Like adults, youths can make the mistake of breaking the law which can result in a criminal record and penalties. In Florida, most juvenile cases are not treated the same way as adult crimes. Nevertheless, when accused of a delinquent act, a youth has the right to have juvenile defense attorneys on his or her side.
In Florida, juvenile cases are particularly sensitive because they involve young people who have not had a chance to fulfill their potential. Even though in most cases the penalties might not be as severe as for an adult, dealing with the Juvenile Justice System can be very confusing. No matter what the charges are, it is critical that you protect your child’s rights and future.
Florida Definition of Juvenile Delinquency
According to the Florida Statute § 985.93, a delinquent act occurs when a youth under 18 years of age commits an act that violates any state or federal law. If a minor has committed multiple offenses, he or she would be considered a juvenile delinquent.
In Florida, there are significant differences between the crimes committed by youths and adults. One of them is the way the justice process works. Overall, these are the procedures that you can expect in a juvenile case:
- The youth comes into contact with law enforcement for the alleged delinquent act. Unlike adults, minors are not arrested, but rather taken into custody.
- Once the minor is in custody, he or she will be referred to a Juvenile Assessment Center or an on-call screener to assess risk to public safety.
- The child is given an assessment to determine where he or she should be placed while awaiting a hearing. Possibilities include secure, non-secure, or home detention centers, and pre-trial diversion programs may be recommended.
- There will be an arraignment hearing in which a plea is entered, and a discovery process for gathering evidence will begin. Possible outcomes include dismissal of the charges by entering into a “Walker Plan,” participation in a rehabilitation program (Youth-Empowered Success (YES) Plan), juvenile drug court, commitment to a residential facility, and more.
Dealing with the juvenile criminal system for a delinquent act can be a frustrating and overwhelming experience for both parents and children. As a result, you might want to retain a defense attorney that can fight to protect your children’s rights and record. Contact the lawyers at Goldman Wetzel for a free no-obligation consultation.
Types of Juvenile Cases
Even though Florida does not use the term ‘crime’ for juvenile offenses, a youth can be charged with almost any crime that might pertain to an adult. Some of the most common delinquent acts that Goldman Wetzel handles include:
- Assault and battery
- Underage drinking
- DUI offenses
- Petit theft
- Drug possession
- Sexual crimes
- Possession of a fake ID
Florida Juvenile Sanctions
In 2019, juvenile arrests represented 6.57% of Florida arrests. Although districts across Florida have increased penalties for youth, the main purpose of the juvenile justice system is to rehabilitate and provide services or treatments that have a positive effect on the minor’s behaviors.
In other words, adult offenders can be convicted and receive severe punishments while the juvenile system focuses on rehabilitation. Thus, some of the most common sanctions in Florida for delinquent acts might include:
- Forfeit his/her driver’s license
- Diversion programs
- Community service
- Commitment to a rehabilitation program or residential facility
Juvenile delinquents (repeated offenders) can face harsher penalties. Additionally, there are some cases where a minor could be prosecuted and sentenced as an adult. Some of the criteria that the court might take into account to prosecute a minor as an adult include but are not limited to:
- Severity of the offense
- Past criminal record
- Aggravating factors
- Maturity and sophistication of the offender
Determining the penalties that your child might face depend on different factors. Whether it was a minor or a more serious offense, the Goldman Wetzel juvenile defense attorneys will fight to protect your child’s rights and future.
Are Florida juvenile records automatically sealed and expunged?
In Florida, most juvenile records are automatically destroyed. Nevertheless, some violent felonies are not eligible for sealing and expungement. If the youth meet the requirements, their criminal record will be destroyed at the age of 21 or, if they were committed to a correctional facility, at age of 26.
Juvenile Crimes: Useful Resources
Florida Department of Juvenile Justice: Provides information related to juvenile delinquency and the juvenile justice system. Additionally, they offer resources for parents such as a hotline and answers to frequently asked questions.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement: Among their services, they offer useful information for sealing and expunging a record in Florida.
Six Judicial Circuit: Their Juvenile Diversion Service includes information about juvenile diversion programs in Pasco and Pinellas County such as Teen Court, Juvenile Arbitration, Juvenile Arrest Avoidance Program, Juvenile Drug court, and more.
Speak to our Juvenile Defense Attorneys
If your child has been accused of a delinquent act, you should retain a defense attorney knowledgeable in the juvenile criminal justice system. Goldman Wetzel represents clients facing criminal charges in Pinellas, Hillsborough, and Manatee County.
To schedule a free consultation, contact us via email form or call our juvenile defense attorneys at (727) 828-3900.