Florida’s Juvenile Court System

juvenile kidA report by the National Juvenile Defender Center found that many young people in the Florida juvenile justice system don’t receive the legal representation they need and deserve. They enter into plea bargains that have serious consequences, preventing them from serving in the military, from getting hired, or qualifying for financial aid.

While the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice says it wants to “turn around the lives of troubled youth,” the reality of the Florida juvenile justice system is that sometimes it does more harm than good.

The Florida Juvenile Justice Process

When someone under 18 is arrested for a crime they go through a number of stages with the juvenile justice system. These stages are different than those for adults.

  • Detention : When a young person is picked up on suspicion of committing a crime (or for truancy or staying out past curfew), they will be taken to a short-term juvenile assessment detention facility or police detention facility. Parents will be called at this time. This may be the best time to contact a lawyer.
  • Arraignment : At this stage, a decision will be made about whether to charge the young person with a crime as a juvenile or an adult, and whether their case will go to an adjudicatory hearing or to a diversion program such as Orange County Teen Court program. A criminal lawyer can be crucial at this stage. The attorney can contact the prosecutor to potentially influence what charges are filed, if any.

aspatore

Author of
“Juvenile Criminal Defense Strategies”

  • Adjudicatory Hearing : A young person will have a hearing before a juvenile judge at an adjudicatory hearing. The adjudicatory hearing is like a trial for adults, except a child is tried by a judge. The judge can sentence the young person to time in a juvenile detention facility or to various diversion programs, counseling or therapy programs (such as Associated Marine Institutes, Youth Advocacy Programs (YAP), or the PACE Center for Girls). In many cases the judge can commit the juvenile or kid to protection by the determination of juvenile justice.
  • Sentencing: As stated before, the judge has many sentencing options and in many instances will side with the pre-disposition where the defendant makes sentencing recommendations. A juvenile criminal lawyer may get involved to add or modify the report to help your child avoid the threat of serious sanctions.
  • Criminal Court : If the juvenile is going to be tried as an adult – if they committed a felony or violent crime – the juvenile’s case could be heard in adult criminal court. All the same rules of the criminal court apply. While the juvenile system is specifically interested in rehabilitation, that is not the case with the adult criminal system. Our goal as your defense attorney is always to avoid having a juvenile tried as an adult.
  • Probation : Even after a young person completes their sentence or diversion program, they may be on probation for months or years. During the time they are on probation, they will need to check in with their probation officer regularly. Failing to do so could result in going back to a juvenile facility.

Consequences of a Florida Juvenile Crime Conviction

For many juvenile offenders, a conviction of a juvenile crime will typically result in probation the first time, depending on the involvement of aggravating circumstances, such as:

  • Assault and battery
  • Grand theft
  • Drugs
  • Weapons

If your child receives a guilty finding by the court, a probation officer and specific requirements by the court will be assigned. While many circumstances surrounding a juvenile crime can affect the sentencing phase of a case, typical demands made by the judge and prosecution could include:

  • Full-time attendance to school without allowances for absences or suspensions
  • Advisement to stay away from particular people that are not good influencers
  • Attend counseling individually or as a family
  • Random drug and alcohol testing
  • Pay any ordered restitution to victims of the crime
  • Fulfill community service requirements

Adult Charges for Florida Juvenile Offenders

When a child commits a severe crime like aggravated burglary, car theft, or grand theft, they may face adult charges. Florida prosecutors are leading the country in charging juveniles in this manner and the state court system enables this since a hearing or review by a judge isn’t mandatory when doing so. These situations are extremely traumatic for children in this predicament. They can end up not going to a juvenile detention center but a county jail instead.  This is just one more reason why families should seek out a reputable juvenile lawyer right away if one of their children ends up on the wrong side of the law. 

Protect Your Child By Hiring an Orlando Juvenile Defense Attorney

Charges for any type of juvenile crime have the potential to follow your child for the rest of their life. From lost college opportunities to being unable to land a good job, receiving convictions for committing crimes while a minor causes havoc for the future. Help protect your child’s future by preventing the justice system from sentencing needlessly harsh punishments by hiring a juvenile defense attorney with a proven track record of success. The Umansky Law Firm is here to provide knowledgeable attorneys to represent your child and your family’s best interests during a challenging time. 

With more than 100 years of combined experience, we take our skills as former state prosecutors and work toward the best possible outcome and long term well-being of your child. Many of our attorneys are parents, and we can appreciate the level of distress and frustration you’re enduring. As members of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, you can trust that we know how to best represent your family in the courtroom. Contact our office online or by phone at (407) 890-0336 to receive a free consultation and learn what your next best steps are in your Florida juvenile court case.