"Justice practitioners have tremendous discretion on how to handle less serious juvenile offenders--those who commit offenses that are of moderate or low severity such as small property crimes or disorderly person violations. Police officers, district attorneys, juvenile court intake officers, juvenile and family court judges, and other officials can decide whether the youth should be moved formally through the juvenile justice system, or diverted out to a special program (diversion with services) or to receive nothing (diversion without services). Figure 1 illustrates this process. A juvenile picked up by the police or referred by other sources, if not diverted out, will move formally through the system. This would ultimately lead to an adjudication in which the youth's guilt or innocence would be determined; if guilty, the youth would then face a disposition or sentencing. However, at any point the youth can also be diverted out the system to counseling or services, or released altogether."
Crime Prevention Research Review No. 9
U.S. Dept. of Justice, Community Oriented Policing Services: http://www.cops.usdoj.gov/