Juvenile Court System in Florida

How it Differs from the Adult Justice System

What a minor faces after an arrest is far different than what their adult counterparts would experience. For the most part, it is important to recognize that the juvenile justice system focuses on the rehabilitation rather than the punishment of the defendant. For this reason, the consequences of juvenile crimes are typically viewed as more lax - allowing for the minor to receive the guidance that they need to become a fully functioning and active member of society. According to the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), they work hard to not only deal with crimes, but to also prevent crimes; this is done through their Office of Prevention and Victim Services. It is their goal to help intervene with youth that they deem to be "at risk."

What to Expect with the Juvenile Court System

While the criminal process may be similar to what occurs with adults, there are several tweaks which make it wholly unique. The first step of the juvenile justice system is either first contact with law enforcement or being given a civil citation. The latter is a new process in Florida and allows for the justice system to proceed without the need for law enforcement to be involved. Following either of those, the minor will be taken into custody - not arrested as an adult would be. From there, they will be taken to either a Juvenile Assessment Center or a screener will be notified and brought to them.

At this point, there are several different paths that the case can take. In one case, the child may be referred to a diversion program; these are designed to help curb delinquent behavior and to be an alternative to the child becoming immersed in the legal process. In some cases, the youth may be classified as "low-risk." In these cases, Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) may become the best option. This is a community based program which allows for the youth to avoid being detained. In some cases, the minor will undergo Detention Risk Assessment Instrument (DRAI) to determine detention.

If the child is determined to be "high-risk," they will be placed into a secure detention center while further legal action is waiting to be taken. If not, they may be permitted to stay at home until their court date arrives. The next step will be dealing with the question of guilt. There are three possible outcomes. The first is that the case will be dropped, which essentially means that the prosecution had decided not to pursue the case.

The second is that adjudication will be withheld; this means that there is enough evidence to deem the child guilty of the delinquent act, but withhold adjudication. Instead, the child is placed into community supervision. In many cases, the minor will meet with a Juvenile Probation Officer to come up with a Youth-Empowered Success (YES) plan to help set up goals and plans for the future. The third is to have the minor adjudicated; after, they may be committed, placed into a residential facility or put into other supervision.

Why You Should Contact a Tampa Criminal Lawyer

While the juvenile system is more forgiving, the truth is that there are serious dangers which you or your child may be risking. For example, in some cases, the prosecution may argue to have your child tried as an adult. Do not let this happen without a fight. Contact a Tampa criminal defense attorney from our firm as soon as possible. We can help to evaluate your case and determine the best course of action.

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