court?

A juvenile court can keep jurisdiction over a case until a youth turns 21 years of age.  If you already have a case in juvenile court, and then turn 18, you must still complete the requirements of your case, including reporting to Probation and juvenile court, until your case is terminated.

Do I have to report that I was “convicted” of a crime on my job application?

No, not for a juvenile matter. 

In juvenile court, there are no “convictions” – only “adjudications.”  If a judge finds that the charges are true, the judge “sustains” the charge, but your juvenile records remain confidential. However, certain sustained adjudications are reported to the Department of Justice, and if your record has not been sealed, it may show up on your “arrest” record. Talk to your attorney about how to seal or remove your arrest record. As a general matter, employers are not supposed to ask about your juvenile history, however, if you are applying for a job in teaching, certain health care positions, or law enforcement, talk to your attorney. Also, federal employers may also have access to your juvenile history.

How do I seal my juvenile delinquency record?

Under current laws, most juvenile delinquency records are automatically sealed after a case is dismissed or probation is terminated.  In these cases, a probation officer submits paperwork to a judge to sign to seal the records. However, certain offenses do not qualify for automatic sealing and require the Court to decide after considering your request. Contact your public defender if you are not sure whether your offense qualifies for sealing, or whether your record has been automatically sealed. ​ Also, see our page on juvenile record sealing. 

What is the effect of having my juvenile delinquency record sealed?

After a judge signs the paperwork ordering a sealing, all records, exhibits, documents, etc. in the possession of any agency are ordered sealed by the judge. This means that the court, Probation Department, police agencies, and any other agency having information about your case must physically seal the record and report that they have no record whenever they receive a request for information about your juvenile case.

When you –the youth– are asked about a juvenile record that has already been sealed, you may respond by saying that you have no juvenile record. Do not say that your juvenile record has been sealed.


Teen resources

Below are links to helpful organizations:

​Education/obtaining GED


Mental health treatment

Substance use treatment

Temporary housing

Young adult women