A criminal charge against your child is a shocking and trying experience. It is easy to place blame on the child and want the child to be held accountable for what he or she has done. The problem with that approach is that, as parents, it is easy to jump to the conclusion that your child has done wrong and therefore must face the consequences whatever they may be. The reality is that a criminal charge can impact a child’s future for years down the road and an experienced attorney is key to protecting your child’s rights and their future. Trust our firm to ensure that your child’s rights will be protected. Call us today for a free consultation 941-365-7171.
The purpose of juvenile court is not penalization as it is in adult court. The goal of the juvenile justice system is to address the underlying causes of the child’s behavior instead of merely penalizing them and sending them to jail as a consequence as is the case when they are adults. With juvenile charges, a court will look to place a child on a term of probation to enable the child to complete terms of community service, complete apology letters, obtain treatment for mental health issues or substance abuse issues, abide by curfews, attend school or obtain employment and turn their lives around before they are no longer able to rely on a juvenile system that takes their futures into account.
The people in the courtroom
The judge who presides over juvenile court is a Circuit Judge specially assigned to hear juvenile matters and is assigned the task of ruling on the case to determine whether a child is to be found delinquent and what the appropriate measures are to address the behaviors of the child. Unlike adult court, there is no jury. The juvenile court judge takes the case from start to finish, and is familiar with all aspects of the child’s background and the case. It is the judge’s job to determine the proper course of treatment for the juvenile so that the needs of the juvenile are addressed.
The prosecutor makes the determination of whether a charge should be brought before the court. The prosecutor reviews the police reports, interviews witnesses and evaluates whether a case will be brought to trial or resolved prior to trial. It is the role of the prosecutor to prove the case to the judge and establish to the court that the crime the juvenile is charged with occurred. The prosecutor will also make a recommendation to the court as to what the State of Florida’s position is on the proposed treatment plan for the juvenile.
The Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) is assigned with interviewing the child and the family of the child and doing an investigation as to what underlying issues have caused the child to arrive at this point and what tools are available to help the child address these issues and put these decisions behind them. DJJ will also make a recommendation to the court as to the proper course of treatment for the juvenile and will supervise the juvenile during the course of the completion of the treatment plan.
It is important to remember that a juvenile has the right to an attorney, the right to a trial and the right to confront the evidence and witnesses being brought against them. Waiving these rights is rarely in a child’s best interest. It is a common misconception that these charges are juvenile and therefore won’t follow a child into their adult lives. Surprisingly to some, even military service can be jeopardized by certain juvenile charges on a person’s record. The defense attorney is the bridge between the child and the justice system. While all parties are required to do what is in the best interest of the child in determining the proper treatment plan, the opinions of the prosecutor and DJJ may vary significantly from that of the child and the child’s family. It is very important for a child to be represented in court. If, at the end of the day, the evidence and facts require that the child resolve the case prior to trial because that is in the best interests of the child, the defense attorney will be able to assist the child and the child’s family in making that decision and preserving the rights of the child throughout the process.
The most important part of the court room to the juvenile are the parents. Whatever may have brought the child into the court room and whatever may lie ahead of them as they address the charges against them, the support and involvement of the child’s parents and family are essential to the success of the child in making the right choices in the future.
Juvenile Felonies and Misdemeanors
Felony and misdemeanor charges are the same as they are in adult court. The level of a charge is determined by what the charge would have been had the child been an adult at the time the crime was committed.
Juvenile crimes and sentences operate within a scoring system that guides the court in its decisions on how to sentence a child. Instead of convictions, the court will adjudicate a child delinquent. The court does have the discretion to withhold adjudication and not find a child delinquent, allowing the child the opportunity to successfully complete a term of probation. Probation in the juvenile system runs until a child’s 19th birthday. While it can terminate early upon completion of the terms of probation and the child’s compliance with the rules of probation, if the child violates those terms of probation, the court can retain jurisdiction over the child until the child is 19 years old. The key with any juvenile case is experienced representation to guide the child and the family through the process of sentencing and to make an appropriate recommendation to the court on behalf of the child and the child’s family. As a sentence for a juvenile crime can follow a child well into adulthood, an attorney experienced in the juvenile courts can make all the difference.