Juvenile diversion

The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office partners with Headway Youth Diversion Services and other community agencies to provide services to eligible youth and hold them accountable instead of having their case charged in juvenile court.

Many law enforcement agencies also offer diversion programs. Information about those programs is not included here.

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Diversion advantages

For eligible youth, participating in diversion has many advantages over the court process:

  • Diversion is an opportunity to avoid being charged and having a juvenile court record. A clean record improves a young person's chances of getting jobs, an education, loans, housing, licenses, permits and many other opportunities.
  • Youth who participate in diversion are more successful than those who are charged and go to juvenile court.
  • Several studies show that diversion works better than court for young people without a prior record and for less serious offenses.
  • The court process can be lengthy. With diversion, a case can be resolved earlier and with a timely and appropriate response to the behavior.
  • As part of the diversion agreement, the juvenile is required to accept responsibility for his or her actions. However there is no formal guilty plea or record of an admission.

A variety of services may be offered as part of the diversion programming. Services may include:

  • Counseling
  • Mental health and chemical dependency treatment
  • Educational support

Services may be provided by Headway or a referral could be made to another community-based provider.

Diversion process

To participate in the juvenile diversion program, the juvenile and a parent or guardian must meet with staff from Headway Youth Diversion Services. If your child is offered the opportunity to participate in diversion, call Headway as soon as possible to schedule an appointment.

At this meeting, the juvenile and his or her parent or guardian must sign a diversion agreement outlining what he or she needs to do to successfully complete the program.

The two key parts of the juvenile diversion program are:

  1. Accepting responsibility for the offense
  2. Following the conditions of the diversion agreement

If the youth follows the conditions of that contract, there will be no charge and no juvenile court record.

If he or she chooses not to participate or does not follow the conditions of the diversion contract, the case will be charged and brought to juvenile court.

There is no fee to participate in diversion.

Diversion agreement

The diversion agreement is signed by the juvenile and his or her parent or guardian. It typically lasts six months.

The agreement will require the youth to:

  • Accept responsibility for the offense and acknowledge it was wrong
  • Attend school
  • Follow of the rules of his or her home
  • Remain law-abiding by not committing any new offenses
  • Pay restitution, if there is any, to the victim of the offense
  • Participate in an assessment with Headway to determine appropriate programs or services for their needs and circumstances

The agreement may ask the youth to:

  • Participate in a restorative justice program
  • Perform community service

Eligibility

Diversion is available to young people with little or no juvenile history who have been cited or arrested for a lower-level offense.

Eligible offenses for pre-charge diversion include juvenile petty offenses, and most misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor offenses. Felony property offenses also are eligible with some exceptions.

There is also a post-charge diversion program for juvenile petty offenses if the youth has no prior adjudications.

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