The Belmont County Juvenile Court created the Diversion Program in January 2000 after discovering the Court procedure that was in effect had a substantial delay in time from the date the actual offense occurred until the initial court appearance of the youth.
The Diversion Program is the informal process of diverting youths from further involvement into the juvenile system to an alternative, non-judicial method of dealing with the youth and the offense. Only those youth who have no prior official or unofficial records (first-time offenders) who are alleged to have committed a misdemeanor offense are eligible to participate in the Diversion Program.
In order to participate in the Diversion Program, the youth must admit the charges stated in the complaint are substantially true. If the youth denies or disputes the offense as stated in the Complaint, or chooses not to participate in the program, the scheduled conference will be cancelled and the Complaint will then be filed in the Belmont County Juvenile Court for the youth to respond to the charge(s) in Court.
The Diversion Program fee is $75.00 per case and is required to be paid at the initial meeting.
Both the youth and his/her parent(s) are required to attend the Diversion conference. During the conference the Diversion Program Coordinator gets acquainted with the youth and parents and they are asked to provide information concerning the youth, the family and the alleged offense. If the youth denies the offense or chooses not to participate in the Belmont County Juvenile Court Diversion Program, the conference will end, and the Complaint will be filed in the Belmont County Juvenile Court for the youth to respond to the charge(s) in Court. Upon the youth accepting responsibility for the offense, an Agreed Order will be signed herein he/she commits to abide by certain terms and conditions. The youth’s parent(s) or guardian(s) also sign this Order.
The terms and conditions of the Diversion Program Agreed Order are highly variable and depend upon the offense, the youth and the family needs. The typical time frame of involvement in the Diversion Program is ninety (90) days; however, this time may be extended if necessary.
The Diversion Program Coordinator works extensively with school officials, law enforcement agencies and various agencies providing mental health and drug/alcohol counseling. While participating in the Diversion Program, the youth may expect and Diversion Program Coordinator to contact school officials regarding the youth’s attendance and compliance with school rules and regulations; request the youth to submit to random drug and alcohol testing; perform random curfew checks to ensure compliance; and request status reports from agencies providing mental health or drug/alcohol counseling to Diversion Program participants.
The goals of the Diversion Program are:
To quickly and efficiently deal with first-time offenders and swiftly administer justice;
To allow the youth to acknowledge responsibility for his or her actions with appropriate consequences;
To provide the youth and family with needed resources; and
To prevent further involvement with the juvenile justice system.
The following Local Rules of Procedure are hereby established by the Belmont County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division:
1.1 Intake Procedure. Chief Deputy Clerk and Diversion Program Coordinator will review delinquency complaints. Complaints which are (1) a first offense (2) not a felony (3) not an aggravated offense and (4) no objection is rendered by the prosecutor’s office will be referred to the Diversion Program Coordinator
1.2 The Diversion Program Coordinator will receive directly from the prosecutor’s office any unruly complaints that are also first offenses.
1.3 The Court may in the Court’s sole discretion and with the approval of the prosecuting attorney refer cases to the Diversion Program Coordinator to further the interest of justice.
1.4 Upon the referral of a complaint the Diversion Program Coordinator shall immediately send a letter to the juvenile and the legal parent(s), custodian(s) or guardian(s) advising said persons of the intake procedure. A meeting will be scheduled with the juvenile and the parent(s), custodian(s) or guardian(s) at a time to be chosen by the Diversion Program Coordinator. A fee of Seventy-five Dollars ($75.00) will be charged for the services rendered on behalf of the Juvenile Court by the Diversion Program Coordinator. Said fee shall be payable by money order at the time of the initial conference.
1.5 The Diversion Program Coordinator will discuss with the juvenile and parent(s), custodian(s) or guardian(s) a resolution of the complaint in an attempt to avoid formal court intervention. Should the juvenile voluntarily terminate the program, appear to make no or minimal efforts with the recommendations of the Diversion Program Coordinator or receive a second offense during the intake procedure then the original complaint will be formally filed with the Court and referred to the judge.
1.6 The Diversion Program Coordinator is hereby authorized to develop a Diversion Form, which is to be completed by the juvenile and the juvenile’s parent(s), custodian(s) or guardian(s) and delivered to the Diversion Program Coordinator at the first meeting.
1.7 All cases referred to the Diversion Program Coordinator will receive an intake case number but will not receive a formal case number from the Clerk of the Juvenile Court. The Diversion Program Coordinator will keep a database of all juveniles referred for the intake procedure and the outcome of the intake process.