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Name: In re Bianca S.
Case #: D068942
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 11/02/2015

Juvenile court erred by ordering dependent teens who committed minor property offenses detained at juvenile hall where social workers had been unable to find suitable placements for them. Two 13-year-old girls were dependents of the juvenile court (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 300) and were residing at Polinski Center pending placement when they knocked over a vending machine and took items from it. They were arrested and booked into juvenile hall. The district attorney filed juvenile delinquency petitions alleging petty theft and vandalism and asked that the minors be declared wards. The probation officer recommended the minors be detained in juvenile hall, in part because they were section 300 wards and the social workers were unavailable. The juvenile court ordered the minors detained, although it gave permission to their social workers to place them in alternative locations if they became available. The minors filed petitions for writ of mandate, which the Court of Appeal treated as habeas petitions. Held: Granted. The juvenile court law is intended to protect minors. The presumption is against detention, which may not be ordered unless there is clear proof of the “urgent necessity” (Welf. & Inst. Code, §§ 635, 636). The court’s disposition suggests that it ordered the minors detained because they were dependents of the court and their social workers had been unable to locate placements for them. This was error because a court’s decision to detain a section 300 dependent shall not be based on the minor’s dependent status or the inability of social services to provide suitable placement (Welf. & Inst. Code, §§ 635, subd. (b)(2), 636, subd. (a)). The juvenile court should have released the dependent minors to the county health and human services agency for placement.