Certain minor criminal matters are sometimes handled most
effectively in a non-courtroom setting. By addressing these criminal
matters properly and swiftly through an arbitration-like process,
the District Attorney’s Office can often prevent them from becoming
more serious. That is the basis of the Hearing Officer Program, a
program that efficiently resolves disputes, warns and advises
persons that their actions are illegal, and collects restitution
The Hearing Officer Program has both an adult
and juvenile component, each with specific
goals and requirements for participation.
Adult Office Hearings
Adult cases – such as neighborhood disputes, petty theft,
trespassing, loitering, regulatory violations that are technical in
nature, and batteries that do not result in serious injuries – may
be referred to an office hearing. Hearings give all parties involved
the opportunity to be heard and aim to resolve the criminal matter
out of court.
Office hearings are conducted in District Attorney facilities and
are informal proceedings. At the conclusion of the hearing, the
hearing officer gives his or her recommended resolution. Outcomes
may include, but are not limited to, admonishments, restitution
orders, counseling, and stay-away directives.
Juvenile Office Hearings
The Hearing Officer Program offers an arbitration-like setting to
deal with school truancy issues and some
minor, non-violent, first-time offenses for juveniles (Juvenile
Offender Intervention Network, or J.O.I.N.).
The Hearing Officer Program works with school districts’ School
Attendance Review Boards (SARBs) to combat truancy. When students
and/or their parents violate school attendance laws, the matters are
often referred to the District Attorney’s Office for an office
The goal of the mediation process is to return each truant to
school while holding them responsible for their actions. In lieu of
immediate referral for prosecution, the student and parents are
given an opportunity to enter into a District Attorney School
Attendance Contract. By entering the contract, students and parents
agree to immediately eliminate unexcused absences and tardies, to
correct behavioral problems, and to adhere to SARB directives and
other hearing officer resolutions. Failure to adhere to the contract
can result in formal prosecution.
The District Attorney recognizes the need for early interventions
in certain kinds of juvenile arrests. To that end, the Office has
implemented the Juvenile Offender Intervention Network (J.O.I.N.),
which deals with non-violent, first-time juvenile offenders in an
out of court setting.
To participate in the program, parents and youthful offenders
agree to the terms of a J.O.I.N. contract. In the contract, juvenile
offenders acknowledge responsibility for their acts and agree to pay
restitution, maintain good school attendance, and perform community
service. Parents agree to attend parenting classes, and all families
are referred to group counseling. Cases are intensely supervised and
monitored by the hearing officer for one year. If the minor
reoffends or fails to adhere to the J.O.I.N. contract, the original
case is referred for prosecution.
J.O.I.N. is a highly effective program. It aims to address the
root causes of the delinquent behavior, offers intense supervision
and monitoring of the juvenile, and metes out consequences for the
crime often within two weeks of an arrest – rather than the 60 days
it may take for a juvenile court to hear a matter. In a three-year
study, less than 5% of all youth who participated in J.O.I.N.