In many juvenile matters, there are diversion-minded programs that may result in the dismissal of charges. One program is known as “informal supervision” (Welfare & Institutions Code section 654). If the minor elects to participate, he/she must serve six-months of informal probation while performing community service, attending and receiving acceptable grades in school, providing restitution, if any to the victim, as well as completing any other terms the judge may require. At the conclusion of the six-month term, and assuming the minor has successfully completed the terms of probation, the case will be dismissed.
In more serious cases, including certain felonies, there is another program similar to informal supervision above. Known as “deferred entry of judgment” or DEJ (Welfare & Institutions Code section 790), this program requires the minor to serve a full year of probation and upon the successful conclusion of probation, the case will also be dismissed. This diversion program however, requires that the minor admit the charges in the petition (criminal complaint). Should the minor fail in DEJ, the court can impose sentence immediately.
While there are additional restrictive means to handling minors (home on probation, detention, suitable placement, youth authority), it is extremely important to recognize that the overall goal in juvenile matters is the “rehabilitation” of the minor, not simply imposing punishment. Given that there are many factors, reasons or circumstances that may cause a minor to commit a criminal offense (broken homes, substance abuse, mental health problems, etc.), it is imperative to highlight and illustrate these issues through school records, medical health providers, social workers, and counsellors/therapists. Faced with credible and relevant information beneficial to the minor, juvenile court prosecutors, and especially judges, are keen to provide minors (or, at least assisting them) with the resources necessary to deal with the specific challenges facing the minor.
In the City of Santa Clarita, there are two additional minor-diversion programs, “SCV Teen Court” and “SCV Community Court”. Both programs are also designed to give first-time youthful offenders an opportunity to earn a dismissal of their criminal case or traffic matter. An early discussion with an experienced, local attorney can help direct the case to the appropriate Santa Clarita sheriff’s personnel for such consideration.