Facing criminal charges in Florida can be a scary process for anyone, let alone a minor. While the juvenile criminal justice system is generally less serious than the adult system, some juvenile crimes lead to jail time, and others lead to a juvenile being tried as an adult. Whatever the crime is, juveniles are in a vulnerable position when facing the consequences of a potential criminal conviction, even if that conviction will ultimately be sealed.

The Florida Juvenile Court System – What to Expect

Most juveniles facing criminal charges are unlikely to know what will happen after they are arrested and charged with a crime. As such, if it is imperative for all juveniles facing criminal charges to retain a qualified Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer who can quickly take charge of the situation to ensure the protection of constitutional rights. The following guide provided by the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice generally explains what to expect when faced with potential juvenile criminal charges:

  • Civil Citation – A new program provides juveniles alleged to have committed crimes an alternative to arrest where the juvenile’s behavior is addressed at his/her first encounter with the juvenile justice system.
  • Contact with Law Enforcement – If a juvenile is caught allegedly committing a crime or delinquent act, this initial contact with an officer is the first step in the criminal process.
  • Taken into Custody – Rather than being “arrested” like an adult suspected of committing a crime would be, a juvenile is taken into custody and referred to the local Juvenile Assessment Center, and the juvenile’s family is contacted.
  • Detention Risk Assessment Instrument (DRAI) – Once in custody, a juvenile is screened to “determine whether he or she meets detention criteria and to determine whether a youth should be placed in secure, non-secure, or home detention care” prior to a detention hearing.
  • Diversion Program – Depending on the delinquent conduct at issue, a juvenile may be able to avoid DRAI assessment and instead enter into a diversion program that allows the juvenile to avoid entering the juvenile justice system.
  • Adult Court – Depending on the alleged crimes, a juvenile may be tried as an adult. The juvenile’s age and the alleged crimes will be evaluated to determine whether a juvenile meets the criteria to face criminal charges as an adult. Crimes such as murder, battery, and assault, among others, may qualify as adult crimes.
  • Referral to Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) – Depending on the conduct at issue, a juvenile may avoid DRAI assessment and instead be referred to a community-based alternative program. Such an option may be available when a juvenile is considered low-risk and does not need to be detained in a secure detention center.
  • Placement in Secure Detention Center – Depending on a juvenile’s “risk level,” he or she may be required to stay in a detention center pending further action.
  • Await Court Date at Home with Conditions – Juveniles who are not considered high risk may be allowed to stay at home and await their court date.
  • Case Dropped “Nolle Prossed” – After review of a juvenile’s case, the prosecution may decide to discontinue a case, which would require a formal entry by the state attorney that a case will not be prosecuted.
  • Adjudication Withheld – While the court determines a juvenile committed a delinquent act, the juvenile is not adjudicated. Rather, the youth is placed under community supervision.
    • Youth-Empowered Success (YES) Plan – Juvenile Probation Officers utilize the YES plan to help “establish meaningful goals and actions in collaboration with the youth and family.”
    • Youth Released – After completion of terms, juveniles are released either with or without continued supervision.
  • Adjudicated – If a court finds a juvenile guilty of committing a delinquent act, the juvenile is committed to a residential facility or is placed or under community supervision. Whether adjudicated or not, a juvenile may go through the same process of utilizing the YES plan as part of community supervision.
  • Residential Facility – Juveniles who are not placed under community supervision may be committed to a residential facility, which is a “place where a child is sent to live and receive treatment after a Juvenile Court Judge rules on that child’s law-breaking behavior. A residential commitment program promotes that child’s rehabilitation and helps the child learn not to break the law again. The residential facility promotes community safety.”

Commonly Charged Juvenile Crimes in Florida

Juveniles face a variety of criminal charges in Florida, but some are more common than others. Examples of some of the most commonly charged juvenile crimes in Florida include the following:

  • Drug possession (misdemeanor and felony);
  • Theft;
  • Alcohol-related crimes such as driving under the influence (DUI), being a minor in possession of alcohol, and public intoxication;
  • Assault;
  • Battery;
  • Trespassing;
  • Vandalism; and
  • Disorderly conduct.

Many juvenile crimes are committed alongside others, which is one reason why some minors who do not typically get into trouble find themselves facing criminal charges. Regardless of the underlying facts that bring rise to criminal charges, the process can be frightening and stressful.

The Consequences of Being Convicted of a Crime as a Juvenile in Florida

If a juvenile is not tried as an adult but is convicted of certain crimes as a juvenile, he or she still may face incarceration at a secure detention center, may face placement in a less secure community-based facility, or may participate in a diversion program, among other possible outcomes. Even though juvenile records are sealed, facing the criminal process at such a young age can be traumatic. As such, juveniles facing criminal charges in Florida should take the necessary steps to ensure the process runs as smoothly as possible. The first step to meeting this goal is finding a highly skilled Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer to handle the juvenile criminal matter from start to finish.

Contact the Florida Criminal Defense Attorneys of Musca Law Today to Protect Your Rights

If you are under the age of eighteen and are facing criminal charges or you are the parent of a minor facing criminal charges, finding an attorney should be your first step following arrest. At Musca Law, our skilled trial lawyers have a reputation for providing excellent legal representation to clients from throughout Florida. The Florida Criminal Defense Lawyers of Musca Law have offices throughout the state to meet the needs of every single Floridian. To find out how Musca Law can help you with your legal matter, contact our office today by calling (888) 484-5057. Our attorneys are available 24/7 to speak with you and your loved ones.

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