Research Suggests Charging Teenagers as Adults Makes Communities Less Safe

There are numerous reasons why juveniles get caught up in criminal activity. From gang involvement to an impulsive mistake, when individuals under the age of 18 are caught in a criminal act, they can face criminal charges. Most juveniles facing criminal charges are tried in the juvenile court system. For certain crimes, however, they can be charged as an adult.

Serving a sentence in an adult prison is a unique and challenging experience. Unfortunately, juvenile offenders incarcerated as adults face extremely difficult circumstances. There are numerous organizations and studies that state juveniles should not be charged as adults to protect their development and well-being. In Florida, teenagers can face adult charges if the court sees fit.

When Can A Teenager Be Charged As An Adult?

Although Florida has active juvenile courts, individuals under the age of 18 can be tried as an adult for any of these four reasons:

  • Statutory Exclusion: The state attorney is required to file charges in adult court for any youth age 16 or older who has allegedly committed certain statutorily delineated offenses, and “has been previously adjudicated delinquent for an act qualified as a felony.”
  • Prosecutorial Discretion: The state attorney may file charges directly in adult court for any youth age 14 or older who has allegedly committed a statutorily delineated offense.
  • Discretionary Judicial Transfer: The prosecutor may request the court to transfer any child 14 years of age or older to adult court for certain offenses and delinquency histories.
  • Once an Adult Always an Adult: Any juvenile who has previously faced criminal charges as an adult will be charged as an adult for any subsequent crimes.

What is important to understand about juveniles facing adult criminal charges is that, even if they are found not guilty of their charges, they will always be criminally charged as an adult from then on.

How Does Incarceration As An Adult Harm Teenagers?

The juvenile court system in Florida is designed to return young people to the community after a period of education and treatment related to their criminal charges. The best juvenile facilities are designed to prevent individuals from facing incarceration again. In the adult system, however, there are far fewer chances for education and counseling. Therefore, a return to life as it was before incarceration is less likely. Juveniles also face a threat to their physical well-being when they serve time in adult prisons. Inmates in adult prisons are much less forgiving and inappropriate or violent interactions are not uncommon.

Hardened Criminals Make Communities Less Safe

When juveniles are incarcerated as adults and denied the opportunity to learn from their mistakes, they are more likely to commit crimes again. In fact, there are numerous studies that show that higher incarceration rates do not mean less crime.

According to the Vera Institute of Justice, incarceration breaks down strong family bonds that often prohibit juveniles from going out and making the same mistakes again. Furthermore, incarceration is an opportunity for juveniles to learn more criminal habits or form relationships with other hardened criminals who will encourage them to partake in criminal activity again. States that wish to discourage the damage caused juvenile criminals should invest in opportunities to educate and counsel those who are convicted.

Proposed Changes for Juvenile Criminal Cases

There are a variety of proposed changes at the federal level that will make a difference for juveniles being tried as adults. Notable changes include:

  • Housing juveniles in juvenile jail while they await trial in an adult court
  • Allowing cases to be moved back to juvenile court from adult court
  • Allowing repeat offenders to be tried as a juvenile after facing charges as an adult

Not all juveniles who face criminal charges will be arrested again. By preventing juveniles from being tried as adults, the court systems are giving these individuals another chance to get their lives back on track.

Trusted Orlando Juvenile Defense Attorneys Fight for You

If your child is facing criminal charges and could be tried as an adult, you need to seek legal consultation as soon as possible. In Central Florida, The Umansky Law Firm is a trusted source of legal representation for juveniles and adults. Don’t let their life be defined by a single mistake. Contact the attorneys at The Umansky Law Firm today. With more than 100 years of experience, our team of former prosecutors provides a unique point of view with every case. They are knowledgeable in defense strategies for criminal defense cases and more.

Talk to a real attorney now. Call 407-228-3838 or contact us online to set up your free consultation.