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Juvenile Informal Diversion

When a juvenile violates the law, they are held accountable for their actions like adult offenders. However, different laws govern trials and punishments in the juvenile system. After an arrest of a minor, the process they go through depends on the type and severity of the crime they committed.

Juvenile informal diversion is when the minor undergoes informal probation, and criminal charges are not filed. Not all juvenile cases qualify for informal diversion. Receiving a juvenile informal diversion is an excellent opportunity for your child because they avoid the harsh consequences of juvenile convictions. Your child is also given another chance to correct their mistakes and make better decisions in the future.

The issues surrounding juvenile delinquency cases are quite complicated. Therefore guidance from an experienced criminal attorney is crucial. At Leal Legal, we offer consultations and legal representation to ensure a favorable outcome for your child. We serve clients throughout Van Nuys, CA.

Overview of the Juvenile Justice System

The juvenile justice system deals with individuals below eighteen years old and who have violated the law. When a minor commits a crime, they are expected to be accountable for their actions. However, the juvenile justice system aims at rehabilitating the children other than punishment handed out in adult courts.

Minors are often allowed a second chance at life since their mental capacity may not mature enough to make the right decisions. Also, youths could be easily manipulated to engage in criminal activity. Thus, the law is lenient on them.

Juvenile cases are often minor and are charged as infractions or misdemeanors. However, if a child commits a serious crime such as murder, rape, or other serious crimes, they could be charged as adults and face severe legal penalties. If your child has been arrested, it is crucial to seek legal guidance. After an arrest, the officer could either release the minor with a warning or take them to the detention hall.

While at the detention hall, several hearings are held. A judge could decide to release the child to you while waiting for the case outcome or continue to detain them. A minor is not entitled to bail. However, if you can prove that the minor is not a risk to others and is not a flight risk, they could be allowed to go home and return to the hearing. If a minor has committed a crime, they could be put on house arrest, juvenile camp, or detention facilities. Another option is informal probation and probation officer's supervision.

The probation department plays a significant role in each stage of juvenile cases. The officer carries out interviews with a minor after an arrest and decides whether to detain the juvenile. At the adjudication phase of the juvenile case, the probation officer has insight into whether the prosecutor will file a petition against the minor.

During probation, a minor is required to communicate with their probation officer regularly. The officer in charge ensures they are adhering to the terms and write a report at the end of probation. The severity of a minor's crime will determine the type of sentence they face in juvenile court. The most common punishment in juvenile cases is placement in a juvenile diversion program. A diversion could occur before the beginning of the case or after the offender has been found guilty. If your child is arrested, it is crucial to seek legal guidance for them as soon as possible.

Types of Juvenile Probation in California

The laws on minors are stipulated in the Welfare Institute and Code. In California, probation is often an alternative to a jail sentence in criminal cases. However, for juveniles, it is a common cause of action. Children are subject to various forms of probation, including:

  1. Informal Diversion. Under WIC 626(b), an arresting officer can refer a minor offender to the informal diversion program. However, the offender may appear before a teen court with the victim to resolve the matter.
  2. Informal Probation (WIC 654). This type of informal probation is under the probation department, and the juvenile court is not involved. The probation is voluntary, and the prosecutor does not need to file a petition against the minor. The youth will remain in their home for up to one year while serving this kind of probation.
  3. Deferred entry of judgment. Under this provision, a minor needs to admit to a misdemeanor violation, but the court places them on probation for six months under the probation department. However, the court could extend your probation period for failure to follow the probation officer's conditions. When there is a deferred entry of judgment under WIC 725(a), the minor is not a court ward unless they fail to abide by the set conditions.
  4. Wardship probation. A minor becomes a ward of the court when the prosecutor files a petition and has committed the alleged offense. In this case, the juvenile delinquency court retains authority over the child. Wardship probation lasts for up to six months. The juvenile offender on Wardship probation must follow probation conditions that could include counseling, mandatory school attendance, and keeping away from criminal activity.
  5. Deferred entry of judgment probation. Under WIC 790, a youth who commits a serious felony and meets specific criteria, the entry of judgment is deferred, and they are placed on probation. This type of probation criteria requires that the youth be less than fourteen years old and have not been sentenced to the Department of Juvenile Justice. Also, a minor should not have committed a crime that requires sex offender registration.

Juvenile Informal Diversion

Children are arrested like other offenders. However, how their cases are handled is different. If the arresting officer takes your child to the juvenile hall, a probation officer will take over the case. The probation officer investigates the occurrences and could release the minor, place them in an informal diversion program or refer them to a prosecutor who files a petition. The probation department plays a vital role in determining the course in which a minor's case will take.

Cases that end up in a petition are a result of more severe crimes. If your child is a first-time offender and hasn't portrayed troublesome behavior in the past, the probation officer will send them into the informal diversion program. An informal diversion is also known as informal probation. Diversion is a program where an offender is placed instead of filing a petition. In the Juvenile informal diversion, a minor is placed under a probation officer's supervision for up to six months.

Under section 654 of the California Welfare and Institution Code, all crimes involving minors will not necessarily result in a criminal case. The less severe offenses are handled informally by the probation department. When deciding to put a minor into the diversion program, the probation officers need to consider the child's and societies' best interests. The following are some factors considered when putting a minor offender in the informal diversion program:

  • The severity of the minor's crime is crucial. The juvenile justice system often deals with minor offenses committed by children. Therefore, informal diversions are the most common option for the case. However, sometimes minors commit serious crimes, and the prosecutor opts to hand over the case to a prosecutor to file a petition. In other instances, juveniles could be tried as adults and face legal consequences like adult offenders.
  • The ability to solve the matter outside court is critical. Minors are often arrested for actions that are not considered criminal when done by an adult. Therefore, some issues could be solved without a need for formal action. If the probation feels that a problem could be solved outside court, the minor is placed in an informal diversion program.
  • A minor's history of delinquency and dependency is vital. California law is often stringent on repeat offenders, even for juvenile crimes. Having a history of criminal conduct will negatively affect your child's situation. The juvenile system is aimed at rehabilitation, but a minor could be punished for continually breaking the law. The probation department may be reluctant to impose the informal diversion on minors who have committed crimes in the past.
  • The minor's home environment. In most cases, informal probation is served at home, and parents or guardians need to ensure that the minor does not return to the criminal activities. If the probation officer believes that the home and community environment is not conducive to rehabilitate the minor, they would be reluctant to put them on informal diversion.
  • The child's age and capabilities are considered. The age and maturity level of a juvenile offender is used to determine whether they would benefit from an informal diversion program. Younger first-time offenders are less likely to be tried in the juvenile delinquency court, and their cases often end at the informal diversion. 
  • The minor's likelihood to benefit from the program. An informal juvenile diversion aims to rehabilitate a minor. During the program, they are given a second chance to be better people and make the right decisions. A diversion also ensures that your child does not have a criminal record that could impact their lives. Before placing a minor in the informal diversion program, the probation officers consider the offender's attitude, willingness to learn from their mistakes, and whether or not they change their behavior.

In California, probation officers must further observe a minor offender before deciding to hand them over to the prosecutor or place them into the informal diversion. If your child is arrested, it is crucial to consult a criminal attorney. Your child's lawyer can guide them on the steps to take and what to say to avoid self-incrimination.

Probation after a Petition in Juvenile Court

Sometimes, the probation officer could refer a minor's case to the prosecutor for filing the petition and recommend informal probation. In such a case, the judge needs to evaluate the case and decide. Some of the factors that the judge considers include:

  • The minor's circumstance at the time. A juvenile court can order minors to be placed on an informal diversion even when the prosecutor or probation officer is against it. This is because the court puts much importance on a child's safety and wellbeing. After the informal diversion is granted, you need to agree to guide your child through education and counseling programs.
  • The future wellbeing of the juvenile. If the judge feels that a juvenile offender will benefit from the diversion program and make the right decisions in the future, they are likely to place them in the program.

California law has zero-tolerance for underage drinking and driving. Therefore, if a juvenile's underlying offenses involve DUI or other drug-related crimes, the minor must complete alcohol education while on informal probation. Informal probation does not protect your child from the DMV imposed consequences of drunk driving.

Terms of Informal Probation in California Juvenile Cases

In California, informal probation comes with specific conditions that one needs to follow. An informal diversion has similar rules to informal probation. The probation officer reviews the case's facts to set terms and conditions that a minor, the parents, or guardians must abide by throughout the program. If your child is placed in an informal diversion, you have the responsibility to ensure they successfully go through the program. Some of the standard terms of informal juvenile diversions include:

  1. The minor offender is required to participate in counseling or parenting programs designed by the probation officer. The juvenile justice system aims to rehabilitate minors and create a conducive environment to learn and change their ways. By attending counseling sessions, minor offenders can realize their mistakes and purpose to do better.
  2. A minor must receive treatment for addiction or substance abuse if they are placed in an informal diversion. Juveniles may be arrested for the use of controlled substances such as marijuana. If the offense is minor, they are sent to a diversion program where treatment and counseling are offered.

Should your child fail to participate in the programs recommended by the probation officer, the officer could hand over the case to a prosecutor who files a petition. The probation officer can also request the filing of a petition against minors who perform poorly on probation. A petition resulting from a failed probation may be filed within ninety days of completing probation or through the six-month probation program. An informal diversion is an excellent opportunity for a minor offender to escape criminal charges and all the repercussions that result from it. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure they complete the program.

Completion of Juvenile Informal Diversion

A juvenile informal diversion lasts for six months. After completing the diversion, a minor has to appear to the court to determine their case. The court requires the probation officer to present a report containing all minor information and performance during probation. If the probation officer's report indicates that the minor has completed probation, their petition is dismissed, and they are allowed to go home.

If a minor's conduct during probation is not satisfactory, the prosecutor may extend the probation period or file a petition with the court. After filing, the court has up to one year to proceed with the case.

Violation of Informal Probation by Juveniles

Even though probation is a less severe penalty than jail time, an offender must complete the sentence and adhere to all probation terms. If any person violates probation, the county may terminate the probation. However, the probation officer is required to present sufficient evidence indicating the condition you violated.

If a minor violates probation by breaking curfew or failing to attend school while on probation, the court could proceed with a petition. If your issue was a different probation matter, the court could revoke probation and declare the minor a ward of the court. The probation department is required to prepare a report on how well a minor has abided by probation conditions. If your child faces the juvenile justice system for violation of informal probation, legal guidance is crucial.

Find a Criminal Attorney Near Me

When a minor is arrested for committing a crime in California, the officers could either release them or take them to the juvenile hall. At the juvenile hall, a probation officer takes over the situation. If a petition is filed against a minor and found guilty, they could be sentenced to formal probation or worse, be charged as adults, and face jail time.

A juvenile informal diversion is a standard option for first-time offenders and minors who have committed minor crimes. The diversion is an opportunity for a minor offender to avoid the criminal consequences of their actions.

The juvenile informal diversion is complicated. You need to familiarize yourself with the legal procedures to understand your loved ones' fate should they be arrested. If you are in Van Nuys, CA, you will require legal guidance from Leah Legal. Contact us today at 818-484-1100 and allow us to help you through the process for the best possible outcome.