After finding minor had not attained competency by the end of the 12-month remediation period, juvenile court was obligated to dismiss delinquency petition and release minor based on the record in this case. A juvenile delinquency petition alleged J.J. committed offenses listed in Welfare and Institutions Code section 707, subdivision (b). The juvenile court declared him incompetent, suspended the delinquency proceedings, and ordered remediation services. At the six-month competency hearing, the court found that J.J. remained incompetent. The court extended the remediation period for six months based on a further finding that J.J. could likely be remediated within that time. At a hearing approximately six months later (12 months after J.J. had been found incompetent), the court found J.J. had not attained competency. The court ordered his continued confinement for up to 18 months pending finalization of an exit order and post-release services, finding the confinement in the best interests of the minor and public safety. J.J. sought writ relief. Held: Petition denied as moot, but decided on the merits. Under Welfare and Institutions Code section 709, if a minor is found incompetent, all proceedings shall remain suspended for no longer than necessary to determine whether there is a substantial probability that the minor will attain competency in the foreseeable future. The “total remediation period,” shall not exceed one year from the finding of incompetency. (§ 709, subd. (h)(3).) A juvenile court must dismiss a juvenile proceeding at the six-month hearing if there is no likelihood the juvenile will be remediated by the end of the 12-month remediation period. (§ 709, subd. (h)(4).) The Court of Appeal analyzed section 709 and determined the juvenile court was obligated to dismiss the petition and release J.J. when it found that he had not regained competency by the end of the 12-month rehabilitation period. Based on the record in this case, there was no basis for extending the remediation period under section 709, subdivision (h)(5)(C) (see below).
Welfare and Institutions Code section 709, subdivision (h)(5) does not permit the involuntary confinement of a minor found incompetent beyond the statutory remediation period for the purpose of arranging post-release services that are not designed to restore competency. Even if the juvenile court was not compelled to release J.J. after the 12-month hearing due to its finding that he had not attained competence, the court’s extension of J.J.’s confinement under subdivision (h)(5)(C) was erroneous. When a juvenile delinquency petition includes a serious offense listed in section 707, subdivision (b), the court may “consider whether it is necessary and in the best interests of the minor and the public’s safety to order secure confinement of a minor . . . not to exceed 18 months from the finding of incompetence.” (§ 709, subd. (h)(5)(C).) Examining the language, purpose, and legislative history of the statute, and constitutional considerations, the Court of Appeal concluded the period between the 12-month maximum remediation period and the 18-month maximum confinement period must be tied to a remedial purpose and cannot be used to confine a minor solely to craft exit orders and find post-release services. The court held “that a juvenile cannot be confined under subdivision (h)(5)(C) beyond the statutory remediation period, where the juvenile has not attained competence by the end of that remediation period, there is no finding that he would attain competence in the foreseeable future, and confinement is prolonged solely to find post-release services rather than to restore the juvenile to competency.” Here, when the juvenile court found J.J. had not regained competency at the 12-month hearing, it did not find there was any likelihood J.J. would be restored to competency so as to justify further remediation services. An expert report showed it was not probable that J.J. would attain competency in the foreseeable future. None of the post-release services were purported to be for restoration of competency. [Editor’s Notes: (1) The court noted other statutory mechanisms are available if there is a need to shield the public from the juvenile. The People ultimately pursued a civil commitment of J.J. under Welfare and Institutions Code section 6500. J.J. and the prosecution reached a negotiated disposition and the juvenile delinquency petition was dismissed. (2) The court declined to decide a number of issues related to the confinement of juveniles alleged to have committed an offense listed in section 707, subdivision (b), beyond the 12-month statutory remediation period. (See footnote 12 in the opinion.)]
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/A162060.PDF