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Diversion Program

In July 1978 the Washington State Legislature passed a new Juvenile Justice Act. The new law revised many facets of the Juvenile Justice System. The one we are concerned with is what  happens when a youth is charged with a minor offense. Instead of appearing formally before the Juvenile Court, the youth is "diverted" and seen by a Community Accountability Board.

What is Diversion?

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.

What is a Diversion Unit?

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.

Diversion Hearing and Agreement

The Diversion Unit will schedule a meeting with the juvenile offender and a Diversion Board. The board will advise him/her of his/her rights, discuss the nature of the crime and the surrounding circumstances. The Board will determine the appropriate consequences (penalty) for the juvenile offender and write the conditions of the penalty in the form of a contract known as the Diversion Agreement, which may include restitution to the victim for his/her losses, community service (volunteer work in a public or non-profit agency), fines, and/or a counseling, informational, or educational session. The juvenile is expected to fulfill the terms of the Diversion Agreement within the allotted time or the Diversion Unit will refer the case back to the prosecutor for formal court action. Under specified conditions, the juvenile may be counseled and released without further penalty.

Victim's Compensation and Civil Action

When a juvenile's crime has caused a financial loss to a victim, replacement of that loss (restitution) will normally be required by the Diversion Unit. The Diversion Unit will contact the victim to determine the amount of such loss and assess the juvenile's ability to pay. It will set the restitution amount based on these two considerations and determine a schedule for payment.

The Diversion Unit deals only with criminal charges; the victim retains the right to initiate civil court action for additional damages. In shoplifting cases, a special statute allows the victim store to sue the parents regardless of the actual loss.

What Are the Juvenile's Rights?

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.

What Are the Advantages of Diversion?

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.

Notice About Diversion or Court

If you choose to go to Court, or if you miss more than one appointment for an interview or more than one appointment for an Accountability Board, your case could go to Juvenile Court. If you fail your Diversion Agreement, your case will or could go to Juvenile Court.

You should be aware of the following information about cases that are returned to the Juvenile Court:

  1. Juvenile Court is a very formal process that can require up to five different appearances, although usually not that many are required. All cases must be seen at the Juvenile Court in Port Angeles. There is travel expense and time lost from schools and work as all appointments are between 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  2. You may be entitled to a free lawyer (Public Defender), or you can act as your own Attorney or hire one.
  3. If you go to Juvenile Court and are found guilty:
    1. You will be assigned a probation officer.
    2. You may be assigned Community Service Work (CSW) hours.
    3. You may be ordered to complete various assessments or participate in classes.
    4. You may be fined.
    5. You will have to pay restitution to a victim if there was damage to persons or property or a stolen object was not returned or there is a loss in any way to a victim.
  4. If your case is returned to Juvenile Court and you do not meet the terms of the Court Order you can then be given detention time for up to 30 days.
  5. You will have a conviction on your record and the record remains open until sealed or destroyed by court order.

Diversion Rights

  1. Diversion is a different way of dealing with juveniles who are charged with an offense. You do not go to court and there is no trial before a judge.
  2. A Diversion agreement is a contract between you and the Diversion unit. A Diversion agreement may require you to do certain things, such as community service, attend counseling, informational, restorative justice, or educational sessions, pay restitution, pay a fee, requirements to attend school, observe home curfews, abide by restrictions to certain geographical locations, and refrain from any contact with victims or witnesses of the offense; but you cannot be sent to jail. Under certain circumstances, you may be counseled and released, which means no further action will be required of you.
  3. If you sign a Diversion Agreement, or if you are counseled and released, the offense you are charged with and any Divesrion Agreement will be part of your criminal history. Your criminal history may result in: (A) future or other offenses not being handled by diversion or deferred disposition; and (B) future or other offenses resulting in more serious consequences. Your criminal history will show whether or not you have completed the terms of a Diversion Agreement. Your criminal history is accessible to the police, the prosecutor, the court, and the diversion unit.
  4. If you do not follow the Diversion Agreement, the prosecutor may bring you to a hearing for the offense(s) with which you are charged. If you do not appear at the court hearing, the court may order that you be arrested.
  5. If you sign a Diversion Agreement for alcohol, drug, or firearm related offense, that offense can later be used as a prior offense to revoke your driving privilege should you be convicted in court of an alcohol, drug, or firearm related offense.
  6. You do not have to participate in Diversion. If you choose not to participate, your case will go to court if charges are filed by the prosecutor. If your case goes to court, you can have a lawyer represent you, and you will not have to pay for the lawyer if you cannot afford it.
  7. You may ask the court to seal your file on your current offense(s) if you spend two continuous years in the community from the date you complete the terms of your Diversion Agreement without committing any offense or crime that results in conviction or diversion.
  8. If your criminal history includes only one Diversion Agreement, then upon its successful completion, the records in this case will be automatically destroyed within 90 days of becoming eligible for destruction. Records in this case become eligible for destruction when all five of the following conditions exist: (1) Your criminal history includes only one Diversion Agreement; (2) You are 18 years or older; (3) Two years have passed since completion of the agreement; (4) Restitution is paid in full; and, (5) There are no proceedings pending against you seeking the conviction of a criminal offense.
  9. If your criminal history includes only referrals for diversions, and all of your diversion agreements have been successfully completed and no proceeding is pending against you seeking conviction of a criminal offense, when you are at least age 23 years old you may ask the court for an order destroying your Diversion records.
  10. You have the right to talk to a lawyer about whether you should participate in Diversion or go to court. You will not have to pay for a lawyer if you cannot afford it. A lawyer can review the police reports, explain your rights, and explain the law. If you do not believe you have committed the offense, you should talk to a lawyer.
  11. When you agree to participate in the diversion process, you do not have the right to have a free lawyer appointed for you to help you work out a Diversion Agreement, but you do have the right to have a lawyer help you work out a Diversion Agreement if you can afford to pay for it.
  12. If you are enrolled in school, the court will notify your principal of your Diversion Agreement if the offense for which you are entering into a Diversion Agreement is a violent offense as defined in RCW 9.94A.030; a sex offense as defied in RCW 9.94A.030; inhaling toxic fumes under Chapter 9.47A RCW; a controlled substance violation under Chapter 69.50 RCW; a liquour violation under RCW 66.44.270; or any crime under Chapters 9.41, 9A.36, 9A.40, 9A.46 and 9A.48 RCW.

Diversion and the Minor Juvenile Offender

The current Juvenile Code in Washington State went into effect on July 1, 1978. It provides for juveniles who commit crimes, run away from home, or who are abused or neglected.

Diversion involves handling minor cases outside of Juvenile Court in lieu of prosecution. It is the prosecuting attorney who decides whether or not a case is legally sufficient to be handled by Diversion. This depends on the type of offense and the number of times the youth has been handled by Diversion. Once a youth has committed more than one offense, he or she is usually considered ineligible for Diversion, and the case is referred to Juvenile court for disposition.

When a case is received by Diversion, paperwork is sent to the youth explaining the Diversion process and advice of rights. The youth may choose to: (1) accept Diversion; (2) refuse Diversion; or (3) consult with an attorney (public defender or private attorney). Once a youth agrees to go through Diversion, he/she appears before an Accountability Board. If the youth refuses Diversion, the case will be sent back to the Prosecutor for review of charges in Juvenile Court. If a youth consults with an attorney, they must contact the Diversion Unit and advise the office of their decision.

Diversion is more convenient, less expensive and less time consuming than going to Juvenile Court. The Diversion Unit normally conducts its meetings in the evening or at a time that is convenient to the youth and his/her family. The Diversion process is confidential, unlike the court proceedings which are public. The Diversion Unit does not have the scheduling problems usually associated with the Court. Diversion is more protective and informal. The Diversion Agreement is not a conviction and only affects the youth's future if he/she comes back into the Juvenile Court System.

The purpose of the juvenile code is very clear: juvenile offenders must be held accountable for their illegal acts. It does recognize, however, that young people will make mistakes. It is for this reason that minor offenders are being diverted away from Juvenile Court and are required to be accountable to the community.

The Volunteer Community Accountability Board (CAB)

A Community Accountability Board (CAB) is a group of volunteer community residents who meet with youth referred for Diversion. The boards determine the reasonable requirements that the community can expect of the offender. These requirements may include community service, restitution, fees, counseling, or information/educational sessions. It is hoped that through the board process, citizens from the youth's community can impress upon the youth the connection between his/her behavior and the effects on him/herself and the community. Consequently, the board can serve as a positive influence on the youth's future behavior.

The Accountability Board has the responsibility of determining how much and what kind of consequences are appropriate to the offense. This is accomplished by questioning the youth about the incident itself and any relevant issues that may pertain to the incident.

Time Commitments

The number of times you will be requested to sit on Board hearings depends on the number of referrals received by the Diversion Unit. Out of the Board member pool, only three members are needed to make up a Board to hear cases on any given evening. The Diversion Unit schedules Board members on monthly calendars. Members are asked to notify the Diversion Unit of any conflict on the scheduled dates. Hearings generally take thirty to forty-five minutes and up to two cases are scheduled per evening. New volunteers come to Board meetings as observers until they feel comfortable serving as an active member.

The Juvenile Diversion Unit requests that each new member commit at least a year (12 months) to the program. The reason for this is to ensure that the staff does not have to be constantly screening and training new members. In addition, the Boards will run much more smoothly if the Board members are familiar with each other and have had some experience. This does not mean that after a year you may no longer be a Board member, but that you will commit yourself to the program for at least that period of time.


One of the most important aspects of Diversion, and the major concern of both the parents and the youth, is confidentiality. An Oath of Confidentiality must be signed by Board members  prior to each hearing. It is extremely important that Accountability Board members do not discuss cases outside of the Diversion office. A breach of confidentiality could result in a lawsuit and would be grounds for dismissal from the Accountability Board.

In addition, all Board members are required to fill out and sign a Clallam County Sheriff's Department background check form.

Benefits of the Board Process

Community members become active participants in holding young people accountable for criminal activity in their community. Members also gain insight into the problems of youthful offenders as well as the workings of the juvenile justice system. In addition, the juvenile offender is made aware of the direct relationship between the crime and the people affected by it (i.e., the community).

The Diversion Agreement

A Diversion Agreement may consist of one or more of the following:

  1. Community Service Work

    The most common element of a Diversion  Agreement is community service. The Board assigns the youth a certain number of hours (up to 150 hours) that must be spent working for a non-profit organization without pay. If the youth is attending school, no community service can be required during normal school hours. It is the responsibility of the youth to contact the Diversion Office within 48 hours of the Board meeting to arrange a community service site.

  2. Restitution

    Restitution is defined as financial reimbursement to the victim. It is limited to the actual loss incurred, such as damages for injury to or loss of property, or expenses for medical treatment for physical injury. When the amount of loss or damage is high, the Board sets a figure that the youth can reasonably be expected to pay during this period. Accountability Boards deal with only criminal charges. The victim retains the right to initiate civil court action for additional damages. In shoplifting cases, a special statute allows the store to sue the parents for up to $200 plus the cost of the item up to $500.

  3. Fees

    A $75 program fee is generally assigned to each case.

  4. Education

    A Diversion Agreement may require participation in educational or informational sessions. Restorative Justice, Anger Management and Drugs and Alcohol Information classes are offered.  All youth aged 13-17 who commit drug-related or alcohol offenses are required to attend the drug and alcohol class. Youth will be notified of the time and date of their assigned seminar. Seminar fees of $30 are the responsibility of the juvenile and his/her parents.

  5. Individual Counseling

    A Diversion Agreement may require up to 10 hours of individual counseling, either with a counselor or minister. It is the responsibility of the youth to arrange counseling and provide verification of hours to the Diversion Unit.

After the Diversion Agreement is Signed

Once the juvenile agrees to the terms set by the board, and signs the Diversion agreement, he/she is supervised by the Diversion counselor while the contract is being completed. If the juvenile violates the contract, the case is sent back to the prosecutor who may refer it to Juvenile Court.

When a Youth Fails to Complete the Diversion Agreement

The case is referred to the prosecuting attorney and a formal court hearing may occur. If this occurs, the youth must receive written notice of the violation of the Diversion Agreement, and all evidence relating to it must be fully disclosed. The court termination hearing procedure must include an opportunity to speak and present evidence, the right to cross examine, and a written statement by the Court outlining the reasons for the termination.

Following the termination hearing, the charge against the youth is brought before the Court for adjudication. In such a case, the court can reimpose the terms of the original Diversion Agreement or set new requirements (such as additional community service work) for the youth to complete, and order a term of community supervision under a probation counselor. If the youth fails to complete the terms imposed by the court, he/she may be given detention time, up to thirty (30) days. In addition, the court file is open to the public and the youth's criminal records become public. Up until this point, the youth's criminal records are confidential.

Refusal of Diversion

Refusal of Diversion by the Accountability Board

The Accountability Board may make the decision to refuse to enter into a Diversion Agreement with a youth when appropriate. The following circumstances may be used to determine the refusal of services.

  1. A youth who has a court hearing for a criminal complaint pending.
  2. A youth who has failed to abide by the terms of an earlier Diversion  Agreement and was referred by the Diversion Unit to the Prosecutor for  termination.
  3. A youth with a weapons offense, assault offense, or felony as part of  his/her criminal history.
  4. A youth who has previously rejected or been rejected by Diversion.
  5. A youth whose offense involved serious assaultive or threatening  behavior, including domestic violence.
  6. A youth whose offense involved weapons.
  7. A youth whose offense has sexual overtones.
  8. A youth who, as determined by Diversion Program staff, needs a more  extensive assessment.
  9. A youth who has "gang affiliation" as determined by law enforcement.
  10. A youth who refuses to cooperate or is hostile toward Diversion staff or  Accountability board members.
  11. A youth whose offense is determined by Diversion staff to be excessively  complex.
  12. A youth who fails to accept responsibility for his/her behavior and is not  willing to discuss details of the offense.
  13. Any other reason as documented in the Diversion Unit's Policies and  Procedures.

Rights of the Diverted Youth

A Diversion Agreement is a contract between the youth and the Accountability Boards. The contract states the requirements and completion date. Such agreements may be entered into only after the prosecutor has determined that probable cause exists that a crime has been committed and it is legally sufficient for filing criminal charges. Certain rights are guaranteed to youth. The Diversion Unit is obligated to inform the juvenile offender of the availability of free legal counsel, though the juvenile may seek legal assistance from any counsel of his/her choosing. At any point in the Diversion process, the juvenile may request 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.

Specifically, youth have the following rights:

  1. The right to a court hearing prior to signing a Diversion Agreement;
  2. Right to counsel at all stages prior to Diversion Agreement;
  3. Advisement about Diversion;
  4. Advisement that violation shall be the only grounds for termination of the  Agreement;
  5. No additional punishment (outside of what is contained in the Diversion  Agreement).

Diversion as Part of the Youth´s Criminal Record

Files kept on diverted youth may contain only:

  1. The fact that the charges were made;
  2. The facts of the offense;
  3. The fact that a Diversion Agreement was entered;
  4. Youth's obligation under the Agreement;
  5. Whether the youth met obligations.

Destruction of Records

Diversion records are automatically destroyed if his/her criminal history contains only one Diversion Agreement, he/she is at least eighteen (18) years old, two years have elapsed since completing the Diversion Agreement, restitution has been paid in full, and no criminal proceedings are pending; OR, if his/her criminal history contains more than one Diversion Agreement, he/she is at least twenty-three (23) years old, and he/she has not been convicted of a felony or a serious offense, and has no criminal proceedings pending.

Juvenile Diversion Informational/Educational Sessions

 Seminars will be grouped according to the type of offense and appropriateness for each case.

Restorative Justice

  1.   Community responsibility
  2.   Self respect

Anger Management

  1. Anger
  2. Temper tantrums
  3. Coping with fighters, bullies and troublemakers
  4. Violent emotions

Drugs and Alcohol / MIP Victims Panel

  1. Drugs and alcohol
  2. Drinking and driving

Juvenile Diversion Procedure Chart

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