Understanding Juvenile Delinquency

Being arrested for a crime can be a scary experience—especially for a juvenile. One of the most important steps any parent can take during this time is choosing the right attorney. The right lawyer can explain your child’s legal situation, options, and next best steps, ensuring the best possible outcome for their future.

Thomas & Paulk is proud to be able to support clients throughout Tampa and the surrounding areas. We represent individuals accused of juvenile delinquency, from hazing accusations to underage drinking and driving. We are here to break down what you need to know about juvenile crimes and the charges you or your child is facing.

The Difference Between Delinquent & Criminal Offenses

As opposed to being labeled as a "criminal offense" similar to that of an adult, a child's actions will be labeled as a "delinquent act." Rather than sending this minor to trial for their actions, they will be required to have an adjudication on which the judge reviews the case. Once this is done, the next step is called a disposition which means that court (or the judge in this case) will give the last and final evaluation of the delinquent's case. Following this process, they will then give a sentencing to the minor which gives in details their requirements to do as a result of their offense.

Do Minors Face Less Severe Penalties?

If tried as a juvenile rather than an adult, a minor (10 to 18 years old) will most likely face very different consequences for their offense compared to if they were being tried as an adult. This will depend on the specific circumstances of the crime, such as whether anyone was injured, the juvenile’s record, and whether it would be considered a felony level offense.

The key difference in juvenile matters is that a minor’s sentence will typically be focused on rehabilitation, rather than punishment.

A judge may opt to include the following in a juvenile’s sentence rather than jail or prison time:

  • Community service
  • Probation
  • Treatment programs
  • Therapy
  • Restitution
  • Other alternatives

Roper v. Simmons, Graham v. Florida, and Miler v. Alabama are all key cases in the development of the juvenile court system. Prior to these cases, more severe punishments were available for juvenile delinquency. Now, penalties are directed to be rehabilitative, as mentioned above. However, more serious punishment can be enforced if a maturity assessment reveals that a juvenile is mature enough to understand their actions and poses a more serious threat to society. We understand how valuable the future is to a minor, and we are willing to do whatever it takes to help you fight to protect that future for your loved one.

Whatever the case may be, if your minor has been accused of a criminal offense at any level contact our office today. Our Tampa juvenile defense lawyers are ready to help.