Juvenile diversion in Okaloosa County is a way to resolve a juvenile case without lifelong consequences. It forces the child to take responsibility for their mistakes, but also gives them the chance to wipe the slate clean and get a fresh start. The end result is a dismissal of charges if your child complies with the terms of their diversion program.
My name is Tim Flaherty. I have been defending juvenile clients in Fort Walton Beach and throughout Okaloosa County since 2001. Brandy Merrifield is my partner. We are also parents of teenagers ourselves. We understand how hard raising a teen can be.
As a parent, you’re probably worried about whether this charge will affect their future. Whether everything you have worked for as a family is now in jeopardy. I know that is how I’d feel if I was in your shoes. If your child’s juvenile case is handled correctly, this will not affect their future. It will be a bump in the road that they can move on from and never have to disclose to future schools or employers.
Do First Time Juvenile Offenders Always Get Diversion?
Diversion is not offered in every case. It depends on the nature of the charge, whether the child has a prior record, and many other factors. If this is your child’s first offense, there is a much better chance of getting diversion. Click here for much more information about the Intake Assessment process and how that affects whether a child is offered diversion. I won’t repeat all of that information here, but basically, if the Intake Assessment goes well, the juvenile probation officer may make a written recommendation to the prosecutor to resolve the case with a juvenile diversion program rather than a conviction.
What Juvenile Diversion Programs are Available in Okaloosa County?
Juvenile diversion offers several different programs. Diversion programs offered in Okaloosa County include Teen Court, Parentally Applied Discipline, Deferred Prosecution Agreement, and Juvenile Diversion Alternative Program. Before deciding on which program is the best option, your child will most likely need to complete a TASC Evaluation. This evaluation provides a full background report, and assesses whether the child is likely to re-offend.
What is Teen Court in Okaloosa County?
Teen Court was designed to show juveniles what the court system could look like without the harsh punishment that adult offenders could receive.
Teen Court is held at the Okaloosa County Courthouse in Crestview or Fort Walton Beach once a week after school. When a juvenile begins teen court they are a defendant. The mock court has the “defendant” sit on the witness stand and answer questions from a prosecutor and a judge. The defendant is also given a defense attorney and there is a sitting jury. The members of the court (excluding the judge) are other teens charged with offenses. Once your child has been a defendant they get to serve the rest of their sentence as another member of the court and dole out punishment to other teens.
What is Parentally Applied Discipline in Okaloosa County?
This level of diversion is similar to being grounded by parents but with a twist. The juvenile must complete a contract with their probation officer and parents to obey a certain set of rules devised by their probation officer and parents. If the child does not comply, mom or dad can report to probation and the child will endure additional sanctions. This form of diversion allows the parents control with consequences. Many parents opt for this form of punishment because they can work as a team with their child to redirect poor behavior choices.
What is a Deferred Prosecution Agreement?
This level of diversion is less intrusive. This diversion plan dictates a set of requirements that the juvenile must complete and upon successful completion a dismissal will be issued. This form of diversion is often used for juveniles and families living outside Okaloosa County.
What is the Juvenile Diversion Alternative Program (JDAP)?
If the charge is a bit more serious or the TASC evaluation denotes potential pitfalls for a juvenile, JDAP is generally the diversion referral. JDAP is a bit more intensive and requires the juvenile to perform many of the same conditions as the other programs but to a higher degree.
Drug charges are usually referred to JDAP. This program closely monitors therapy and intervention to ensure that the juvenile does not re-offend with narcotics.
The Benefit of Completing a Juvenile Diversion Program in Okaloosa County
The best thing about juvenile diversion is it results in a full case dismissal upon successful completion. Diversion is not offered in every case and is not always easy to obtain. An experienced juvenile defense attorney can help position your child in the best light possible to receive a diversion program. The end result is structured consequences and a clean record for the future.
If your child has been charged in juvenile court in Fort Walton Beach or anywhere in Okaloosa County, call Flaherty & Merrifield today at (850) 243-6097 for a free consultation. Having an attorney immediately following arrest could mean the difference between diversion and a conviction.