Minors or children aged below 18 who commit offenses may be subject to the juvenile court proceedings where cases are adjudicated and dispositions ordered by juvenile judges when they sustain petitions. The violation of the law committed by the juvenile and their prior criminal record determines the court process the minor goes through.

Suppose your child is arrested for a minor offense or for the first time. In that case, the arresting officer may refer the minor to a probation or rehabilitation officer who then chooses not to file a petition but instead refer the minor to a juvenile informal diversion program. In the program, the juvenile is supervised for six months. Upon successful completion of the program, the case is dropped. The purpose of the program is to prevent a criminal record.

An informal diversion program is a complicated and extensive process. You need to understand what happens after arrest and the legal processes that follow because if your child fails to finish the program, the DA might file a petition, resulting in a criminal record. At California Criminal Lawyer Group, we are ready to help you ensure your child doesn’t end up with a criminal record for a first-time offense or less serious violation of the law.

Common Juvenile Crimes in San Jose, California

When a minor commits a crime, it’s unlikely they are doing it because of lousy raising. In most cases, juveniles engage in violations of the law for youthful fun. If your child is found in possession of controlled substances or alcohol, it doesn’t mean you didn’t do a good job raising them. They might be doing it for peer pressure. Unfortunately, whatever the reason for engaging in the crime, the minor might face serious consequences that can affect their future.

Based on the severity of the crime and the process the case follows, your child is at risk of having problems obtaining college admission, working in the military, or obtaining gainful employment. The juvenile might end up in a correctional facility or even in jail if the matter moves to an adult criminal court. So, whenever your kid is arrested for a crime, you need to speak to a criminal defense attorney right away, regardless of its nature. An attorney will help you prepare for the worst and protect your child’s future.

The common offenses juveniles in San Jose, California, commit are:

  • Petty theft
  • Shoplifting
  • Burglary and robbery
  • Drunk or drugged driving
  • Possession of marijuana or other kinds of narcotics
  • Speeding or reckless driving
  • Homicide or attempted murder
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Sex crimes like solicitation of prostitution

Remember, the state’s juvenile system is not as stringent as the adult courts. It aims to rehabilitate the minor and not punish. However, the juvenile proceeding might take a nasty turn of events if the DA decides to take the unexpected action of having the kid tried as an adult. It might result in jail custody and a criminal record.

Understanding Juvenile Court Process

The juvenile process commences the time your child is apprehended. Based on the offense’s seriousness, the juvenile might be set free or detained in the station. The minor could also be transferred for detention, awaiting a petition filing.

Although it’s critical to reach out to a criminal attorney right after your child has been arrested, there is no course for alarm when the juvenile ends up in detention. An officer will intervene and will only hold the kid for a short duration.

They will conduct investigations and send the juvenile home with instructions to appear before the court on a future date. The minor might also be released on probation without the need to come back in court after completing the program. Also, the child could be detained until a judge evaluates the complaint.

Understanding the Juvenile Delinquency Law

When your minor commits an offense, the act is merely a crime. Instead, it’s a delinquent act adjudicated in the civil court and not the criminal one. The minor’s particular offenses can force the case to be transferred in an adult court through a transfer or fitness hearing. These crimes are listed under WIC 707(b).

The criminal court system is geared towards punishing the offender. However, the juvenile delinquency law is intended to rehabilitate to provide public protection and safety. They should receive treatment, care, and guidance to give the right reforms.

When a petition is filed against your child, and the court discovers the minor engaged in the violation, they will sustain the petition unless the judgment is deferred. Upon disposition, the child will be subject to the following sanctions:

  • Community labor
  • Placement in a foster home
  • Victim restitution or payment of fine
  • Commitment to a ranch
  • Juvenile probation
  • Commitment to a juvenile camp

Your child might also be declared a court ward under Welfare and Institutions Code (WIC) 602. According to this section, a minor is subject to the juvenile delinquency system when charged with a crime. Further, if a petition is sustained, the court can declare the minor a ward of the court. It means they assume the primary responsibility of the juvenile. If your child is declared a court ward, you may be allowed to take them home, or the judge might transfer them to foster care, a group home, or probation camp to finish the probation.

Note that the most common form of punishment is the placement of the minor in a diversion program. The diversion program could be a pre-trial diversion program or one that applies after the court sustains the petition against your child. Informal diversion is a common type of pre-filing diversion program that occurs when your child commits a minor offense or is a first-time offender.

General View of Juvenile Informal Diversion

When an adult engages in a crime, they are apprehended and taken to custody. However, for children who engage in delinquent acts, the law might treat them differently. Based on the severity of the crime and the number of previous offenses by the minor, the arresting officer might opt to warn the juvenile and release them, refer them to a probation or rehabilitation officer or send them to juvenile detention.

The probation officer handling your kid’s case conducts further investigations. If they discover the minor is a first-time offender or the offense was an infraction, they may give a strict warning to the child and set them free. The other option is to put the juvenile under an informal probation program or refer them to the DA, who files a complaint or petition with the juvenile court. Only serious offenses are referred to the prosecutor.

If the probation officer forwards the matter to the prosecutor, it indicates the case is severe. However, the issue doesn’t get the court’s intervention for less severe offenses because the probation officer never refers it to the DA.

For minor offenses, the probation officer plays a critical role in determining the case, depending on the investigation’s facts. If they opt to put you on the program’s probation, the officer must ensure you follow the program’s qualifications and complete it successfully.

Note that for the probation officer to place your child under informal probation, the child must be a first-time violator, not shown signs of dark social behavior before the arrest, or the offense is not a serious one. Informal diversion, otherwise called informal probation, is a pre-filing program under WIC 654. Instead of filing a petition with the court, the probation officer places the minor on informally supervised probation for no more than six months.

Remember, it’s not a requirement that all juvenile cases receive the court’s intervention. Less severe offenses or those involving first-time violators can be dealt with informally without the court’s intervention. Under this diversion program, the probation officer agrees to control the minor without referring them to a prosecutor who files a court petition.

Furthermore, the officer must balance the interests of the minor and the safety of the community. The statute requires the involved parties’ delights to order informal juvenile probation instead of detention. In deciding whether to put the juvenile in the informal diversion without a petition and must consider the following:

  • The kind of conduct or condition by the juvenile, whether it’s severe or less serious
  • Whether the juvenile and the parents can resolve the matter without the court’s intervention
  • Whether further observation or evaluation of the matter is necessary before arriving at a decision
  • What are the attitudes of the child or the parents? Is the juvenile willing and ready to correct their mistakes and learn from them?
  • Age, maturity, and capabilities of the juvenile
  • Whether the minor has a record of delinquency
  • If there is commendation from the relevant agency
  • What are the views of persons affected by the minor’s actions?
  • Whether other circumstances indicate the juvenile’s welfare and society's safety could benefit from the informal diversion.
  • Whether the juvenile has other issues, be it at home, school, or community, that indicate supervision could be desirable.

Conditions and Terms of Informal Diversion or Probation

Every probation has criteria that the offender must meet. The same applies to informal probation. Depending on the nature and elements of the matter, the probation officer develops particular conditions of the program you and your child must abide by in the informal probation course. The agreement of the program must state that the parent of the kid and the child will:

  • Take part in counseling, educating, and parenting courses.
  • Receive treatment and education for controlled substance misuse or addiction

If your child doesn’t participate in the program within 60 days, the supervising officer will be left with no other option than to forward the complaint to a DA, who then files a court petition.

Additionally, the officer can seek the court’s intervention by referring the matter to a prosecutor if your child fails to comply with probation conditions. The court petition for a failed diversion program can come within half a year of the probation duration or ninety days after the probation end.

Informal Diversion After Filing a Petition

Informal diversion doesn’t always happen pre-filing. Sometimes it occurs after the prosecutor has filed a petition. In cases like those, the officer refers the complaint to the DA for filing but commends informal diversion or probation. The officer’s recommendation isn’t final. The judge handling the case evaluates the evidence presented and decides whether to grant informal probation. The minor’s condition at the time of committing the crime and their future welfare influences the court’s decision.

Even when the DA and probation officer’s recommendation was to deny informal probation, the judge might grant or order it after evaluating the case. The sanctions imposed must be in the interest of your child and society’s safety.

If the juvenile judge follows the officer’s recommendation to grant informal diversion, the case proceeds for up to six months. Your child doesn’t need to confess for the court to order probation. Further, as a parent or guardian to the juvenile, you must consent to be involved in the child’s requisite education and counseling.

It’s also worth noting that if the baseline offense is drinking and driving or involves narcotics, the law requires the juvenile to complete an alcohol or drug school. If it’s a case of drinking and driving, the minor will face DMV consequences, as informal probation doesn’t protect from these consequences.

Similarly, California adopts the zero-tolerance policy for underage drivers who operate vehicles drunk or drugged as per VC 23136. If the child had a considerable alcohol weight in their blood, they would face DUI charges. The sanctions for underage drinking and driving is license suspension for up to 12 months for first offense DUI and 24 to 36 months for second and subsequent offenders.

Completion of Informal Diversion

As stated earlier, informal probation lasts for up to 6 months. At the end of the period, the juvenile must appear before a judge for adjudication. However, fifteen days before your child appears in court, the officer supervising the informal diversion prepares and submits a report on the juvenile’s case and performance.

If the report indicates your child completed probation, the judge will drop the case and free the child to return to their everyday life before the crime. However, if the report indicates the juvenile’s performance in the informal probation was unsatisfactory, the judge will extend the period of probation.

On the other hand, failure by your child to finish the informal probation program will result in revocation of the program and filing of a court petition. The court will have 12 months from the date of filing the petition to resume delinquency proceedings.

Informal Diversion and Felony Offenses

Specific cases involving juveniles must be referred to the prosecutor for filing in court. If your child 14 or older is arrested for the commission of a felony, they are never placed under informal diversion or probation except under unique circumstances. The probation officer will file a petition if the people who have been offended by your child’s wrongful acts want justice.

As per WIC 654.3, the court can grant informal probation to a minor faced with felony charges if:

  • The judge finds unique or unusual elements of the case which serve the best interest of justice if the juvenile is placed under informal diversion.
  • The juvenile court specifies on its record the reason for the ruling.

Note that even if your child is above 14 years and has been accused of engaging in a felony, they still should look for exceptional or unusual circumstances to grant informal probation. The program is a more favorable option over the deferred entry of judgment probation.

As per WIC 790, if your juvenile engages in a less severe felony and meets particular requirements, the judge can defer the entry of judgment and place the youth on probation.

The conditions your minor should meet to be eligible for this form of probation includes:

  • Your minor must be at least 14 years at the time of the hearing.
  • The child hasn’t been previously declared a court ward for felony charges.
  • The wrongful act in question isn’t under WIC 707(b)
  • The minor hasn’t been sentenced to the DJJ before
  • The minor has never been subject to a probation revocation in court before
  • The juvenile is qualified for probation under PC 1203.6
  • The offense in question isn’t rape, sexual penetration, sodomy, or oral copulation, as indicated under PC 289. Your child will be deemed to have been aware or ought to have known the victim of the acts was unable to resist or give consent. If they rendered their victim unconscious by narcotics, anesthetizing, intoxicating, or being incapacitated due to physical or developmental disability or mental disorder, it shows a lack of consent.

Some of the reasons informal probation is better than WIC 790, deferred entry of judgment include:

  • Your child won’t be required to confess to having committed the offense.
  • Compared to the sanctions imposed upon sustaining the petition against the minor, the probation time is shorter.
  • The terms of an informal diversion are more friendly.
  • Your child can still fight the case if their performance on probation is unsatisfactory.

Some of the reasons the judge could give for placing a juvenile who has committed a felony on informal diversion include stating that the 14 years is less for a deferred entry judgment or the minor was apprehended with others older and deserving of a second opportunity. Thus, the kid deserves to rectify the behavior to become a better adult in the future through informal probation.

Other Forms of Probation

Apart from the informal probation or diversion program explained above, your child might also be subject to other probation forms.

Under WIC 727, if the court sustains the petition against your child and in the disposition hearing the juvenile is declared a court ward, the court retains jurisdiction over the child. It means the child’s probation is supervised by the court and not a rehabilitation officer. The child must adhere to the criteria imposed by the judge. Otherwise, they will revoke probation.

Wardship probation is also applicable under WIC 602 if the court sustains a petition and orders your kid to be placed under formal probation. The child being a ward of the court will be under the court’s supervision until they turn 21 years. However, if the child was committed to a DJJ, they will be supervised until they turn 24.

The Effects of a Probation Violation on an Existing Case

Any time a juvenile violates probation conditions, the court calls for a violation of probation hearing. In the proceeding, the court determines if your child has probation conditions by a preponderance of the evidence.

If it’s a less severe violation, the judge won’t revoke the probation. Instead, they will revise the terms of probation to allow the juvenile to remain on the program.

The consequences of probation violation are:

  • Revocation of probation and filing of a petition by the prosecutor under informal probation by the judge
  • Under WIC 725 and 790, deferred entry judgment probation, the court will terminate probation and declare the juvenile a court’s ward. If the minor isn’t a ward of the court, they are entitled to an adjudication hearing based on the probation officer’s report on the disposition. The court may remove your child from home-based probation, and hold a disposition hearing to determine if being home on probation is beneficial to the child. The decision by the court depends on the evidence presented.

Where your juvenile is already a ward of the court and on home probation, the prosecutor may file a petition for revocation of probation.

Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

Many minors accused of committing offenses do it for youthful fun. A single mistake can affect your child’s life, but luckily, your minor might have a second chance at crime-free adult life and a clean criminal record with the informal diversion. The program’s process is challenging to understand, which is why you need to speak to an experienced attorney. If you need guidance on this legal process or looking for more information, call the California Criminal Lawyer Group at 408-622-0204 for a free consultation.