Minors Charged With Crimes In Florida
There are many differences between how adults think and how children think. This fact is not always recognized, even in the criminal justice system, and children are usually arrested and charged for behavior that should be handled in other ways. Teens, especially, can have a hard time because most adults expect them to make decisions that adults would make because they are close to adulthood. However, because the teenage brain is still developing, it is not always easy for teens to stay out of trouble.
Juveniles who are picked up for doing something that could be considered crimes are not always charged with a crime or arrested. Florida police officers are allowed to send a juvenile who admits to wrongdoing to a diversionary program instead of arresting him for a crime. In some cases, juveniles may receive civil citations for so called delinquent acts that are not serious offenses. These could include acts like fighting, petty theft, and minor drug or alcohol offenses. Civil citations can only be issued for misdemeanors. When a juvenile is issued a civil citation, he or she may be required to complete some hours of community service.
When juveniles commit crimes that are serious enough to warrant charges, they can be charged either as juveniles or as adults. How the juvenile is charged can make a big difference in how the case is handled and what kind of punishment the child receives. If a child is charged as a juvenile, he may not face as harsh a penalty as a child who is charged as an adult. However, the child who is charged as a juvenile does not have a right to jury trial.
In Florida, a juvenile can be transferred to adult court if: the juvenile and his parents demand the juvenile be tried as an adult; the state’s attorney makes a request to transfer the juvenile; or, the juvenile is mandatorily transferred because the juvenile meets certain statutory factors. In some cases, the threat of a transfer to adult court is used to try and get the juvenile to accept a plea bargain and avoid trial.
During sentencing, a child’s background is considered, and in some cases, the child’s conduct can be considered at sentencing, even when the conduct did not result in a criminal conviction. One of the benefits a child has when it comes to sentencing, even in adult court, is the possibility of either juvenile sanctions or a youthful offender program. If a child receives juvenile sanctions in adult court, it is possible to keep the child’s record clean once the sanctions are completed. The Youthful Offender Statute allows judges to sentence juveniles to less incarceration, and even probation, even when they are facing lengthy mandatory minimum prison sentences. Fortunately, in recognition of the nature of juveniles, the Supreme Court has held that juveniles cannot be sentenced to death, or to a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Juveniles can be sentenced to life sentences or sentences that amount to life sentences if this is done under the judge’s discretion.
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Defenses for juvenile cases should be handled differently from adult cases. There is a lot to lose for a juvenile who is charged with a criminal offense, an adjudication of delinquency or a conviction can mean a lifetime of missed opportunities for a minor. If your child has been arrested or detained by police officers on suspicion of a crime, you should contact a criminal defense attorney with experience handling juvenile cases. For assistance in West Palm Beach, Florida, contact Scott Berry Law for a free consultation today.