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Name: In re Carlos J.
Case #: A151369
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 5
Opinion Date: 04/10/2018

Juvenile court’s commitment of ward to the Department of Juvenile Facilities (DJF) reversed where the appellate record did not contain substantial evidence of probable benefit to the minor from the commitment. In February 2017, the minor admitted allegations in a Welfare and Institutions Code section 602 petition that he committed an assault with a firearm (Pen. Code, § 245, subd. (a)(2)) for the benefit of a gang (Pen. Code, § 186.22, subd. (b)(1)(B)). The admission was based on an incident where the minor and an older male participated in a gang-related shooting. Following a contested dispositional hearing, the minor was committed to DJF. He appealed. Held: Reversed. A ward of the juvenile court shall not be committed to DJF unless the trial court is satisfied that the mental and physical condition of the ward are such as to render it probable that he will benefit by the reformatory educational discipline or other treatment provided by DJF (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 734). There must be evidence supporting the court’s determination that less restrictive placements are inappropriate and substantial evidence in the record demonstrating a probable benefit to the minor by a DJF commitment (Welf. & Inst. Code, §§ 734, 202, subd. (b); Cal. Rules of Court, rule 5.790(h)). Although the probation report here asserted that DJF was the best placement to address the minor’s needs, the juvenile court cannot make a probable benefit finding, and the appellate court cannot review the adequacy of the evidence supporting that finding, without specific evidence in the record of programs at DJF expected to benefit the minor. The probation officer’s bare assertion that DJF would be of probable benefit to the minor does not provide the level of specificity required to support the juvenile court’s finding of probable benefit.

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