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Learn about informal probation for youths (diversion)

If a youth gets in trouble with the law, their case is usually handled “informally” instead of through court. Learn what to expect from the process.

Informal probation is a better choice for most kids and teens

Informal probation is an option for many youths who have made mistakes and broken the law. It’s
also called “diversion.” That’s because they’re “diverted” from the formal probation process.
The goals of informal probation are to:

  • Help youths take responsibility for what they did
  • Keep them out of the “formal” probation process (like Juvenile Court)
  • Get them the help and support they need
  • Set them up for success - so this doesn’t happen again

Benefits of informal probation

  • Youths can make up for their mistakes without disrupting school or work
  • They may not have to go to court or get a police record
  • The Juvenile Court system has more time to focus on serious case

Most youths qualify for informal probation

Youths who get into trouble usually get informal probation if: 

  • It’s their first offense (the first time they got in trouble with the law)
  • The crime wasn’t too serious

However, a child might need formal probation and go to Juvenile Court if:

  • The crime was serious (for example, it involved violence or weapons or a lot of property was
    damaged or lost)
  • The youth has been in trouble with the police and Probation Department in the past

Learn more about formal probation  


What happens during the informal probation process?

You and your child will meet with Juvenile Probation

This is called an informal hearing. We’ll talk about what they did and whether they’re ready to take responsibility. We’ll ask you questions about your family life and situation. In most cases, we’ll share the police report with you, so you understand what happened.

You and your child decide if you want informal probation

Informal probation is always voluntary. You and your child decide whether you want to take the option. If not, we will follow the formal process instead.

We'll create a program for them

if your child chooses informal probation, they will follow a program. The right approach depends on your child, your family, and the crime the child committed. It could include taking classes.

The informal probation period starts

During this time, the youth needs to meet all the requirements of the program. They will work closely with their probation officer. Learn more about working with a probation officer.

The informal probation period ends

Once the youth has completed the requirements of their program, they will have a final meeting with their probation officer to finish up the process. After that, the Probation Department usually dismisses the case. That means there will be no official record of it.


Page updated March 25, 2024