The California juvenile justice system evolved a diversion program for first-time offenders, especially for those who have committed nonviolent crimes and for the first time. Diversion is an alternative program available in the juvenile court justice system for the youth who commit nonviolent crimes. Diversion programs are meant to redirect children who committed offenses through programming, support, and supervision. Although youth sometimes commit a crime that needs to be punished, juvenile systems have come with a diversion program meant to rehabilitate the child. Diversion also helps your child to avoid criminal convictions that may have a lifetime effect.
If your child is facing criminal charges, you can be sure that they will likely face severe consequences for their actions, including fine payment and facing jail terms. However, you can have your child avoid the conviction and the consequences through the diversion program. A diversion is a form of suspension of a criminal proceeding for a specified period. At that time, your child has to complete the requirements that are usually laid out by the court. If your child completes the diversion program, he or she will have the case dismissed and will walk freely without any additional charges. If your child fails to meet the diversion program, he or she is prosecuted. If your child is found guilty of committing the offense, he or she faces the consequences of the conviction.
If your child has been arrested, you should handle the case with the help of a qualified juvenile attorney. Our experts from The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney will help your child negotiate for an option that will not affect their future.
Diversion Program under the California Law
A diversion program is an alternative form of sentence for your child. If your child is put in it, they will be required to fulfill some terms and conditions to have the case dismissed. When your child is placed in a diversion program, he or she has an opportunity to live a responsible life without a criminal record. One of the programs under the diversion program is rehabilitation.
Diversion programs can be formal or informal. A formal diversion program is whereby, after your child's arrest, they are admitted to the criminal justice system after conviction. Formal diversion is common to the youth who commit drug crimes. Informal diversion is a program that usually favors first-time offenders for minor cases like traffic violations. Informal diversion happens when the arresting officer does not arrest your child, but instead, he or she is let go but has to fulfill some requirements. An important thing that your child can do to earn a diversion program is to cooperate with law enforcement officers without hesitation. Diversion program allows your child to change their behavior that led to criminal convictions. In addition to that, a diversion program also allows your child to look for employment without challenges.
If your child committed a crime due to mental illness, he or she has an opportunity to recover during the diversion program to prevent future occurrence of the crime. Some factors will disqualify your child from the diversion program. They are:
- Drug-related offenses such as possession of a controlled substance, manufacture of a controlled substance, sale of a controlled substance, among others, cultivation of marijuana, forging a prescription to get the drugs
- Prior criminal convictions for serious crimes
- Simultaneous convictions for misdemeanor or felony offenses that are not drug-related.
- If he or she was armed at the time, the police made the arrest
- If your child refused to take a drug treatment, if it was a requirement for the diversion
Eligibility Criteria for Informal Diversion
There are some factors that are usually considered before a decision is made to have your child in the diversion program. They include:
- If you and your child can have the case settled without going through the formal court process
- If the conduct of your child is serious
- If your child has issues that need further investigation before the decision is made
- The age, capability, and maturity of your child
- The attitude of your child towards you
- Your child’s history of delinquency
- Your child’s attitude toward any affected victim
- If there is any problem that your child is facing in school or at home
- If there is any concern for having your child put in a diversion program
Importance of the Diversion Program
The diversion program provides the youth with different experiences in the juvenile justice system. Some of the arguments that support the diversion program are:
- To act as a support option for you to become more productive rather than confining them
- Diverting the youth who have been charged with offenses to prevent future delinquency
- Processing the youth through the juvenile system assists the youth in rectifying their behavior for the better
Some of the services that your child will benefit from the diversion program include:
- Classes and victims from victim awareness
- Service-learning program
- Assessment and screening
- Tutorial and education services
- Counseling and substance use education
- Family counseling
- Crisis intervention
- Treatment for mental health
- Job skills training
- Quality recreation
- Parental skills development and
- Rebuilding family relationships
Why Informal Diversion program
Informal diversion programs are an efficient and cheaper way of dealing with many offenders who meet the eligibility criteria. Diversion programs also help in decongesting the county jail and state prison. A diversion program corrects the child’s behavior, especially if your child is a first-time offender. The reason is that if your child is sentenced in a criminal court, he or she is likely to develop notorious behavior, increasing the chance for future incarceration, hence a bigger risk even to the society.
The diversion program will help your child change the behavior that triggered them to commit the crime. Your child will have a look at the extent of the damages caused by the criminal acts. After successful completion of the diversion program, your child’s records will be sealed, and there will therefore be no effects to the future.
When your child is put in a diversion program, they are likely to benefit in different ways. Some of the benefits of a diversion program are:
- Reduced out of –home placements for young children
- Reduction in court costs, especially the processing fee
- Engagements in the community since your child will place in his or her home environment.
Elements of an Informal diversion Program
Depending on the type of the program, there are elements for the diversion program. They include:
Probation can be formal or informal. It is an alternative form of punishment, mostly in the juvenile justice system, that can be used as part of the diversion program. Probation is a conditional release that allows your child to complete their sentence outside prison or jail.
Release on Own recognizance
It is a form of a diversion program that allows your child to serve a sentence outside prison or jail. For this form of diversion, your child writes an agreement that he or she will return to the court on a stated date. Your child will also commit to not committing any other crime during that period. Release on Own recognizance is usually granted to youths who are misdemeanor offenders with crimes such as traffic violations, shoplifting, and first-time offenders.
It is a diversion program where if your child is eligible, they will be required to set part of the hours and dedicate them to serving in a non-profit organization. Community service is suitable for youth offenders who cannot afford to raise the money required for restitutions.
Payment of Restitution
Restitution is compensation for the victim for the offense. It includes payment for any financial losses caused to the victim or their families. Restitution is paid even after the diversion program if the court finds it necessary for rehabilitation if it is a requirement for making up for the whole victim’s life and if your child’s criminal acts led to financial losses to the victim.
Terms and Conditions for an Informal Diversion
There are terms and conditions that your child has to fulfill when in the diversion. The agreement states that you and your child must participate in parenting, counseling, or an education program. It also states that you and your child will get care and treatment for the addiction or misuse of controlled substances. If your child fails to engage in the program requirements within the first 60 days, a petition is filed to have your child sentenced. A petition can also be filed after the 60 days if your child performs poorly within six months and 90 days after the end of the diversion program.
Juvenile Delinquency Court Process
If your child has been involved in a delinquency case, it means that he or she has broken the law. The court considers the age of your child, the criminal records, and how serious the crime is. Depending on those factors, the court may give different orders:
- That your child should live with you but under the supervision of the court
- That your child will be put on probation, for probation, your child can be ordered to live in a foster home, in a relative’s house, in a group home, or in an institution.
- That your child should be sent to the department of rehabilitation and corrections
- That your child should be put on probation and then sent to a probation camp.
If the court decides to send your child to the department of correction and rehabilitation, they will first go to the reception center for 30-90 days. The purpose of going to the reception center is to identify the needs of your child. After identifying the need, your child is then sent to the correction facility or a camp.
When the police arrest your child, they can:
- Record the arrest and your child is let to go home
- Send your child to an institution or an agency that will shelter him or her
- Ask your child to go with them to the police station
- Put your child in detention
The police have a responsibility to explain to your child about their rights, which include the right to remain silent until their attorney appears and the right to hire a legal representative.
According to the law, if your child is younger than 15 years, he or she should talk to an attorney before sharing any information with the police.
Investigation after the Intake
After your child is taken to the juvenile center, the probation officer does the investigation to identify the crime’s facts and how serious the crime is. If the probation officer finds out that your child did not commit a serious crime, your child can:
- Be warned, and then let go There will be no charges filed against your child
- Be put under formal supervision. Your child is let go home but with some conditions. Some of the conditions include:
- Attending school
- Changing the attitude to the better
- Having good behavior
- Going for counseling
- Creating a good relationship
- Engaging in community programs
If your child manages to adhere to the set rules, the probation comes to an end and if not, a petition of the original case will be filed.
- Have charges filed against them
It is not at all times when your child will be allowed to go home. Some conditions will make a juvenile remain in the juvenile hall. He or she will not be let to go home if:
- The juvenile doesn’t have a home
- The juvenile can’t take care of him or herself
- The juvenile doesn’t have a parent or a guardian
- The minors home is unfit due to issues like abuse
- The juvenile will run away
- The juvenile poses a danger to the public
- The minor has broken a court order
If the probation officer does not let your child go home, he or she will be put in detention for not more than 48 hours, and a petition is filed. A petition contains all the information about your child, including the crime they charged with. The hearings then follow the filing of the petition.
At the detention hearing, the judge decides whether your child will be detained or let go home. The judge makes the decision by evaluating the evidence presented by the victims. At this hearing, your child needs to have legal representation to help defend the case. A detention hearing is followed by a pre-trial hearing, where the purpose of the case is to determine if your child’s case can be settled without going through the trial process. If the case cannot be settled, it goes to the next hearing, which is the jurisdiction hearing.
The Jurisdiction Hearing
Depending on the evidence that has been presented, the judge makes a verdict. The judge reads out the petition and the charges filed against them. Your child will be asked to admit or deny the charges against them. If the charges are true, the attorney then comes in to challenge the case by presenting legal defenses. Your child’s attorney can also cross-examine the witnesses and then argue the case. If the charges against your child are false, then the judge will dismiss the case. If your child is guilty of the offense, the case moves to the next hearing: disposition hearing.
At the disposition hearing, the judge decides on the punishments that your child will have to face for the crime they committed. Before the judge makes the decision, there is some important information that will help in the process. The judge will look at your child’s criminal history, the victim’s statement, school and family history, and any recommendation made. The judge will also look at what is best for your child and how to keep the community safe. The judge can decide to put your child on probation, set aside the court’s decision and have your child’s case dismissed, or make your child a ward of court.
If the judge decides to make your child a ward of the court, there are different things that the judge may order. They are:
- Sending your child home but with supervision
- Sending your child to a relative’s home
- Putting your child in a foster care
- Sending your child to a detention facility or a boot camp or
- The judge can send your child to the Division of Juvenile Justice.
If your child is put in detention, the judge will decide on the maximum period that your child will be locked up. If put on informal probation, there are set terms and conditions that have to be fulfilled. The judge can order your child to:
- Attend school daily
- Stick to any curfew that is set
- Follow every set law
- Engage in community service
- Not associate with certain group of people in the community
- Pay a restitution fee
- Attend counseling sessions with you and be searched any time without a warrant.
As a parent too, you have a right. The rights include:
- Right to be notified when your child has been arrested as well as the crime that has led to the arrest.
- The right to attend the hearing
- The right to access your child’s court file
- The right to make visits to your child’s in a place where he or she will be placed
- The right to make a medical decision
- The right to get a notice for any upcoming trial
There are some responsibilities that you have as a parent. You may be liable for any financial losses caused to the victim by your child. You may also be asked to pay the restitution fees on behalf of your Childs. Your child’s attorney will help you get financial options to have your child’s case settled.
The judge can also make a decision to have your child tried as an adult. That can be the case depending on how serious the crime is, if your child can benefit from the programs available in the juvenile court system, the age of your child and the criminal history of your child. The decision to have your child tried as an adult is made in the fitness hearing.
Your child can appeal to have the case tried in the juvenile court by filing a petition. Your child’s case can be appealed with the help of a qualified attorney and have your child remain in the juvenile court. It means that he or she will not face severe consequences that would be faced if he or she is tried in an adult court.
Sealing Your Child’s Record
Your child’s record can be sealed five years after completing the probation period. If the probation officer does not have any negative report for the time your child was on probation, your records can easily be sealed. Some of the records that will be sealed include the arrest records, court file records, probation records, or any other record available to any other involved party.
For the record sealing decision to be made, the judge will have to look at what your child did, if he or she completed the sentence successfully or if there is still a pending lawsuit. Record sealing will positively impact your child’s life because he or she will not have to disclose it to anyone when they are looking for jobs or getting a residential house or any other essential services.
Find A Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
If your child is facing criminal charges, your children will face so many consequences, including imprisonment. Therefore, your child needs legal representation from a qualified attorney to help in getting the best option for the crime. We at The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney will give you the service that your child needs. Our attorney has experience in handling juvenile cases, and you can, therefore, count on us. Contact us at 310-564-2605 to help your child benefit from the diversion programs available in the juvenile justice system.