Even though children commit crimes like adults, the law is a little lenient. It aims at protecting minors and giving them a second chance to rectify their behavior after rehabilitation. The juvenile justice system provides several processes through which a juvenile offender goes after a criminal arrest. The process a minor follows depends on their history of delinquency and the facts of their case.

Prosecutors do not file all juvenile cases that the police present to them. If your child can be rehabilitated before juvenile court, the probation department can place them in an informal diversion program. When that happens, your child will remain under the supervision of a probation officer as they undergo rehabilitation. The officer will also give them conditions to abide by throughout the diversion period. If successful, the judge will dismiss their case.

We can help you understand how juvenile informal diversions work at California Criminal Lawyer Group. We can also help you understand its benefits and your options. We always fight for the best outcome for every juvenile delinquency case we handle. Therefore, you can count on our legal support and guidance if your loved one is arrested in Anaheim.

The Juvenile Justice System

Cases of juvenile delinquency are on the rise. The time when children only committed minor infractions is long gone. Today, minors commit severe misdemeanors and felonies. The juvenile justice system works tirelessly to ensure that young offenders take responsibility for their behavior and are allowed to rectify it for a crime-free future.

The juvenile justice system has a long list of legal processes that young offenders undergo once they are suspected of criminal acts. The processes an offender goes through depend on the details of their case and history of delinquency. Some cases are heard and determined in a juvenile court. Other cases are tried in adult criminal courts. It helps to work alongside a skilled criminal lawyer to understand the legal implications of your loved one’s criminal acts and likely outcomes.

As its name suggests, the juvenile justice system only handles criminal cases involving minors. Individuals below the age of 18 are minors in California. Instead of punishment and retribution, as in the criminal justice system, the juvenile justice system offers treatment and rehabilitation for young offenders. The aim is to do everything possible to ensure minors understand their actions are criminal and how to avoid future criminal acts.

The juvenile system also protects the integrity of minors. Even when a judge sustains a minor’s petition (an equivalence of a guilty verdict in the criminal justice system), the court seals their criminal records. Sealed records are unavailable to the public. Thus, they cannot negatively impact the juvenile’s future.

A booking process follows the arrest of a juvenile offender. The arresting officer then forwards the case details to the prosecutor. Prosecutors can file a petition in juvenile court or dismiss the case. But before dismissing a case, the prosecutor can recommend placing the minor on probation for six months to allow them to change their behavior. If that works, the judge dismisses their case, and the prosecutor does not file a petition in court.

But before that decision is made, the juvenile is taken to a juvenile hall, from where he undergoes several court hearings, including a detention hearing. Instead of detaining the minor, the probation department can decide to release them to their parents and place them on probation to monitor their behavior before the juvenile court takes any action against them.

The probation department works closely with the juvenile court to guarantee that juvenile offenders receive the treatment and care needed to change their behavior. The minor’s probation officer will present a report after the six-month probation, advising the court to dismiss the minor’s case or file a petition in court.

Juvenile Probations Under The Juvenile Justice System

Remember that the goal of the juvenile justice system is treatment and rehabilitation instead of punishment. Thus, the system has several processes and programs that offer rehabilitation and therapy to young offenders at different levels of the justice process. These processes and programs are under the Welfare and Institutions Act. Probation is a provision in the juvenile justice and criminal justice systems used in place of detention. Instead of detaining the minor in a juvenile hall or group home, the judge could release them to their parents, but under the close watch of the probation department.

Probation is very common in the juvenile justice system. It allows parental involvement in the treatment and rehabilitation of the minor. The minor receives conditions to abide by, like mandatory school attendance and curfew. The parent ensures that they adhere to the probation terms. The probation department monitors their performance during probation and submits a report and recommendation to the juvenile court. The judge reviews the report and recommendations to decide what to do with the juvenile offender.

Here are typical probations under the juvenile justice system:

Informal Diversion

According to the Welfare and Institutions Act, the police can place a suspected juvenile offender in an informal diversion program right after arrest. The minor will first attend an informal trial in a teen court with their victim to solve the issue between them.

Informal Probation without Wardship

Under the Welfare and Institutions Act 654, the probation department makes this informal probation available. Typically, it does not involve a juvenile court or judge. This probation is mainly voluntary. The district attorney does not have to bring a petition to juvenile court. The minor remains at home for six months but is on probation.

Informal Probation with Wardship

Under WIC 654.2, the juvenile court and judge are involved in this probation. The prosecutor initiates the process by filing a petition in court to allow the minor to go on probation for six months before the court decides on their case. The child will participate in a diversion program during this probation and will be under the supervision of the probation department. The prosecutor does not file a petition if the juvenile completes the program without violations.

Deferred Entry of Judgement

In this probation, the minor must admit to the charges they face. However, the judge will give them six months to change their behavior instead of proceeding to a disposition hearing. They will be on probation for that period. The court can extend the rehabilitation period if the minor fails to abide by the probation conditions. When a minor’s judgment is deferred, they do not become a ward of the court, except if they violate the set probation requirements.

Wardship Probation

This comes after the court makes the minor a ward and the district attorney files a case in juvenile court. The court makes decisions regarding the child and can place them on probation before the adjudication hearing. A juvenile offender becomes a court ward for a maximum of six months. They must adhere to all the judge's probation conditions, including school attendance, counseling, and refraining from criminal activities.

The Juvenile Informal Diversion

This diversion program is for juvenile offenders before the prosecutor files a petition in court. Remember that the police do not detain minors in jail after an arrest. If the case is serious and the officer cannot release the minor to their parents, they must follow the subsequent legal process, including forwarding the juvenile’s case to a prosecutor. The officer will send the child to a juvenile hall, where the probation department will take charge. The probation department will appoint an officer to investigate the minor’s case and make recommendations.

If the officer finds the matter less severe and the minor agrees to refrain from criminal acts, they can recommend to the department that the juvenile be released back to their parents. But if the charges are serious, the officer can recommend placing the minor on informal diversion or referring their case to the district attorney for filing. In the juvenile justice system, the probation department has a crucial role in establishing the course a minor’s case will follow after an arrest.

Most petitions the department refers to the prosecutor for filing are severe felonies. But if your loved one is a first offender and has not had criminal issues, the probation officer can recommend an informal diversion program. It will help them receive the help and support they need to avoid future criminal acts. In that case, your child will return home and remain under the close watch of the probation officer for six months. The officer will develop probation conditions for the minor to follow through the probation period. For example, they could order the child to continue schooling, abide by a curfew, avoid specific people or places, and seek counseling or drug/alcohol treatment.

Remember that not all police arrests involving minors result in criminal cases. The probation department handles less severe matters. If your loved one does not register a positive change after the diversion program, the probation officer will refer them to the prosecutor, who can file a case against them. However, not all juvenile offenders qualify for informal diversion programs. The probation department must ensure that your loved one meets the required criteria to place them in the program. Here are some of the factors the probation officer considers before making a recommendation:

Severity of the Underlying Crime

The details of the crime the minor is suspected of committing are essential to consider. Remember that the juvenile justice system handles most cases of minor crimes and infractions. In that case, most juvenile offenders will meet the criteria for joining informal diversion programs. However, there are instances when children commit serious felonies. In that case, the probation department must refer the matter to the prosecutor for filing. Some crimes are too severe to be handled by a juvenile court judge. That is why sometimes minors face trial as adults in criminal courts. If the details of your child’s case meet the criteria for juvenile informal diversion, the prohibition officer will likely recommend it in their report.

If the Matter Can be Resolved Outside of the Court

First-time juvenile offenders will likely offend again if no action is taken to help them deal with the underlying issues. But if first-time offenders receive counseling, treatment, and support to improve, they can live a crime-free future. That is why the probation department offers a chance to address matters that can be resolved outside of court. If your child shows remorse, can reconcile with their victim, and is willing to work on changing their behavior, the probation department can place them on informal diversion.

The Minor’s Record of Delinquency

The law is generally more stringent for habitual offenders. First-time offenders can receive lenient treatment if they show remorse and a willingness to rectify their behavior. However, if a child has a record of delinquent behavior, it is hard to convince the probation department that they will not re-offend in the future. Remember that the goal here is to treat underlying issues and rehabilitate the minor. If a juvenile continuously commits a crime, they could receive punishment, not rehabilitation. Thus, the department could be hesitant to recommend informal diversion if your child is a repeat offender and has not previously benefited from treatment and rehabilitation.

The Juvenile’s Home Environment

The probation officer will also investigate your home environment to ensure the child can still make progressive changes in their behavior while still living in their home. Remember that the child will serve the informal probation at home. If the home environment is unconducive and will likely cause the minor to continue with criminal activities, the probation department will think of an alternative solution for your child.

The Juvenile’s Age

Children of all ages are committing crimes these days. That is why the probation department must consider a minor’s age when recommending the course their case will take after an arrest to the court. The officer must also consider the juvenile’s maturity to establish whether they will benefit from informal probation. If your child is still young and a first offender, they can benefit from informal diversion. The child will need your love and support to abide by the probation’s conditions and change their behavior.

Informal diversion is also a good recommendation, as it will not leave them with a criminal record. A criminal record can negatively impact your child’s future. If they perform well during probation, the prosecutor will not file a petition in court. It means that the case will end as if the arrest never happened.

The Juvenile’s Willingness to Change

The probation department understands that your child can only change if they are willing to make an effort towards positive behavior. They also consider a minor’s attitude and willingness to adjust when recommending informal probation. If the child sincerely apologizes for their behavior and is willing to learn and improve, they can join an informal diversion program.

An informal diversion allows the probation department to observe a juvenile offender before handing their case to juvenile court. It is a chance for your loved one to rehabilitate and start life afresh. However, the probation department does not recommend informal probation for all juvenile offenders. Hiring an attorney right after an arrest is advisable if you feel your loved one can benefit from it. Your attorney will explain your options and help you fight for the best outcome for the case.

Informal Diversion after Petition Filing

In some cases, the probation department can recommend informal probation after referring the case to a prosecutor. In a case like this, the judge makes the final decision after reviewing the minor’s case and the issues reported by the probation department. The judge takes into account the following factors to decide whether or not to place your child on informal probation:

Case Circumstances

The judge will first consider the circumstances under which the minor committed the alleged crime. If there is a chance of the child benefiting from probation before their case is heard and determined, the judge can place them on informal diversion. Judges can make these decisions even if they go against the prosecutor’s wishes. The juvenile court must consider the child’s safety and well-being. But you must agree to support your loved one and ensure they abide by all set conditions, including attending counseling programs and school.

The Juvenile’s Future Well-being

The judge must also consider the possibility that the juvenile will gain from the program. It will not serve the court’s interest to take the child through all juvenile court processes if they have a better chance of rehabilitation in an informal diversion program.

Note: The zero-tolerance law in California prohibits underage drunk driving. Drivers under 21 must not operate a vehicle, even with a small amount of alcohol in their system. If your child was arrested for DUI or any other drug offense, the judge will order them to complete an alcohol/drug education program while on informal diversion. They will also face DMV consequences for drunk driving.

The Conditions of Juvenile Informal Diversion

All probations under the law come with requirements the probationer must adhere to throughout the probation period. Juvenile informal diversions also come with similar conditions designed according to the specific needs of the juvenile offender. The probation department sets these conditions after reviewing your loved one’s case and history of delinquency. You will be responsible for ensuring the minor successfully completes the diversion program. That means that you must ensure they adhere to all set conditions. Here are some examples of some of the conditions your loved one will receive when being placed on informal diversion:

  • They must participate in the counseling programs the probation officer sets up. Counseling helps them learn from their mistakes to do better moving forward.
  • They must receive drug or alcohol treatment if the probation officer believes they committed the crime due to a drug or alcohol problem. The juvenile must refrain from drug or alcohol use throughout the probation period.
  • The probation officer could order them to stay away from some places or some people if they believe that those places or people influence the juvenile’s criminal behavior.

Your child must know that if they fail the program and violate the set conditions, the probation officer will refer their case to a prosecutor. The officer can also recommend continuing the juvenile’s case if they perform poorly in the diversion program. That is why you must work closely with your child and the probation officer to ensure the probation succeeds.

If the diversion program fails, the prosecutor has 90 days to file a petition against your child in juvenile court. The diversion program protects your child from criminal changes and the resulting consequences. If they fail in the program, the probation officer concludes that informal diversion is insufficient to rehabilitate the minor. The department will leave the matter in the judge’s hands for decision-making.

The prosecutor can extend the rehabilitation period to a year to allow the minor more time to rehabilitate. If, after one year, the minor does not show a positive change in behavior and attitude, the prosecutor can file a petition in court.

On the other hand, if your child performs as expected in the diversion program, they will appear before a juvenile court judge after six months of probation. The probation officer will present their report and recommendation. The judge will order the minor’s case dismissed.

Find an Experienced Anaheim Criminal Lawyer Near Me

The arrest of a loved one is devastating. It leaves you asking so many questions and wondering what will happen after. However, a skilled criminal lawyer can help you navigate the juvenile justice system successfully. They can also help protect your and your loved one’s rights.

If your child is arrested in Anaheim, they can be eligible for informal diversion. That protects them from criminal charges and gives them a chance to rehabilitate. Our California Criminal Lawyer Group team understands clearly how informal diversions work. We can help through the necessary processes to ensure your loved one receives the care, protection, and help they need to rehabilitate. We can also fight for the best outcome for your loved one’s case. Call us at 714-766-0965 to learn more about our services and your child’s legal options.