Delaware Public Media

Dept. of Justice working to resolve juvenile misdemeanors out of court

Sep 12, 2018

The Delaware Department of Justice is making an effort to keep juveniles from having to go to court.

The program was designed by DOJ Family Division Director Abigail Layton. Two deputy attorneys general are now reviewing weekly court cases to find low-level misdemeanors committed by juveniles that can be resolved out of court.

Since June, they’ve found about 25% of misdemeanor cases qualify. 82 such cases were found and 41 were successfully resolved without requiring a courthouse appearance.

Attorney General Matt Denn says minimizing juvenile exposure to the court system can save them some unnecessary trauma.

“Having to appear as part of a criminal calendar at the courthouse can be traumatic for even adults but certainly even more so for kids. In some cases, that is unavoidable for more serious juvenile offenses or for even misdemeanor juvenile offenses that don’t meet the description of these cases,” said Denn.

Cases that qualify for the program are misdemeanors without identifiable victims, such as property crimes, driving charges where no one was injured and domestic charges where parents are the alleged victims of misdemeanors committed by their children.

Denn says pleas can be entered outside court and cases are either dropped or the juvenile is put into a diversion program.

“We have a number of programs where the juvenile is basically put on a type of probation called Attorney General’s probation where if they fulfill some conditions that are laid out successfully over a couple months the charges can be dropped,” said Denn.