Juvenile Diversion Programs

For a child accused of a juvenile offense for the first time, the State Attorney’s Office in Tampa, Hillsborough County, FL, has created certain diversion programs that might be offered to resolve the case.

These diversion programs essentially divert the case away from court and the judge and into a voluntary program. If the conditions are completed, then the charges are then dropped by the prosecutor.

Some types of juvenile misdemeanor charges are not eligible for the pre-arrest civil citation diversion program including battery, assault on a law enforcement officer, violation of an injunction,  driving under the influence (DUI), or racing.

The different types of diversion programs vary widely. Each program comes with its own collateral or indirect consequences that can last a lifetime. Entering into a diversion program is most problematic for a child that wants to become a health care professional (such as a nurse or physician), lawyer, certified educator, law enforcement officer, or member of the military.

For these professions, even the fact that the child had contact with law enforcement and resolved the case by entering a diversion program must be reported during the licensure process.

For all children, if the case resulted in detention for a felony, then the record can be obtained by anyone from FDLE for $21, at least until the child’s 21 birthday.

Attorneys for Juvenile Diversion Programs in Tampa, FL

Before you decide how to resolve the case, call an experienced criminal defense attorney in Tampa, FL, to discuss any criminal accusation against a juvenile. Our juvenile defense attorneys represent minor children accused of delinquent acts in the juvenile courts in Hillsborough County, FL.

Our juvenile defense lawyers in Tampa, FL, understand the pros and cons of entering different types of juvenile diversion programs offered in the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit including the juvenile arrest avoidance program (civil citation), arbitration, JDAP, the Walker Plan, and drug court.

Call (813) 250-0500 today to discuss the case.

Types of Juvenile Diversion Programs in Florida

In Hillsborough County, the most commonly used diversion programs include:

  1. Juvenile Arrest Avoidance Program (civil citation);
  2. Arbitration (before a petition is filed);
  3. Juvenile Diversion Alternative Program (often called JDAP);
  4. Juvenile Diversion Program (often called JDP);
  5. The Walker Plan (after a petition is filed);
  6. The Sex Walker Plan (for sexually motivated crime by a juvenile against a younger child); and
  7. Juvenile Drug Court.

The main goal of any diversion program is to reduce the occurrence of juvenile crime by diverting young people away from the traditional juvenile justice system and providing an alternative to formal processing.

The main problem with these programs is that to participate, the child must often admit wrongdoing. When the child has been falsely accused, the child should not admit wrongdoing or take responsibility. For these reasons, the least culpable young people are treated more harshly by the system.

For instance, in counseling sessions required by many of these diversion programs, the child will often be required to discuss:

  1. the seriousness of the incident;
  2. the consequences of the child’s actions;
  3. insight into victim empathy; and
  4. verbalize responsibility for the actions.

For many of these diversion programs, unless the child adequately  “takes responsibility” the child cannot complete the counseling requirements of diversion.

Other Problems with Diversion Programs for Juveniles

Other problems with these diversion programs center around concerns with prejudice, discrimination, civil rights violations, and the issue of net widening. The Center of Juvenile and Criminal Justice explains “net widening” as follows

“a phenomenon whereby a program is set up to divert youth away from an institutional placement or some other type of juvenile court disposition but, instead, merely brings more youth into the juvenile justice system who previously would never have entered. Instead of shrinking the “net” of social control, one actually “widens” it to bring more in.”

If the child is actually guilty of the delinquent act and the prosecution could actually prove that at trial, then entering diversion has many benefits. One benefit is that if no petition or formal charge is filed, then the child can often avoid being forced out of school and into a “change of placement” or expulsion, especially when the alleged act did not occur on school property. Some diversion programs are only offered after a petition is filed.

Either the law enforcement officer that confronted the juvenile at the time of the incident or the state attorney that has been referred the case might have discretion to refer a juvenile to a diversion program.

Although participation in a diversion program may be restricted to misdemeanor offenses, the State Attorney’s Office might allow a juvenile accused of a felony to participate for some types of diversion programs.

According to the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, Delinquency Profile 2018, Statewide Diversion – Felony Arrests, (September 13, 2019), in fiscal year 2018-19, 4,965 juveniles were referred to post arrest diversion programs for felony offenses.

The End Result of a Juvenile Diversion Program

If the child is referred to the Juvenile Diversion Program of the Administrative Office of the Courts in Tampa, FL, before a petition is filed, then when all of the conditions are successfully completed, the child will receive a letter from the court counselor.

The letter will explain that the child has successfully completed the Juvenile Diversion Program. The letter provides: “This is a non-judicial program designed as an alternative to the judicial system, therefore, the child has not been adjudicated a delinquent on the above offenses(s).”

If the child successfully completes the Walker Program after a petition is filed, then upon successful completion of the requirements, the court will often enter an “Order of Dismissal Based on Successful Completion of Walker Plan for Treatment, Training or Conduct” which typically reads:

This cause came before the Court for consideration following the expiration of the time period established for the successful completion of a Walker Plan for Rehabilitation and Treatment. Upon the favorable recommendation of the representatives of the Department of Juvenile Justice and with the approval of the office of the State Attorney, it is hereby order and adjudged:

Supervision is terminated and the case is DISMISSED with prejudice. The child is discharged from any further responsibility to the Court and the State of Florida as to these charges. The Court reserves jurisdiction for the purpose of reviewing payment of restitution, to the extent restitution may have been previously ordered. DONE AND ORDERED in open court at Tampa, Hillsborough County, Florida.

Expunction of a Case Resolved in a Juvenile Diversion Program

Keep in mind that only misdemeanor cases that have completed JDP will be processed by FLDE for expunction if the juvenile or the child’s attorney completes the required paperwork. This means that the original detention must be for a misdemeanor.

If the case started as a felony and was reduced to a misdemeanor then the State Attorney’s Office in Hillsborough County will take the position that it is not eligible for this type of expunction. Visit the FDLE website to find the instructions for applying for a juvenile diversion expunction.

As of July 1, 2016, the requirement to submit the application for a juvenile diversion expunction within 6 months or 12 months after completion of the diversion program has been repealed. Under Florida law, there is no longer a deadline for submitting the application.

Eligibility for a juvenile diversion expungement is conditioned upon the successful completion of a pre-arrest or post-arrest diversion program authorized by Section 985.125, Florida Statutes, in which the applicant’s participation was based on an arrest for a nonviolent misdemeanor.

As used in this section, the term “nonviolent misdemeanor” includes simple assault or battery when pre-arrest or post-arrest diversion expunction is approved in writing by the state attorney for the county in which the arrest occurred. But a case of battery or assault involving domestic violence, is not eligible for this type of expunction process.

You should also be aware that the term “expunction” as used in Section 943.0582 Florida Statutes, differs significantly in operation and effect from the term “expunction” as used in Section 943.0585, Florida Statutes.

Expunction or sealing granted under Florida Statute Section 943.0582 for a pre-arrest, post-arrest, or teen court diversion program expunction, does not prevent the minor who receives such relief from petitioning for the expunction or sealing of a later criminal history record as provided for in ss. 943.0583, 943.0585, and 943.059, if the minor is otherwise eligible under those sections.

For general information or specific paperwork regarding the expunction of the case, you can contact a criminal defense attorney experienced in petitions to seal or expunge a juvenile diversion record. Visit the FDLE website to learn more about the process for an expunction of a juvenile diversion record.

Hillsborough County’s Juvenile Civil Citation Program

The following offenses are not eligible for Hillsborough County’s Juvenile Civil Citation Program, also known as the Juvenile Arrest Avoidance Program (JAAP), which became effective on August 1, 2018.

The Juvenile Civil Citation Program (Juvenile Arrest Avoidance Program (JAAP)) allows a law enforcement officer to issue a citation to a juvenile for a first offense that involves a non-serious, delinquent act.

All misdemeanors (including petty theft, trespass, and misdemeanor marijuana possession) are eligible offenses EXCEPT the thirteen (13) enumerated offenses listed below are not eligible:

Additional Resources

FAQs about Teen Court – Thirteenth Judicial Circuit – Visit the website of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit in and for Tampa and Hillsborough County to learn more about a Juvenile Diversion Program that is an alternative to formal charges in juvenile court.

Juvenile Diversion Programs – An Overview – Visit the website of the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice (CJCJ) to find out more about juvenile diversion programs in the United States. The article stresses the importance of these programs as a way to avoid inadvertently stigmatizing some youth for having committed petty acts and to ease an overburdened juvenile justice system. The article cites studies and research on the benefits of these programs, the problem with net widening, constitutionality, and differential treatment. The CJCJ is a nonprofit organization working to reduce society’s reliance on incarceration as a solution to social problems. The organization provides programs, education, and technical assistance to jurisdictions wishing to establish model programs for offender populations.

Juvenile Arrest Avoidance Program (Civil Citation) – Effective August 1, 2017, the State Attorney’s Office in the 13th Judicial Circuit in Hillsborough County, FL, created a juvenile pre-arrest diversion program, often called the “juvenile civil citations.” In April of 2019, the program was expanded to include all but five misdemeanor offenses. The probation-style diversion program requires the child to complete a variety of sanctions while avoiding the long-term consequences of an arrest or conviction. The civil citation arrest avoidance program was expended to cover most types of family violence including a battery against a parent or sibling. The civil citation program for family violence cases requires that the juvenile complete counseling with Hillsborough County Children’s Services.

Finding a Juvenile Defense Attorney in Tampa, FL

If your child was accused of violating the law, call an experienced criminal defense attorney at the Sammis Law Firm. With offices in downtown Tampa, we have the experience needed to handle these types of juvenile cases when entry into a diversion program is offered.

Call to find out more about the pros and cons of entering a Juvenile Diversion Programs (JDP) which can include “arbitration” before a petition is filed or the “Walker Plan” after a petition is filed in Tampa, Hillsborough County, FL.

Call (813) 250-0500 to speak with an experienced juvenile defense attorney in Tampa, FL, today.

This article was last updated on Tuesday, May 11, 2021.