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Juvenile Diversion Programs in Hillsborough County, FL

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. The different types of diversion programs vary widely. Each program comes with its own collateral or indirect consequences that can last a lifetime.

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

  1. Arbitration (before a petition is filed);
  2. The Walker Plan (after a petition is filed); and
  3. 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.

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 "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.

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 a "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 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.

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.

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. 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 Friday, April 7, 2017.