No parent wants to receive a phone call from a police officer informing them that their child has just been arrested for a crime. Depending on the seriousness of the crime, the police officer can send the police report to the juvenile probation department for “diversion” so the minor can handle the matter informally without facing formal charges. This diversion in Orange County, California is handled by a special probation officer who has the power to determine if the minor even qualifies for the diversion program. This determination occurs during a lengthy and detailed interview with the parent and the minor. This interview is such an important part of the probation officer’s decision to grant diversion that the minor’s parents should seriously consider hiring a juvenile defense attorney to assist them through the process.
Prior to the interview, the probation officer will contact the parents and request them to fill out a detailed questionnaire. Before providing any information in response to the questionnaire, it is imperative to consult with an attorney who can specifically advise you on the best types of responses to provide on the questionnaire.
If your child has any type of medical or emotional issues that may have contributed to the incident, obtain those records in advance of the interview. Provide a copy of the records to the lawyer so that she can determine the importance of the information that is contained in them, and what relevant records to actually bring to the interview. These records could be from your child’s school, a medical provider or counselor.
Once at the interview, the probation department will take the parents and the child into the probation officer’s office for a sit down group discussion. Prior to any specific questions being asked, the attorney should ask to see a copy of the police report to quickly scan any statements the child made to the police. The attorney can then take a brief break (if needed) in order to discuss any important statements that the police officer documented.
The probation officer will go through very detailed questions about the family dynamics in order to determine what type of situation the child has been living in, and the amount of control the parents have over the child. If the probation officer gets the impression that the parents are not doing their part on the parenting front, court intervention may be requested and diversion denied. The probation officer will also go into how the child is disciplined and what type of consequences the child is given when they do something wrong.
Circumstances of the Offense
One of the most important reasons to have an attorney present during the juvenile diversion interview is the inevitable questioning of the child about the circumstances of the incident. The child will be given his Miranda rights and advised that whatever he says about the offense, can be used against him if the probation officer denies diversion. This puts the child in a bad position to fight the case if the probation officer denies diversion. An experienced attorney would be able to advise the child on the best way to handle the questioning about the offense.
Minor’s Attitude and Acceptance of Responsibility
The other important thing to remember is that during the entire time the child is being questioned, the probation officer is assessing his or her attitude and acceptance of responsibility. If the child shows up for the interview with an attitude and/or denies doing anything wrong, the probation officer will just forward the case to the District Attorney’s office for review and filing of charges.
If your child is facing potential charges in juvenile delinquency court, contact the Kenney Legal Defense Corporation for assistance.