By Stephan Lopez Esq.,
Juvenile Offenders in Florida—a different set of rules
In Florida, as in most states, there is a separate court system that deals with juvenile offenders. Who are juvenile offenders? Juvenile offenders are children, under the age of 18, who are alleged to have committed a delinquent act or violated the law. [See Florida Stat. § 985.0301 (2013)].
Under Florida law, juvenile offenders can also be tried as adults, even if they are under the age of 18. There are several ways for juvenile offenders to be transferred to adult court. Some ways include direct filing, voluntary waiver, involuntary discretion waiver, and involuntary mandatory waiver.
The State Attorney has discretion to charge juvenile offenders as an adult by direct filing the child to be tried in adult court. In order to be direct filed, the child must be at least fourteen at the time of the act and charged with committing a serious felony such as arson, robbery, kidnapping, murder, manslaughter, or another of the listed enumerated offenses. [See Fla. Stat. § 985.557, for a list of enumerated offenses]. If the child is fourteen or fifteen at the time the act was committed, the State Attorney has discretion to decide. [See Fla. Stat. § 985.557 (1)]. If the juvenile offender is sixteen or seventeen and charged with one of the enumerated crimes and had previously been adjudicated delinquent for a felony, it is mandatory that the State Attorney direct file. [See Fla. Stat. § 985.557 (2).]
So what are some of the differences between the Juvenile Criminal Justice system and the Adult Criminal Justice system?
- The purpose of the adult criminal justice system is to punish whereas the purpose of the juvenile system is to rehabilitate.
- A juvenile generally cannot be detained for more than 21 days in a secured detention or under very limited circumstances for more than a period of 30 days.
- Juveniles are not entitled to a jury trial in Florida. If a juvenile wishes to defend against accusations and take his case to trial, the trial is held before a circuit court judge who will determine whether the juvenile is guilty or not guilty of the crimes he is accused of committing.
- Juvenile offenders do not have to come up with money to make bail. Instead, a document known as a risk assessment instrument (RAIaka DRAI) is completed upon the juveniles’ arrest. The RAI aka DRAI determines whether a juvenile should remain in custody (secure detention) in home detention, or custody released to an adult or program. The RAI lists a series of “risk factors” and assigns points to these “risk factors” based on the juvenile’s criminal history and dependency history. A juvenile that scores 12 or more points on the RAI aka DRAI must be held in secured detention for at least 21 but not for more than 30 days.
- An adjudication of delinquency in Juvenile Court is not considered a conviction on his criminal record, however, it may be used to enhance punishment for crimes committed as an adult in the future.
- In Florida, most juvenile records are automatically destroyed after a period of time. Juvenile offenders classified as serious offenders will have their records expunged when they turn twenty-six years old. Juveniles who are not classified as serious offenders will have their criminal history record expunged when the individual turns twenty-four years old.
- In Florida, the court generally can retain jurisdiction over juvenile offenders until their 19thbirthday. If a juvenile is placed in a commitment program, the court may hold the child in that program until he or she turns 21. If a juvenile is in a maximum-risk commitment program, then the court can retain jurisdiction until the juvenile turns 22.
Commonly used terms in Juvenile Court:
|Sentencing Hearing||Disposition Hearing|
|Pre-Sentence Investigation (PSI)||Pre-Disposition Report (PDR)|
Important Juvenile Cases
Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005) – The death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment for a crime committed by a juvenile.
Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. __ (2010) – The Court held that it was cruel and unusual punishment under the 8th Amendment to sentence a juvenile to life in prison without the possibility of parole for a non-homicide crime.
Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. ___ (2012) – The Court imposed a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole to a minor who committed a homicide.
JM v. State, 783 So.2d 1204 (1st DCA 2001) – The Court held that because the Juvenile had been adjudicated delinquent for sexual battery, and an adjudication of delinquency is not deemed a conviction in Florida, Juvenile could not be classified a sexual predator or required to register as such.
Stephan Lopez is a former police officer and Miami-Dade prosecutor that provides legal representation that is both multi-faceted and knowledgeable to clients facing serious criminal charges. Specifically, he focuses and assists clients in the areas of Criminal Defense, Civil Rights Claims, Family Law, Commercial and Civil Litigation, Business Counseling, Labor & Employment Law.
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