Youth charged with a crime can end up facing harsh penalties and a criminal record. To deter delinquency, districts across Florida have increased penalties for youth, and can try certain juvenile offenders as adults. The Juvenile Justice System is confusing and hard to navigate. And once a teen gets caught up in the system, he might find it hard to make his way out.
If your child has recently been accused of, arrested for, or charged with a crime, the juvenile defense lawyers in Pinellas County at Goldman Wetzel can help. We can explain what your legal options are, what you can expect during the process, and what type of strategies might bring about the best solution for your family. Call us today at 727-828-3900.
How Do Juvenile Criminal Cases Differ from Adult Cases?
Florida provides a different set of penalties and criminal justice process for youth. When the state charges a minor with a crime, it refers to it as an “act of delinquency,” which officials typically handle via juvenile court intervention.
Unlike adult cases that focus more on imprisonment and fines, the legislature’s primary goal with youth criminal cases is to protect teens’ welfare and facilitate rehabilitation. Therefore, the state provides separate courts, separate detention centers, and separate rules and procedures for youth. In fact, the juvenile system features various sentencing and court alternatives that do not exist in the adult system.
How Can Goldman Wetzel Juvenile Defense Lawyers Help?
When a teen faces charges, there is a lot on the line. If the state convicts your child of a crime, not only may he spend time in a juvenile detention center, he may enter adulthood with a tarnished criminal record, which can impede his education and work opportunities.
Our team of defense attorneys can help your family navigate the justice system, make informed decisions, and follow through with the state’s stipulations. After reviewing the facts of the case, we can discuss the best course of action, e.g., seeking a dismissal, negotiating a plea deal, or presenting alternative options.
When a youth and his family must go through the criminal justice system, they often feel overwhelmed, frightened, and confused. We can explain the process in simple terms, defend your child’s rights, and advocate on his behalf during the ordeal. When parents call us early enough in the case, we can sometimes talk to the state, present pertinent facts, and sway the prosecutor to not file formal charges. When that is not possible, we can fight to have the charges or penalties reduced and try to protect your child’s record.
We offer free consultations for parents and their teens facing charges in Pinellas County. Contact our office to speak to one of our juvenile defense lawyers today.
What Kinds of Juvenile Cases Does Goldman Wetzel Accept?
We have the skills, resources, and availability to help with any acts of delinquency the state has accused your child of. Some of the most common types of juvenile cases involve:
- Curfew violations
- Underage drinking
- Internet-related crimes
- Assault and battery
- Drug possession
- Possessing a fake ID
- Gang activity
- Theft and vandalism
- Date rape and other sex crimes
What Steps Are Involved in the Juvenile Justice Process?
The juvenile justice process includes numerous steps and tangents, making it as clear as mud for many parents and youth. In the simplest of terms, the process involves the following:
- Your child comes into contact with law enforcement for an alleged delinquent act.
- The officer either issues your child a citation or “takes your child into custody” (the juvenile equivalent of an arrest).
- At this point, the officials will decide whether to move your child’s case to the next phase (a hearing), move the case to adult court, or use an alternative option such as a juvenile diversion program, e.g., the Juvenile Arbitration Program, Juvenile Diversion Alternative Program, or the Walker Plan.
- If your child does not enter a diversion program, a state-approved agent will screen your child using a Detention Risk Assessment Instrument or DRAI to determine whether he should await the hearing at a detention center or at home.
- There are various ways the case may conclude: the prosecutor may decide to drop the case; the court may withhold adjudication and place your child on the Youth-Empowered Success (YES) plan (essentially the equivalent of rehabilitation-focused probation); or the court may judge your child guilty and order a term in a detention facility.
When you work with our firm, we will walk with you each step of the way, and equip you and your child to make competent decisions. While there are never any guarantees about the outcome of juvenile cases, attorneys Summer Goldman and Maribeth Wetzel will make every effort to resolve the case in the best possible way for your child.
Summer and Maribeth work together on each case we accept, which allows us the benefit of having two unique minds and experiences approaching each case.
And because Summer began her career as a prosecutor and Maribeth has handled countless juvenile cases, their knowledge and experience help create a strong defense and hopefully convince the prosecution to reduce or drop the charges against your child.
The State Has Accused My Child of a Crime. What Do I Do Next?
If the state has accused your child of a crime or taken him into custody, he should inform the officer that he wants to have his attorney present before answering any questions beyond the basic information such as name, date of birth, and address.
Next, call our office and speak to a juvenile defense lawyer. We will review the case and tell you what you can do to help your child. We will counsel you on the available legal options and the potential outcomes of each. Not all options or diversion programs will be in your child’s best interests. We can explain the ramifications of each choice and help devise a plan for your child to exit the juvenile justice system as soon as possible.
Contact our office in Pinellas County at 727-828-3900 for a free consultation.