Where there was evidence describing the programs offered by the Department of Juvenile Facilities (DJF), it was not an abuse of discretion for the juvenile court to conclude that a commitment to DJF would benefit the minor. A.M., a 16-year-old minor, admitted an allegation in a juvenile delinquency petition that he committed a murder. The probation report concluded there was a low likelihood that A.M. could be successfully rehabilitated in any of the least restrictive options available through probation. At the disposition hearing, an intake and court liaison employee with DJF described the intake process when a youth is committed to DJF and the various programs offered. The witness did not discuss A.M.’s specific needs or what programs would be appropriate for A.M. in particular. She had not reviewed the probation report or talked to A.M. or his family. The probation officer testified about the various programs available locally, and why the local program was not appropriate in this case. A.M. presented evidence to support a disposition of local treatment. The juvenile court committed A.M. to DJF. He appealed. Held: Affirmed. When a juvenile court commits a minor to DJF, there must be evidence supporting a determination that less restrictive alternatives are ineffective or inappropriate, as well as substantial evidence demonstrating a probable benefit to the minor by a DJF commitment. In In re Carlos J. (2018) 22 Cal.App.5th 1, 10, the First District recently held that “there must be some specific evidence in the record of the programs at the DJF expected to benefit a minor.” Here, unlike In re Carlos J., there was lengthy testimony from a DJF official about the programs offered at the DJF, as well as DJF publications describing various programs. Although the DJF official did not testify about A.M. in particular, the court could reasonably conclude from the evidence presented that there were programs at DJF that would benefit A.M.
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/archive/A154878.PDF