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Diversion involves the handling of minor juvenile offenders outside of the juvenile court. Juveniles under the age of 18 who are arrested for offenses up to and including certain class C felonies are typically eligible for Diversion. After making an arrest, the police will refer the case to the local Prosecuting Attorney or designee where it is reviewed to determine legal sufficiency. If the case is legally sufficient it will be sent to a Diversion Unit. The case is thus diverted from the court.
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A Diversion Unit is usually made up of professional and citizen volunteers. This combination of participants is responsible for ensuring that the juvenile offender is held accountable for his or her criminal behavior. The professional staff member(s) of the unit are responsible for information gathering and for ensuring that due process is followed throughout. The Citizen volunteers act as Community Accountability Board members to determine the terms and conditions of the Diversion Agreement.
The Diversion Unit is obligated to inform the juvenile offender before entering into a Diversion Agreement of the availability of free legal counsel though the juvenile may seek legal assistance from any counsel of his/her choosing. Prior to signing the Diversion Agreement, the juvenile may request that his/her case be heard in court before a judge. While the Diversion Unit does not determine guilt or innocence, the juvenile must acknowledge his/her willingness to participate in Diversion and to accept responsibility for the crime. While this is not a conviction, it will become part of the juvenile's criminal history.
Diversion is more protective and informal. Diversion is also more convenient, less expensive, and less time-consuming than going to Juvenile Court. The Diversion process is confidential; unlike the court proceedings which are public. The Diversion process is private.