The California juvenile diversion system launched a diversion program intended for 1st time offenders, primarily those accused of nonviolent crimes without a prior record. The program is available as an alternative for disposition, and it helps redirect them through supervision, programming, and guidance. There is a need to punish minors who engage in delinquent acts. Still, the diversion program focuses on rehabilitating delinquents and helping them avoid criminal sentences which may have lifetime consequences.

If your kid has a petition filed against them in the delinquency court, they might face severe punishment if the court sustains the petition. Luckily, the youth can avoid these consequences through a diversion. The program suspends the criminal proceedings for a particular duration so that the child completes the conditions set by the judge for the program. The court will drop the petition against the juvenile if they meet the program, but failure to do so will see the case adjudicated. If the petition is sustained, the minor will face the consequences provided by the law.

The Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm is here to negotiate on behalf of your child for a choice that won’t affect their plans. We have highlighted the juvenile informal diversion in this article to help you if your kid is arrested for a nonviolent crime.

Understanding California Diversion

A diversion is a substitute for a minor’s sentence that requires them to fulfill particular criteria for the petition against them to be dismissed. The program is suitable for your kid because it’s rehabilitative, giving them a chance to have a crime-free life.

Diversion programs take two forms; formal and informal. A formal program is one where youths accused of drug crimes are placed in the delinquency system after the court sustains their petitions. On the other end, an informal diversion program is available for first-time, nonviolent criminal offenders. The program occurs when the law enforcement officer lets free your child instead of arresting them for a minor violation. However, upon release, the child must fulfill particular requirements.

Remember, the program doesn’t come easily. The child must cooperate with the officer and follow all instructions without hesitancy. Diversion programs are beneficial because they allow your youth to grow, improve and make it easier for them to enroll in school or obtain employment because of a clean criminal record.

Children commit crimes because of many reasons, including mental conditions. If your kid is put under the delinquent act in question due to a mental illness, a program would make a huge difference. By the time the program ends, the child will be a new person, and they are likely to have a crime-free life in the future. Unfortunately, some factors can disqualify the youth from the program. These are:

  • A history of sentencing for severe offenses

  • If the minor was in possession of a firearm during of the apprehension

  • If the child failed to undertake a drug education program, a condition for the program

  • Drug-related offenses like production, possession, sale, or distribution of narcotics

  • Concurrent sentences for misdemeanor or felony offenses not crime-related

Eligibility for Juvenile Informal Diversion

A lot of factors are considered before putting a minor in the program. The probation official must act in the youth’s and society’s best interest by considering the following factors:

  1. The Seriousness of the Child’s Conduct

The prosecutor must consider the nature of the behavior or conduct of the youth. Usually, the offenses committed by juveniles are minor infractions or traffic violations, which is why they are put in the informal diversion program. However, the probation department might consider the child’s conduct during the crime and decide they should forward the file to a prosecutor for a petition. If the offense is severe, the minor might even be transferred to the adult court for prosecution.

  1. The Ability of you or your Minor to Settle the Matter Before Going Through a Formal Process

Not all offenses that can result in the apprehension of a minor are termed as law violations when committed by a minor. A process like that doesn’t need to go through the court system if you and your youth agree to resolve the matter without the court’s intervention. If the court believes the issue doesn’t require adjudication, they will place your child under an informal diversion program.

  1. Your Minor’s Record of Delinquency

California is famous for its stringent laws and harsh punishment for repeat offenders. Therefore, if your kid has a history of delinquency or dependency, the situation will be worse. The juvenile court system intends to rehabilitate, but your child could be considered unfit for an informal diversion program based on the crimes they have committed in the past.

  1. Any Challenges the Child Might be Facing at Home or School

Informal probation doesn’t involve delinquents being placed in homes, ranches, or juvenile halls. The program is completed at home. For this reason, it’s essential for the probation office to consider the home, school, church, or public environment of the child and whether it’s conducive to improve the minor and deter them from committing further crime. If the child’s environment is not conducive for rehabilitation, they won’t be eligible for informal diversion.

  1. The Youth’s Capabilities, Maturity Level, and Age

The probation department considers the age, level of maturity, and capabilities to determine if the minor is fit for informal diversion. If the child is below 14 and has committed a minor offense for the first time, they will end up in informal diversion. However, if the kid is 14 or older and a repeat offender, the case will undergo adjudication or be transferred to the adult court to face criminal proceedings.

  1. Possibility, the Kid, will Benefit from the Program

Informal diversion aims to rehabilitate minors and make them better and responsible adults in the future. The program offers kids a second chance to grow, make the right decisions, and avoid a criminal record because a petition is never filed. However, before the program:

  • The child’s attitude towards you and

  • Willingness to learn from their mistakes determines if they qualify for the program or not.

The probation department considers:

  • The commendations for referring agencies or individuals

  • Views from the people affected by the minor’s conduct

  • The minor’s attitude

If they all indicate informal diversion is the right program, then you don’t need to worry about your child having a criminal record or facing criminal consequences. However, you should hire a juvenile attorney immediately after learning of their arrest because you can’t take chances with their freedom and future. An attorney will provide the legal guidance necessary to ensure the child is placed under an informal diversion program.

Benefits of Informal Diversion

Delinquents acquire a unique experience under the diversion program. The benefits minors can derive from the program include:

  • The program provides support for your youth to increase productivity instead of being confined

  • It rehabilitates and diverts delinquents charged with various offenses from engaging in crime later in life.

  • Processing minors through the system helps them correct their behaviors to become better adults.

The programs under informal diversion that the child can benefit from include:

  • Rebuilding broken or strained family bonds

  • Family counseling

  • Job skills training

  • Quality recreation

  • Service-learning classes

  • Educational services

  • Crisis intervention

  • Mental health treatment

  • Counseling and drug abuse education

Reasons for an Informal Diversion Program

For minors eligible for the program, it is efficient and pocket-friendly. By ensuring that first-time offenders are rehabilitated from their home environment, the program helps in decongesting prisons and jails. Compared to incarceration, informal diversion helps rehabilitate your child, unlike when they are in jail. They are likely to learn notorious behavior they didn’t know of, increasing the chances of reoffending once they are out of jail.

Informal diversion provides your child the chance to evaluate their actions and see how it has affected them and other people. By doing so, the kid can change the conduct that pushed them into committing a crime in the first place.

Another reason the program is beneficial to the child is that after completion, the child’s arrest record will be deleted and appear as if they never committed a crime. By having a clean criminal record, the child will have higher chances of obtaining employment, school admission, and renting an apartment, advantages people with criminal records merely enjoy.

The expected benefits of an informal diversion are:

  • Reduced court fees, primarily the processing costs

  • Community engagement because the child is placed in their home or society environment

Elements of California Informal Diversion

The elements of a diversion include:


In the delinquency system, the court can impose formal or informal probation as an alternative to sentencing. It is a release on condition that permits your youth to complete the imposed sentence at home. Even under informal diversion, the child might be eligible for probation.

Release on Own Recognizance (O.R)

O.R is a kind of diversion that lets your child be released from detention on the promise that they will go back to the juvenile court on the scheduled date, but with the condition that they won’t engage in crime. Unfortunately, the program is not available for minors arrested for felony offenses or repeat offenders.

Community Labor

Under particular circumstances, the informal diversion program should set aside a few hours for community service, primarily if you cannot raise victim restitution fees.

Victim Restitution

Sometimes, the delinquent act committed by your child can result in financial losses. Although the child will be placed under informal diversion for rehabilitation, the court might require them to restitute the victims of their conduct for the financial losses or damages caused if it deems it a critical part of rehabilitation.

Conditions of an Informal Diversion

California’s informal diversion comes with conditions like those of summary probation. The probation official supervising your child’s case will evaluate the nature and circumstances surrounding their conduct to come up with an agreement that, as the minor’s parent or guardian, the child must abide by until the end of the program. If your kid is placed under informal diversion, you must ensure that they comply with the terms imposed because failure to do so will attract harsher consequences.

The contract makes it clear that you and the child must engage in parenting and counseling programs designed by the probation official in charge of the case. The program’s goal is to rehabilitate minors and create an environment that will help them change their behaviors and learn from their mistakes, which keeps them off crime in the future.

Besides, the agreement requires that the child undergoes a drug treatment and care program if the initial arrest was due to possession or use of narcotics.

Remember, if the minor doesn’t participate in the diversion requirements in the first sixty days, the probation might hand over the case to a juvenile prosecutor to file a petition that will see your youth sentenced. The officer can also request the prosecutor to file a petition if the performance by the minor in the program was insufficient.

Furthermore, a claim can be filed within 90 days of completing the program or through the six months of probation if the minor fails probation. An informal diversion provides your kid with the perfect opportunity to avoid a sustained petition and the consequences associated with it. For this reason, as a parent or guardian, you must do your best, including hiring an attorney, to ensure the child completes the program successfully.

Completion of the Informal Diversion Program

The diversion program lasts for six months, after which the minor should appear before the juvenile court for case determination. During this court appearance, the officer in charge of your case presents a detailed report of how you performed in the program. If your youth completed the program according to the report, the petition will be dismissed, and the child will be free to go home without any conditions.

However, if the performance doesn’t satisfy the prosecution, they can choose to extend the duration or file a petition with the court.

Informal Probation After a Petition has Been Filed

As mentioned earlier, informal diversion happens before a petition is filed in these courts. However, when a petition is filed first, the prosecutor recommends the minor be placed under informal diversion. The judge must thoroughly evaluate the case and consider the circumstance of the minor during the offense. The child’s safety and well-being come first during this determination, explaining why judges might grant informal diversion even when the prosecuting team or the probation department is against it.

Similarly, the judge considers the well-being of the child. If they are convinced your kid will benefit from the program and make the right decisions in the future, then they will be put under the program.

The Juvenile Delinquency Court Process

After engaging in a delinquent act or violation of the law, it’s when your child is involved in the delinquency process. The court examines particular factors including the child’s age, the severity of the crime, and their delinquency history. Based on these facts, the court might opt to:

  • Have the child come home but be under the jurisdiction of a probation officer

  • Place the child under probation, where they might be placed in foster care, group home, a relative’s home, or a juvenile institution.

  • Have the kid placed under the corrections department

  • Have the kid be put under probation and admitted to a camp

Suppose the court deems it necessary to have the kid admitted to a re-correction facility. In that case, they will be first put in a reception facility for thirty to ninety days. They are placed here to monitor them and determine what they need to grow and mature. Once the child’s needs are known, they are sent to a rehabilitation facility where services are tailored to address these needs.

The Juvenile Arrest

When your child is found in the commission of a delinquent act, the police officer might decide to record the apprehension and send them home. Alternatively, the officer might send the minor to an agency or institution for shelter, take them to the nearest police station, or place them in a detention center.

Just like an adult has to be read their Miranda rights, the officer must help the minor understand their rights, including remaining silent when their attorney is absent and retain legal representation. The law requires that children aged 15 or younger have an attorney present before disclosing any details regarding their conduct to the police officer.

Investigations After Being Placed in a Juvenile Facility

Once your child is booked in a juvenile facility, it’s up to the officer assigned the case to investigate the matter further to establish the nature and circumstances surrounding the case. If the officer determines the crime in question is a minor one, they might do the following:

  • Warn the child against conduct like that in the future and send them home without filing any formal charges.

  • Put the child under formal probation. They must go for counseling, engage in community programs, establish good relationships, attend school, change their attitude for the better, and portray good behavior.

When the youth adheres to these conditions throughout the probation period, the case will be dropped. However, failure to comply with the set guidelines will result in the filing of the initial petition.

The officer could also recommend a petition to be filed against the child.

Note that although in some instances, the officer will send your child home. Some terms require the minor to be held in juvenile detention. The child won’t be sent home if:

  • They have no place to call home

  • They cannot take care of themselves

  • They don’t have a biological parent or guardian

  • The youth’s residence is not fit due to abuse

  • They might escape

  • They have violated a court order

  • They pose a grave risk to the general public

If the decision by the probation official is to hold the child in detention, they can only do that for up to 48 hours. By the end of this period, a petition containing the minor’s information, including the delinquent act they are accused of committing, is filed in court, after which the case proceeds to the hearing face.

The California juvenile delinquency system has three hearing phases. The first is the detention proceeding, where the juvenile judge decides whether to continue holding the child or send them home. The next hearing is the jurisdiction of trial hearing, when the petition is read out and charges against the minor. The child is given a chance to respond to the charges by either admitting or denying. If the child denies the charges, it’s up to their legal team to defend the child.

The final phase of this case is the disposition proceeding, where the judge punishes the minor after they have been found guilty. The judge considers the minor’s delinquency record, the statement given by the victim, and family or school history to determine the consequences. The judge has three options when sentencing the child. They can declare the minor a court ward, dismiss the petition, send the youth home, or put them on probation. You can avoid any of these sentences if you hire the right attorney for your kid. An attorney that understands the juvenile court processes will produce a favorable outcome.

Find the Right Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

California juvenile informal diversion gives children a second chance to avoid a criminal record and other consequences associated with a sustained petition. Children also have the opportunity to correct their behavior and become responsible adults. Unfortunately, there is a lot of information about the program that parents don’t know, making it overwhelming for them to deal with situations where their kids have been arrested.

An experienced attorney can help you understand your child’s rights and how to avoid a criminal record. To discuss your kid’s case, reach out to Orange County Criminal Attorney Law Firm at 714-740-7848 for a free consultation.