Part 1: Rights, Some Differences with Adult Criminal Court.
There are some important things to know if your child is arrested or charged with a crime. The first is that the purpose of the Juvenile Justice System in Florida is to protect society by trying to rehabilitate the child who committed the crime. The purpose is not simply to punish the child. Punishment is, though, one of the purposes of the adult criminal system in Florida. Also, the Juvenile criminal system in Florida is known as Juvenile Delinquency. Juvenile Dependency is a separate, but related, system that deals with children who have been, or at risk of being, abused, neglected or abandoned. Understand that the term “child” in Florida generally means anyone under the age of 18.
Florida Juvenile Delinquency courts work with many different entities, including the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, the State Attorney’s Office, the child’s attorney (usually a criminal defense attorney), and the Judge to devise a rehabilitation plan for the child who is in trouble with the law. The court will attempt to ensure the child learns from the experience. This is so the child has a better chance of returning to society as a productive citizen without suffering permanent harm. Adult Criminal Court may hope to return an productive adult to society, but they also have goals of prevention of future crimes by the same person, deterring others from committing similar crimes, and simply punishing those who commit crimes. The adult criminal system is, therefore, much more unforgiving than the Juvenile criminal (or Juvenile Delinquency) system is.
Many rights that adults have in criminal court are mirrored in Juvenile Delinquency Court. Some of these rights are not the same, though. One in particular, is the right to a trial by a jury of your peers. While an adult charged with a crime is entitled to a jury trial, a juvenile charged with a crime is entitled only to a trial with a Judge.
A child, though, does have the right to remain silent. As it is with an adult who speaks with law enforcement, anything the child says can be used against that child in court. So should your child cooperate with law enforcement if he or she is questioned? This is not a simple yes or no answer. Your child should be cooperative, but should NOT answer any questions regarding the allegations or the charges until and unless you speak to an attorney. Confessions of children are NOT automatically deemed not admissible simply because the suspect is a child. In other words, it is entirely possible for a child to confess to a crime.
Children, like adults, have the right to an attorney before answering any questions. The child has the right to request an attorney just like an adult.
Law enforcement is allowed to take your child to the county jail and hold them for questioning for a limited amount of time. They may be fingerprinted and photographed upon law enforcement’s reasonable belief that the child has committed a criminal act. These records, though, are not public. After this period of time has elapsed, the child may be released to a parent or an alternate responsible adult relative of the child. The child may also be detained in a secure juvenile detention facility. Finally, the Department of Children and Families can be contacted if circumstances allow for this. This may happen if the child has no parent nor adult relative to take the child.
A child may be put into detention care while they are awaiting a court hearing. This may be in a juvenile detention facility or home detention. This detention may not normally last beyond 24 hours without a hearing in front of a Judge who determines whether or not the child should be held for a longer period of time. If a child is placed into detention, that child has the right to an adjudicatory hearing (or a juvenile “trial”) within 21 days. In most cases, the juvenile system runs much more swiftly than the adult criminal system.
If you have any other questions concerning charges filed against a child, please feel free to contact me to schedule a free consultation.