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Court Delegating Authority to Allow Probation Department to Offer Minor Community Service Hours to Work Off Alleged Probation Violations

Case Name: In re D.N. (2022) 14 Cal.5th 202
Case #: S268437/F080624
Last Updated: December 12, 2022

Did the trial court improperly delegate its authority to the probation department and violate the minor’s due process rights by permitting the probation department to offer the minor community service hours “to work off any alleged probation violations”?

Held:

After determining that D.N., a minor, was within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court because of his violation of criminal laws (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 602), the court adjudged D.N. (hereafter minor) to be a ward of the court and ordered him to reside in his parent or guardian’s home under several conditions of probation. The court further ordered: “Probation is authorized to offer the minor up to 50 hours of community service, or up to a cumulative total of 10 days on the community service work program as an option to work off alleged probation violations.”

On appeal, minor attacks this provision of the court’s dispositional order as a constitutionally improper delegation of judicial authority to the probation department and as a deprivation of due process. Both challenges rest on the premise that the court’s order allowed the probation department itself to determine that the minor had violated his probation and to impose community service as a sanction for the violation. We reject that premise and the constitutional challenges based on it. The juvenile court did not authorize the probation officer to adjudicate violations or impose sanctions for them, but only to “offer” minor the “option” of performing community service when a violation is “alleged.” In effect, the juvenile court gave its advance approval to an agreement that might be reached between minor and the probation officer for the performance of a certain amount of community service in lieu of having an alleged probation violation adjudicated in a judicial proceeding. The court’s order did not thereby improperly delegate any part of the judicial function to the probation officer, nor did it deprive minor of any judicial process constitutionally due him. Under the challenged provision, minor remained free to reject any offer the probation department made and to invoke the ordinary statutory procedures for adjudication of an alleged probation violation.

This case was decided on 12/12/2022.

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