Interviewer: What are the steps when someone goes through this Adolescent Diversion Program? What do they have to do?
Stuart: What happens is they are screened by the court very briefly, based on their age and the nature of their charges. Then they discuss with the lawyer where they want to take the next step.
In essence, they have to take a test called the YASI. It is a psychological test that asks questions about their background, the nature of their charges, their family life, their drug use and their history.
That could be a little pressing. The information is not going to be used for charging a new crime or anything. However, it is going to impact what kind of disposition they get.
After a discussion with me or another lawyer, the person then decides whether they want to take the YASI and whether it is in the person’s best interest. If they take the YASI, depending on their score, they will then be given the program.
If they find a drug program, they could get a drug program. If they find that they really have no issues whatsoever, sometimes they will just be given a dismissal and the case will be sealed.
Now they are doing what is called the Youth Core. In essence, they actually go to this youth court. There they plead their case in front of six or seven other kids, who have been charged with crimes, and act as a judge and jury.
Then the next week, they switch. They act as a judge and jury after their case has been adjudicated by the court.
Interviewer: How are the kids affected by Youth Core?
Stuart: It is a great idea. But in practice, it is not run the way it should be; in a lot of ways. The first problem with it is that in order to participate in that program you have to, in essence, admit your guilt.
There are some juveniles who say I want this best deal but I did not do anything wrong. But they ask: Why not get my case dismissed by taking a test and going through these things; rather than take the problems of a trial or the cost of an attorney for 10 court appearances instead of one or two?
So the first problem is there is no reason you should, but they are making juveniles plead guilty before they accept them into the youth court program. The second issue with youth court is that it is run by the district attorney’s office.
That can have some inherent problems that we really have not seen yet. However, it is still brand new and we are still waiting to see what those might be.
Interviewer: What is the cost of the ADP Program, and how long does it take?
Stuart: You cannot say how much it costs. It depends on where and what they have done. Some people will go to one or two court appearances and have their case dismissed. That is very inexpensive.
Some people who have major issues with priors, with crimes or drugs or any of those things, may have a problem. It could take 10 or 12 court appearances. It is unusual but it is a possibility. So a lot of those cases we charge by the court appearance, as opposed to doing it in that manner.