• What You Should Know About Juvenile Diversion Programs

    What You Should Know About Juvenile Diversion Programs

    If your minor child is arrested for a criminal offense, it is extremely important to begin working with a Fairfax juvenile criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. For many juvenile offenders, it is possible to go through a diversion program that ultimately can prevent the minor from having a criminal record and serving time or receiving a severe sentence. Virginia law (Va. Code § 6VAC35-150-335) allows for diversion in certain types of cases, including juvenile cases. We want to provide you with more information about juvenile diversion programs and how they work.

    Diversion Programs Are Designed to Divert Certain Juvenile Cases

    According to Fairfax County, the aim of juvenile diversion programs in the state is “to divert appropriate cases to alternative programs while maintaining public safety.” Accordingly, only juvenile offenders who do not pose a serious risk to public safety will be eligible for diversionary programs. Indeed, diverted cases often include minor misdemeanor charges that may be informally resolved.

    The question of whether a juvenile offender is eligible for a diversion program usually is determined during the intake process. Generally speaking, whether or not a minor is eligible for diversion depends upon the evidence against the juvenile, whether the particular offense is eligible for diversion, and whether the minor is willing to accept responsibility for his or her actions.

    Intake Process Involves Information-Gathering and Assessment 

    What is the intake process? Virginia law (Va. Code § 16.1-260) defines the intake process when a person has been arrested for an offense. In general, after a minor has been charged with a criminal offense, the minor (and, usually, an adult family member) will be required to meet with an intake officer. The purpose of the intake process is for the intake officer to gather information about the minor by interviewing the minor, as well as to administer assessments. The assessment process involves two different types of assessments.

    First, the minor typically goes through an assessment of whether she or he is likely to commit another criminal offense. This assessment is known as the Youth Assessment Screening Instrument, or YASI. In addition, the child will be assessed for any mental health issues, including but not limited to substance abuse concerns and depression or anxiety. This assessment is known as the Global Assessment of Individual Needs—Short Screen, or GAIN-SS.

    After completing assessments, the intake officer typically makes recommendations for diversion program options.

    Multiple Diversion Program Options May Be Available

    A juvenile offender may be eligible for a number of different diversionary options, which may include one of the following:

    • Diversion Hearing, after which certain sanctions like community services or substance abuse counseling may be imposed;
    • Monitored Diversion Program, in which a child is supervised or monitored for a period of up to 90 days;
    • Counseling; and/or
    • Community services.

    Other diversion options also may be available. Once a minor has completed a diversion program, the minor will not have a criminal conviction record.

    Contact a Manassas Juvenile Criminal Defense Attorney

     If you have questions about diversion options or finding counsel to help with a juvenile criminal case, an experienced Manassas juvenile criminal defense lawyer at our firm can assist you. Contact Leary Law to learn more about how we can help with your case.

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