Who is Legally a “Juvenile” in Florida?
Generally speaking, anyone between the ages of 10 and 18 can be arrested and charged with a juvenile offense. There are exceptions to this rule though, as older juveniles who commit violent crimes, serious felonies or have lengthy prior criminal records may be tried in the adult court system (direct filed). In juvenile court, young offenders are offered special protections and provisions that are not available to adult defendants. Juvenile courts are designed to rehabilitate, while adult courts are designed to punish.
All accusations against minors under 18 for illegal offenses are initiated in the circuit juvenile court. The juvenile justice system recognizes the differences between children and adults by focusing more attention on the well-being and rehabilitation of the minor.
Jury trials do not occur in juvenile court. Instead, if the case goes to trial, the trial court judge will decide whether the child is guilty or not guilty of the crime charged.
In any given year, more than 100,000 juveniles — people 17 years of age or younger — are arrested in Florida or referred to the juvenile justice system. Anytime a minor child is arrested and charged with a crime, it could have devastating consequences in his or her future.
Whether the crime is a misdemeanor or a felony, the charge should be taken seriously. A minor still could face harsh penalties for an offense, including a driver’s license suspension, incarceration and/or probation.
Possible Penalties for Juvenile Offenses in Florida
If a juvenile is adjudicated guilty of an offense by a judge, he or she will have a disposition hearing where the minor could be sentenced to any of the following possible penalties:
- Confinement in a Juvenile Detention Center for felony juvenile offenses
- A driver’s license suspension or loss of driving privileges
- Up to 500 hours of community service
- Substance abuse treatment
- Payment of court costs and supervision fees
- Probation in his or her home, possibly until the 18th birthday
- Probation in a foster home, possibly until the 18th birthday
- Probation in a public or private institution or agency, possibly until the 18th birthday
- When a juvenile offender is adjudicated of a criminal offense, he or she likely will receive a criminal record. This alone could have severe consequences in the future. This record is generally kept confidential, except in certain situations. However, a juvenile conviction could still impact future scholarships and employment opportunities.
What I can Do
If your child was arrested for a crime, you need a lawyer with the skill and experience to handle the matter. Not every attorney is familiar with the rules of Juvenile Procedure, which differ from the rules of Criminal Procedure. I am committed to helping parents like you protect their child’s futures through effective juvenile criminal representation. First and foremost, I will determine if the state wishes to try the child as an adult, which is clearly not in the best interests of the minor defendant. I will do all I can to persuade them to keep the juvenile in the juvenile system. Know that Juvenile crimes involve a unique set of complications not found in other areas of criminal defense, and contrary to popular belief, a conviction will not necessarily disappear when your child turns 18 years old. Don’t wait. Call me now to learn more about how I defend these cases before the case is formally filed.