Why are some juvenile justice proceedings informal?
If you are arrested for a crime when you are under 18, you may be eligible for informal proceedings. If you are arrested or accused of an act of delinquency, you will be referred to the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). If you admit committing the offense, the DJJ may choose to handle your case informally without ever going to court. Another possibility, depending on the offense you are charged with, is that you could go through youth court where other teenagers are the lawyers and judges. See Section 7 of this Guide for more information about Youth Court.
What can happen in informal proceedings?
The DJJ could let you go with a warning, or could choose to divert you from the formal court
process. This might include community work service, restitution, referral to treatment, and/or informal probation. On informal probation, you could be subject to a curfew, or could be required to attend classes or participate in drug or alcohol assessments. You could be required to perform community service, or pay restitution. Restitution could mean paying for something you stole or vandalized, or for a victim’s hospital bills or injuries.
Your parents or guardians are usually responsible for helping you complete informal
probation. Informal probation typically requires you to stay out of trouble at school and at home, so actions that may not be illegal (such as getting detention at school or being grounded by your parents) could be considered violations of informal probation. Your parents or guardians should discuss your informal probation requirements with you and with DJJ. You and any parents or guardians involved in the process should be sure you understand what DJJ expects while you are on probation.
Informal probation usually lasts 3-6 months, but it may be longer. If you complete all of your probation requirements and don’t get into trouble during your probationary period, your case will be over. DJJ will not file a formal delinquency petition in the court.
If I'm guilty, shouldn't I just confess so I won't have to go to court?
It depends. There are no guarantees that DJJ will give you a warning or informal probation just because you confess. DJJ will consider the seriousness of your offense, your history with the police, your record at school, your age, your attitude, and many other factors. If you admit to committing the offense, you could still go to court, and you may hurt your case by confessing. You should talk to your lawyer and your parents or guardians before you decide what to do. You can find more information about some consequences to think about at www.beforeyouplea.com/ak.