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Juvenile Crime Lawyers in Sarasota, Florida 

Let Musca Law Help Your Children Defend Their Rights 

Everyone makes a few mistakes as they are growing up. Nevertheless, some of these mistakes can result in breaking state or local laws and might even trigger the untimely deaths of one or more people (regardless of whether this fatality was intentional). In unfortunate cases, some young children and adults might be caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, resulting in their unnecessary prosecution. 

If your child has been arrested for committing crimes in Florida, he/she will potentially face severe forms of punishment, and these convictions can permanently destroy his/her reputation, an issue that extend into adulthood. Although the juvenile justice system is much different from the system that processes adults, that doesn’t mean children are going to receive more mercy from the state court than their adult counterparts. 

Your priority is your child’s safety, and our priority is your child’s safety.

For more information, get in touch with our office in Sarasota, Florida at (941) 909-3234 to speak with an experienced attorney today. 

Important Facts about the Juvenile Justice System 

Overall, the only big difference between juvenile and adult crimes is the simple fact that juvenile crimes are committed by minors (boys and girls under the age of 18) and not adults. Furthermore, the juvenile justice system pursues different guidelines for dealing with offenders in this age group. These crimes typically result in civil citations and actual arrests conducted by law enforcement officers. 

Once officers have arrested juvenile criminals and have taken them into custody, a number of steps could take effect, depending on the nature of the crime. In many cases, minors might be detained in secure detention compounds for no longer than 21 days (prior to their court hearings). However, in the most severe cases, minors are processed through the adult court system. 

Once officials have brought the case to court, they may withhold adjudication, and the young adults and children will be sent to community service programs. Likewise, court officials may also pass judgement, and the juvenile offender will be sent to a secure residential commitment facility. 

If a juvenile is convicted of the crime, their record may be permanently scarred, unless adults take action to seal or expunge these records. 

How Juvenile Crimes Are Handled at Musca Law 

The types of crimes committed by the juvenile and his/her previous criminal history will ultimately determine the penalties issued by the court. The more dangerous crimes will (obviously) receive the most severe forms of punishment. 

Here at Musca Law, we represent juveniles who have been accused of committing: 

  • Arson
  • Assault
  • Burglary 
  • DUI
  • Drug possession
  • Drug trafficking
  • Prostitution 
  • Robbery 
  • Sexual assault
  • Sexual battery
  • Sexual crimes against children
  • Shoplifting and other theft-related crimes
  • Solicitation 
  • Traffic offenses 
  • Underage drinking
  • Vehicular homicide

Adults have to go through enough emotional stress following wrongful charges for a crime in Florida, so imagine how intimidated and confused children and young adults feel during similar events. 

Understandably, an arrest of a juvenile offender is a serious situation and is never merely dismissed with a slap on the wrist. Whatever decisions you make after the arrest will either make or break your outcome. 

The Process of Arresting Juvenile Criminals in Florida 

Under Florida Statute Title XLVII Chapter 985.101, police officers must coordinate the arrest of a minor with the following rules: 

  • The police officer must adhere to a circuit court’s orders. 
  • If the juvenile committed a crime that is categorized as a felony (under the rulings of the adult criminal justice system), the arresting officer must inform the superintendent (or the official designee) of the juvenile’s school district about the crime. Legal officials must release all information pertaining to this offense to the school district no later than 48 hours. 
  • Arresting officers cannot put juvenile offenders into the same vehicles used to detain adult criminals who have been arrested. 

By law, if a police officer takes a juvenile into custody, this action is not designated as an official arrest. 

Management of Juvenile Criminal Cases in Florida 

Under FS Title XLVII Chapter 985.14, the Florida Code dictates that department officials will assign juvenile detention officers to juvenile criminals if these juveniles have not been:  

  • Released from police custody. 
  • Sent to participate in diversionary programs. 
  • Sent to participate in community arbitration. 
  • Sent to a department (judicial handling).

Overall, juvenile assessment personnel will supervise all activities concerning the juvenile intake process (e.g. case management systems). As part of this process, supervisors will identify the juvenile criminal’s individualized needs and develop a non-problematic program and location for meeting these requirements. 

Typically, the juvenile offender intake process involves a screening as well as comprehensive assessments (possible option), which may include: 

  • Detailed mental health screening 
  • Assessing cognitive impairment 
  • Determination of previous problems with substance abuse or addiction 
  • Evaluation of psychosexual activities 

Understanding the Criteria for Sending Children to Juvenile Detention

Under Florida Statute Title XLVII Chapter 985.24 (1), court orders and findings connected to juvenile crime cases in Florida are grounded in evidence that proves (without any doubt) that the criminal in question: 

  • Will not be appearing at his/her court hearing (possibly). 
  • Is a high-risk criminal who is a definitive threat to other people (as shown by his/her recent use of deadly weapons and firearms and the exercising of violent behavior). 
  • Has previously committed crimes that resulted in property damage (prior to arrest or adjudication). 
  • Has disobeyed/interrupted court orders and, as a result, has been held in contempt. 

Chapter 985.24(2) also confirms that children who have been arrested for committing delinquent crimes or act of violence in the state are not guaranteed a place in secure detention centers for any of the following reasons:  

  • To help a parent, parents, or guardian avoid responsibilities regarding the care of the offender
  • To provide easy access to the juvenile
  • To allow officials to interrogate the juvenile and conduct further investigations
  • To compensate the lack of effective facilities 

How to Determine if Children Should Be Sent to Juvenile Detention 

According to Florida Statute Title XLVII Chapter 985.255(1), the court will grant any child who has been detained by police officers and been handed over to detention officers a court hearing no later than 24 hours. During this subsequent hearing, court officials will decide if the child must undergo further detention time, particularly if he/she: 

  • Recently escaped or absconded from a residential commitment program. 
  • Committed a crime that is categorized as a felony (if committed by an adult offender). 
  • Committed a delinquent act that threatens his/her safety. 
  • Had been charged for the possession and/or use of a firearm on school property. 

Protocol Convicting Juvenile Criminals as Adult Criminals 

As dictated by Florida Statute Title XLVII Chapter 985.56 (3), if court officials have determined the juvenile is guilty of crimes that could potentially garner a more severe penalty, the juvenile criminal will be processed through the adult criminal court system. Once the court has set the sentence, the child/young adult will be processed in the same manner as an older adult, with all protocol followed outside the juvenile court system of Florida. 

Furthermore, future cases concerning the juvenile criminal in question will also be passed through the adult criminal justice system. 

The Roles of Parents and Legal Guardians in Juvenile Criminal Cases

Florida Statute Title XLVII Chapter 985.513 (1, a-b) also states that any court wielding power over juvenile criminals will make the following orders: 

  • If the parent and/or guardians did not make a strong effort to prevent the child (in their care) from committing the delinquent activities, these people must take part in community service projects as part of public service programs. 
  • Parents and/or guardians must put forth a quantity of money to compensate for damages/losses victims suffer due to the juvenile’s crime. 

Details about the Detention of Juvenile Criminals 

For more information about youth detention in the State of Florida, please review the procedure listed by the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice

Detention Risk-Assessment Instrument (DRAI) in Florida 

Officials initially created the Detention Risk Assessment Instrument (DRAI) more than 25 years ago in an effort to create suitable placement processes for juvenile criminals. Overall, the staff uses the DRAI program to determine if juvenile criminals should be: 

  • Shipped to a secure detention facility before a hearing for this detention. 
  • Placed in a community-based detention program (supervised prison release). 
  • Released without any requirement of supervision in the near-future. 

In the 24 hours following their detainment, the juvenile criminals must be taken before the court, where judges will consider the option of further detention management. 

Overall, the department and connected courts have initiated the DRAI, which utilizes advanced information banks from the juvenile court system. For more details about the DRAI, review FS Title XLVII Chapter 985.245 (juvenile risk assessment). 

Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI)

As association with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice created and supported the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI), established on the foundation that all juvenile criminals should be presented with the opportunity to become responsible, industrious adults. Officials established the original JDAI program in urban and rural communities in the State of Florida (in 1992) and created steps to help juvenile criminals reform.  

Ultimately, the JDAI: 

  • Protects public safety. 
  • Prevents overcrowding in detention facilities.
  • Allows taxpayers to conserve money by reducing the number of these facilities. 
  • Implements efficiency tactics in the juvenile justice system. 
  • Creates a more promising future for juvenile offenders and their loved ones. 

What are Juvenile’s Options for Services and Probation?

The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice dictates that juveniles (people who are 18 years of age or younger) who have been convicted of crimes are directed to department officials (in a process nearly identical to the procedure for processing criminals in the adult criminal justice system). Overall, the State Attorney, court officials, and the state department will consider options for the juvenile criminal’s probation term and service. 

The state department also presents juvenile offenders with an option for diversion programs that serve as alternatives to the common juvenile justice rulings for child criminals convicted of minor offenses. Some examples of these diversion programs include: 

  • Boy and Girl Scouts
  • Boy and Girl Clubs 
  • Civil Citation 
  • Community Arbitration 
  • Intensive Delinquency Diversion Services (IDDS)
  • Juvenile Alternative Sources Program (JASP)
  • Mentoring 
  • Teen Court 

Exceptions to Florida Diversion Programs 

After a juvenile criminal is released, a probation officer will be assigned to him/her and will monitor this juvenile’s participation in diversion programs and compliance. Likewise, this officer will help the juvenile establish connections with providers. You must keep in mind that not all juvenile criminals will automatically be sent to participate in diversion programs. 

On a similar note, court officials may force the juvenile criminal to live in a residential facility if he/she: 

  • Does not cooperate with the probation officer. 
  • Is set to be charged for serious criminal offenses. 
  • Has a criminal record for past crimes. 

Details about Sanctions/Conditions for Juvenile Criminals to Follow 

After the court has conceded that a juvenile offender must participate in a diversion program, the young man/woman or child must adhere to different conditions and expectations and adhere to possible sanctions: 

  • Providing restitution (payments) to the victims of the crime he/she committed
  • Avoiding all contact with the victim(s) of the crime
  • Completing all hours of enforced community service 
  • Writing a letter of apology to the victim(s)
  • Sticking to a set curfew
  • Turning over a driver’s license to legal officials 
  • Avoiding all contact with co-defendants, companions, or other people who the court has labeled as “unsafe” or “inappropriate”
  • Seeking references from local agencies for service
  • Counsel for mental health problems and/or substance use disorders 

Everyone Makes Mistakes. Let Us Fight for You! 

If your child has been arrested for committing a crime in Florida, an attorney experienced in juvenile defense cases can be his/her best chance of regaining freedom. Our lawyers at Musca Law are well-versed in juvenile laws and provide quality legal representation. Our 150+ years of court experience is guaranteed to prevent your child from suffering a problematic future and scarred public record. Don’t hesitate to contact our Sarasota office today at (941) 909-3234 to schedule a free initial case consultation with one of our highly-qualified criminal defense attorneys.

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