The DAO's Juvenile Division, supervised by Deputy District Attorney Renee Merion, is responsible for prosecuting all juvenile offenders charged with misdemeanor or felony offenses, including related summary charges. Juvenile offenders are those charged with committing a crime when they are 10 to 17 years old at the time of the offense. The juvenile delinquency system’s focus is rehabilitation, which is very different from the punitive nature of the adult criminal system.
The Juvenile Division adheres to the Balanced and Restorative Justice Model (BARJ), which provides the guidelines for the juvenile justice delinquency system in Pennsylvania. The goal of BARJ is to provide treatment, supervision, and rehabilitation while balancing the need for community protection, holding the juvenile accountable for their offenses to both the victim and their community, and helping juveniles develop competencies that lead them to become responsible and productive community members.
The Juvenile Division works with local law enforcement, victim advocates, and juvenile probation to protect victims and the community. Diversionary programs are available to help low-risk juveniles minimize or avoid a juvenile record. One such program is the Youth Aid Panel (YAP).
Law enforcement may refer a juvenile who commits a low-level, non-violent offense to a local Youth Aid Panel, where they appear before community volunteers to admit to their offense. After interviewing the juvenile and their parent/guardian, the panel decides on a contract the juvenile must fulfill to finish the program successfully. Contracts may include writing a paper, community service hours, an apology letter, etc., to repair the harm to the victim and the community. Criminal and/or summary charges are not filed if a juvenile successfully completes the program.
The Juvenile Division's attorneys routinely speak to students, parent groups, and others on juvenile justice, juvenile court procedure, good decision-making skills, and internet safety for children.