Your minor son or daughter has been picked up by law enforcement for breaking the law. You get a call that all parents dread, causing worry and confusion. Your child has now entered Florida’s juvenile justice system — a system you know nothing about. What happens next? What are your rights as a parent? How is this system different from the one an adult would face?
In this blog, we hope to give you some fundamental information that will help you understand the mechanics of the juvenile system and how to navigate it. You will want to ensure that your child is treated fairly, that he or she has the best chance at avoiding incarceration and avoiding the long-term negative effects of an arrest record for the future.
One: Juvenile Justice Is About Rehabilitation
In general, juveniles below the age of 18 who have allegedly committed some type of criminal offense are not treated the same as adults. The juvenile justice system is not about punishment but rehabilitation. The stated mission of this system is: “To increase public safety by reducing juvenile delinquency through effective prevention, intervention, and treatment services that strengthen families and turn around the lives of troubled youth.”
Youths are not “arrested” per se but taken into custody and sent to the local Juvenile Assessment Center. There they are booked and fingerprinted, after which a Detention Risk Assessment Instrument (DRAI) is administered. The DRAI’s purpose is to determine what type of detention is appropriate before the initial hearing with a judge. If it is determined that detention is necessary, the youth will be sent to a Juvenile Detention Center (JDC). Otherwise, release back to the parents or guardian will follow.
A juvenile will appear before a judge within 24 hours; the judge will review the case to make a final determination as to the matter of detention. Based on the DRAI, the accusations, and other risk factors, the juvenile may be required to stay at the JDC or be released back to his or her parents while awaiting further court dates. After this, an attorney for the state will determine whether to file formal charges against the juvenile or drop the case. If formal charges are filed, an arraignment will take place where the juvenile will plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest. What happens after that will depend on the plea. Where a not guilty plea is made, a trial will ensue.
Juvenile cases end up either as “adjudication withheld” or as “adjudicated.” When adjudication is withheld, it means the court has found that a crime was committed but the youth will not be labeled as “delinquent,” and may be put on probation. An adjudicated case will give the youth a record of delinquency and he or she may either be given a term of detention in a JDC or put on probation. A probation officer will be assigned to oversee the youth’s supervision.
The conditions of probation can include:
- Community service hours
- Continuous attendance at school
- Drug/alcohol testing and/or treatment
- Restitution to victims
- Staying away from certain friends or acquaintances who are negative influences
- Letters of apology to victims
- Loss of driver’s license
- Being subject to a curfew
Two: Your Child Has the Same Rights as an Adult
Like an adult, your juvenile has the right to an attorney throughout all phases of the juvenile process. At The Wiseman Law Firm, we can review all aspects of your child’s case, appear at the necessary court dates, and create a defense aimed at keeping him or her out of custody. We understand the importance of protecting your child’s future.
Three: Diversion Programs Are Available
In many cases, a child may qualify for a diversion program. These programs are alternatives that can be used to give the youth positive influences. The Florida juvenile justice system lists various programs used in this situation, such as mentoring programs, alternative schools, the Boys and Girls Scouts, Boys and Girls Clubs, and more. Probation officers help youth connect to appropriate programs in their area.
Furthermore, if this is your child’s first offense and it’s of a nonviolent nature, the state attorney may grant a Pre-Trial Intervention program that will end with no juvenile record.
Many options exist to help your youth move forward in a better direction with less consequence for the future. Our firm is here to help you and your child or teen achieve the best possible result as you navigate the juvenile justice system.
To arrange for a consultation to learn more about how we can help you and your son or daughter at this critical time, call us at (407) 708-9127 or contact us online.