Juvenile court abused its discretion by committing minor to DJF without considering placement in juvenile hall. After sustaining allegations that 14-year-old Calvin S. committed assault with a firearm and assault with intent to commit a sexual offense, the juvenile court adjudged him a ward and committed him to DJF. Calvin appealed, arguing that the trial court abused its discretion by committing him to DJF rather than placing him in a less restrictive local setting, like juvenile hall, where he could continue to receive services to address his developmental disability. Held: Reversed and remanded for a new disposition hearing. “A DJF commitment is not an abuse of discretion where the evidence demonstrates a probable benefit to the minor from the commitment and less restrictive alternatives would be ineffective or inappropriate.” (In re M.S. (2009) 174 Cal.App.4th 1241, 1250.) Here, there was no evidence in the record that a juvenile hall placement would have been ineffective or inappropriate. Furthermore, if the juvenile court believed that juvenile hall was not an available placement, it was mistaken. In re Debra A. (1975) 48 Cal.App.3d 327, interpreted Welfare and Institutions Code section 730, subdivision (a) as prohibiting a commitment to juvenile hall unless the county did not have a juvenile home, ranch, or forestry camp. But after Debra A., Welfare and Institutions Code section 202 was amended to authorize a commitment to juvenile hall. Debra A. also failed to harmonize its interpretation with the overall statutory scheme that “is designed to give the court maximum flexibility to craft suitable orders aimed at rehabilitating the particular ward before it.” (In re Greg F. (2012) 55 Cal.4th 393, 411.) The court here declined to follow Debra A. and concluded that section 730, subdivision (a) does not preclude a commitment to juvenile hall. There was also no evidence to support the juvenile court’s finding that juvenile hall was not appropriate due to the length of Calvins maximum period of confinement.
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/B265382.PDF