In December 2021, the Los Angeles County district attorney issued a memo announcing a new juvenile diversion program. This proposed program will be expansive, allowing minors accused of many different types of offenses the ability to avoid criminal prosecution so that they can keep their records clean. While the diversion program might offer benefits to young people facing criminal charges, it also has met with opposition.
Juvenile diversion program
The Los Angeles County’s juvenile diversion program will allow minors who have been charged with multiple offenses to participate and potentially avoid having criminal adjudications on their records, including those who are charged with the following types of offenses:
- Robbery not resulting in serious injury
- Misdemeanor sexual battery
- Vehicle theft
Juveniles charged with serious violent offenses, including murder, gun crimes, offenses resulting in serious injuries, or rapes, will not be eligible. Those who are referred to the program and are accepted will be required to attend counseling sessions and address underlying issues resulting in criminal behavior. They will also have to undergo restorative justice programs through which they will meet with their victims.
Critics argue that the proposed diversion program goes too far and might allow minors who have participated in smash-and-grab operations to avoid adjudications on their records. However, proponents argue that prosecutors would be unlikely to refer juveniles involved in smash-and-grab schemes to the diversion program. They also note that the program is limited in size, so many minors who are accused of juvenile crimes will not be referred to it.
The proposed juvenile diversion program might offer an opportunity to low-level juvenile offenders to avoid having a criminal record. It might also allow juveniles to address underlying issues, including substance abuse or mental health needs, that might be leading to problematic behavioral choices.