Orange and Osceola counties have enacted new regulations concerning first-time juvenile offenders. Many non-violent offenses now will be subjected to a civil fine for their offenses instead of being arrested. The counties, in conjunction with the youth justice and police departments, believe that there are many benefits to handling minor offenses in this manner.
The largest benefit will be to the youth themselves. Criminal records can follow these children into their future, making it harder to find gainful employment. By giving the youth a ticket instead, the children can avoid a criminal record and learn from their mistakes. For the counties involved, they anticipate that there will be a large reduction in arrests, making an already strained system much more effective for more serious crimes.
The ticket is not the only penalty the children will pay for their crime. Each offender will have to perform ten hours of community service, pay for any damages their actions caused, and write a letter of apology.
Several other counties in Florida have already implemented similar programs to much success.
Offenses that will be considered for ticketing include:
- School fights that do not include weapons
- Possession of alcohol
- Disorderly conduct
- Minor drug possession offenses
- Boating, fishing or hunting violations
- Resisting arrest
- Petty theft or shoplifting charges
Youths who accept the citation for their offense must admit guilt. This is part of the process. Admissions cannot be challenged in court. Creators of the program believe that the admission of guilt is another way to help prevent further infractions.
Statistics on the existing Florida programs show that 87 percent of all youths that accept the ticket complete all aspects of the program, including the community service. The most favorable statistic to come out of this program, however, is that only seven percent of the youths that accepted a ticket for their offense go on to re-offend.