When a minor faces arrest, they may worry about the next steps to face under the juvenile delinquency system. The situation is worrying because of the possible penalties awaiting you after the juvenile judge renders a decision after the case trial. Nevertheless, you can avoid the criminal trial system altogether in the juvenile system by joining an informal diversion program. In doing so, you will participate in a probation program as an alternative to regular case trials and conclusions. Notably, a probation officer will only authorize your case and request the court for your diversion program if they are sure of your participation.

Moreover, working with a legal attorney will improve your chances of completing your informal diversion with minimal setbacks, allowing the judge to close your case. At Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, we dedicate ourselves to providing you with the best legal assistance and representation in a juvenile court. Our years of experience handling informal juvenile diversion cases for clients facing a juvenile case in Riverside, California, makes us the best option for you.

General Overview of the Juvenile Court System

Persons under eighteen years face legal repercussions for any criminal accusations under the juvenile court system as a form of protection from the stricter adult court process. Subsequently, California courts have provided an entire system that allows minors to appear before the court, undergo trial, and defend themselves through attorney representation.

Afterward, the presiding judge will issue their verdict depending on whether a minor is guilty or not of the accusations they face. Typically, penalties for violating the law in a juvenile court are less harsh compared to adult courts, as the justice system focuses on rehabilitating minors instead of enforcing retribution.

As a result, various options to divert minors from the conventional prosecution process are available for the minor, depending on the type of accusations they face. Thanks to these options, you do not have to worry about possible punishment, especially as a first-time offender.

What the Juvenile Informal Diversion Program Entails

The options available to avoid facing a juvenile trial include the informal diversion program, commonly known as informal probation. Section 654 of the Welfare and Institutions Code legitimizes the informal diversion program by providing applicable terms. Among them is that not all minors have to undergo the diversion program, meaning that the probation officer in your case exercises discretion.

The program allows the arrested minor to comply with orders from a probation officer to demonstrate their willingness to reform.  Further, the minor benefits from rehabilitative and recovery-oriented sessions to aid with underlying addiction and social problems.

 Subsequently, it provides numerous benefits for minors in the juvenile system that help attain a holistic recovery. Despite the positive experience that a minor may receive under the informal diversion program, it is restricted to specific circumstances. Firstly, the minor should be a first-time offender, meaning they have no prior juvenile delinquency involvement.

Additionally, the diversion program is more suitable in less severe cases that do not require the prosecutor to consider a transfer hearing into adult court. Thus, arrested minors charged with offenses listed under section 707(b) of the Welfare and Institutions Code may have fewer chances of benefiting from the diversion program.

Further, informal probation is more widely available for minors whose past behavior does not reveal severe underlying problems. Nevertheless, the involved officers may consider additional cases to establish whether the child deserves to join the informal diversion.

How to Access the Informal Diversion Program

Soon after your arrest, you will receive details from the juvenile court regarding your trial commencement. Through this information, you will understand what to expect from the trial process and whether you prefer exploring the informal diversion program.

If so, you will appear in court before the judge and prosecutor and file a petition to request their consideration in placing you in the program. To do this, you want to work closely with your criminal defense attorney, who will help you establish whether you qualify.

Factors for the Probation Officer to Consider Before Authorizing Your Informal Diversion

Once the prosecutor receives your petition, they will forward it to the relevant probation officer serving in the juvenile courts for further consideration. The probation officers are in charge of the program and will report to the court occasionally on your progress. Subsequently, the probation officer will have various factors to consider before deciding whether to accept your request.

Important factors that the prosecutor considers include:

Whether the Involved Parties Can Resolve the Case Without the Court’s Help

In some cases, the aggrieved and the accused parties may have the tools necessary to resolve their issues outside court. If so, there would be no need for a trial to proceed, as the alternative methods may be more effective. As a result, the informal diversion program may provide a better avenue for parties to reach an amicable settlement.

For example, the aggrieved party may require you to undergo intense addiction treatment to prevent you from future involvement in the crime. Additionally, they may request your parents to participate in the diversion program to help you recover. Once you satisfy all conditions, you will have resolved the issue successfully.

The Victim’s Opinion About the Informal Diversion Program

Alternatively, the victim affected by your actions may have negative opinions about you joining the diversion program. This may be because it could appear that you are taking the easy way out and avoiding court trials and punishments.

Subsequently, they may reach out to the involved probation officer and request that they consider their opinion. The move is common, especially where the nature of your offense is more severe than in regular cases, meaning that your unlawful actions significantly negatively impacted the victims.

The Minor’s Age and Ability to Grasp Informal Diversion Teachings

Furthermore, the probation officer considers whether you are ready to grasp and apply the information and teachings you receive during the diversion program. Sending you to the program without indicating your ability to benefit is counterproductive. Hence, the probation officer will make several assessments.

Firstly, they consider your age to determine if you are mature enough to understand the impact that the classes and training should have on you. Thus, younger accused persons may have to consider other options, mainly if they seem less mature and incapable of comprehending the program objectives.

Additionally, your ability to grasp information is crucial, depending on whether you have received an education. Hence, the probation officer will look into your education details and progress to determine whether to qualify you for the program.

The Nature of the Offense in Question

As discussed, the informal diversion program is only available if the nature of your offense is less severe, meaning that you did not commit crimes listed under section 707(b) WIC. Making this determination is essential because the probation officer does not want to endanger accident victims by allowing them to have access to the public again if you expose them to serious harm.

Similarly, minors who commit more serious offenses may be in danger from mob justice demonstrations or executions by aggrieved persons who oppose their crimes. Hence, you may be safer remaining in custody and facing trial compared to recovering your freedom under the information probation and facing exposure to external threats.

Whether the Minor has a Juvenile Delinquency Record

Minors with previous juvenile delinquency records are less likely to join the informal diversion program because their recurrent involvement in crime indicates high chances of non-reform. As a result, the probation officer will obtain your arrest and trial records from the prosecutor to establish whether you have an existing juvenile record and make a suitable decision afterward.

Nevertheless, your criminal defense lawyer can help persuade the probation officer to allow you into the informal program. For example, they can specify the nature of your past offense to demonstrate that it was not too serious.

Additionally, having records of a completed program in your previous case may help further persuade the prosecutor to consider your case. Your attorney can also rely on the fact that the prosecutor has not fully proved your guilt yet, so the probation officer cannot believe you guilty of committing two offenses.

Whether Any Other Physical and Psychological Problems Affect the Minor

Apart from your record, the probation officer must consider whether you will be at risk of medical or psychological complications after joining the program. The relevance is apparent, especially if you already suffer from medical conditions that require extra attention and care.

When the probation officer assesses your case, they will consider your circumstances and compare them to the number of personnel available to provide extra care for you. Further, they will consider whether you are better off proceeding with trial while released on bail to allow your parents or guardians to continue providing the extra care you require. After analyzing the factors, the officer will decide on the best option.

Advisory Opinions or Recommendations from a Third Party

Third parties like children agencies may also guide the probation officer in making a correct determination on whether to admit you to the informal program. Since the child agencies have more experience working first-hand with minors, they may detect underlying issues that trigger crime involvement in your persons.

Hence, the agency can offer their analysis and suggestions to help the probation officer determine whether the informal diversion program will be helpful for you. Based on this, your attorney can partner with a third party to obtain details on the best way forward.

Whether Additional Time is Necessary to Observe the Minor

You should also note that the probation officer is under no obligation to issue their determination immediately, as they may require more time to observe you. During this extended period, they will monitor your general behavior, maturity level, and ability to interact with your peers.

Furthermore, they may check whether you fully comprehend the nature of your offense to understand if you had a true criminal intention towards violating the law. Sometimes, the additional observation period can work to your advantage, allowing you to portray yourself agreeably. Nonetheless, you should strive to uphold proper behavior even after joining the diversion program to avoid the repercussions of poor participation.

The Minor’s Willingness to Learn from the Diversion Program

Finally, the probation officer will seek to establish if you have a genuine interest in participating in the diversion program. Notably, forced participation often yields negative results, making accepting more juveniles into the program pointless.

Many probation officers are therefore keen to ensure that only parties willing to learn can undertake the program. Apart from minors, parents should also express a desire to involve themselves in the programs, as some sessions require their active involvement.  

Filing for an Informal Diversion Program After Trial Begins

You may also file for the diversion program after your case trial begins. This may be for various reasons, which the prosecutor and the presiding judge will consider. Under these circumstances, the probation officer who receives your petition will request the court to consider it after verifying your suitability.

You should note that the prosecutor may oppose this petition because the case trial has already begun. Despite this, the presiding judge will consider whether it is in your best interest to retain you for a regular trial or release you into the diversion program.

Since probation officers and prosecutors commonly disagree on whether to release you into the informal diversion program, you should anticipate an extended waiting time. However, your criminal defense attorney can help by following through on the matter to avoid extended delays.

Requirements to Satisfy During Your Informal Diversion Program

After joining the informal diversion program, you want to comply with the necessary guidelines to increase your chances of a faster case conclusion. Thus, you should learn the different expectations to uphold and ensure you observe them all for better chances of a successful case outcome. Common expectations in the diversion program include:

Full Participation in Parenting Sessions for Parents

Parents play a significant role in some informal probation programs, as the minor’s behavior may be primarily because of poor parenting. Hence, your parents must fully participate in all activities requiring joint sessions. Failure to participate consistently may lead to poor reports by the probation officer, resulting in additional consequences for you.

Participation in Group and Individual Counseling

Further, counseling plays a significant role in informal diversion programs, as trained professionals help uncover the more profound issues causing you to commit offenses. Some counseling sessions may be individual, while others require you to participate as a group.

Both types are essential to your growth, and the probation officer will closely monitor your progress. As a result, you want to commit to the counseling and aim to extract maximum value for better chances of a case dismissal.

Complying with Drug Addiction Restrictions

If your offense was drug-related based on addiction, you might also have to undergo therapy to prevent you from additional drug intake. Due to this, you will comply with timelines and rules towards drug intake that should guide you on gradual non-addiction.

Although the treatment process may be difficult initially, you want to persevere and request assistance where necessary to ensure you do not violate the regulations.

Taking Any Medication Prescribed During the Program

Another step in fighting addiction and mental health conditions is taking prescribed medication during the informal program. Since medical professionals are assigned to issue the prescriptions, the probation officer expects you to cooperate and take medicine for your recovery. The reasoning for this is mainly that many minors require the medication to fight the conditions hindering them from progressing towards reform.

Consequences of Failure to Complete the Informal Diversion Program

Although you may join the informal diversion program, you may be unable to complete it as the probation officer expects. Due to this, you will have exposed yourself to several consequences that delay your case conclusion. The two main effects of failing to complete the diversion program successfully include:

Extension of the Informal Diversion Program Period

Firstly, the probation officer may extend your diversion program duration if you participated but did not meet the requirements satisfactorily. For example, if you only attended half the therapy sessions recommended during the program, you will have to complete them and present a report on the impact the sessions have made on your life.

Moreover, the extended period may help cater to any time lost because of sudden illness or genuine inability to undertake the program activities. For example, if you were an inpatient in a hospital for some time, you must recover it by extending your diversion program duration.

Continuation With the Regular Case Trial Process

Alternatively, the prosecutor may take over your case and resume the trial. Hence, this would mean you are no longer eligible to rejoin the informal diversion program and receive any benefits it offers towards behavioral reform.

Often, this outcome is available if you completely disregard the probation terms and consistently fail to participate in the various sessions. The probation officer would forward your report to the court if you had no genuine reason for failing to participate. The judge will authorize a resumption of your case trial through the prosecutor.

The Process After Completing Your Informal Diversion Program

If you completed the informal diversion program within the recommended six-month time frame, you would return to court for the judge to issue further orders. The probation officer will also present their report on your participation and whether you have shown signs of improved behavior since joining the program.

Your defense attorney can also provide positive statements to demonstrate the specific steps and effort you put into improving to validate your experience. If the presiding judge finds the information satisfactory, they will dismiss your case. Thus, you can return to your regular life, as you have complied with the informal diversion requirements.

Similarly, parties who have not satisfied the diversion program requirements will still return to court to receive the judge’s determination. The probation officer will read their report and highlight the factors resulting in dissatisfaction. Afterward, the judge will determine whether to order you to extend the probation period or resume the formal case trial.

Benefits of Joining an Informal Diversion Program

Doubtless, joining the informal diversion program provides various benefits compared to facing trial in juvenile courts. Thanks to the advantages you face, you will have a smoother experience and have your case dismissed sooner. This can be advantageous as it allows you to resume your education and regular life and integrate with your community faster. Some advantages of the informal diversion program are:

  • You Face More Lenient Terms Compared to Sentencing Orders
  • You Do Not Have to Admit to the Charged Offenses
  • You Have an Easier Time Contesting Penalties for Non-Compliance
  • You will Serve a Shorter Period of Probation

Contact a Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

Navigating the juvenile justice system without prior experience can be challenging, even when you want the best for your child. Therefore, partnering with an experienced criminal defense attorney can significantly increase your chances of a positive outcome, thanks to their skill. Their primary role should be engaging with the probation officer and presiding judge to ensure your child is accepted into the informal diversion program.

Thanks to their inputs, you also have a better chance of completing the program, even when your case circumstances seem more severe than the average. Furthermore, the support you receive from your attorney significantly reduces stress and worry, giving you a smoother juvenile court process overall.

At Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, we aim to provide excellent legal guidance and assistance to our clients looking to join the juvenile informal diversion program in Riverside, California. We aim to ensure we successfully follow up on your case diversion by engaging with the probation officer and presiding judge on your behalf. For more information on juvenile informal probations, call us today at 951-946-6366.