Part 2: Treating Juveniles as Children or Adults in the Criminal Justice System.
In the vast majority of cases, a child in the Juvenile Delinquency system will remain there. IF the police charge the child, the information goes to the Department of Juvenile Justice and the State Attorney’s Office for them to review. The State Attorney will decide whether or not to file charges. If they do, they will file a “delinquency petition”. The Department of Juvenile Justice will contact you to arrange a conference to discuss the charge and your child’s background. Please remember, though, that your child does have the right to remain silent when it comes to discussing any facts about the case. Often times, though, cooperation about family history, the child’s grades, etc., can be beneficial if it is communicated to the Department of Juvenile Justice. It is wise to contact an attorney prior to this meeting if it is possible.
It is also possible for your child to be charged with a violation of law relating to the operation of a Motor Vehicle. Motor Vehicle charges are charges like Driving While License Suspended or Revoked, Racing, Driving Under the Influence, No Valid License, Attaching a Tag Not Assigned, and Reckless Driving. In cases like these, the child’s case will be put into the same court that handles traffic and motor vehicle offenses for adults. Understand that Traffic Court will often have special rules that are different than the other criminal (misdemeanor and felony) and juvenile courts. One such rule, at least in Osceola County, is that most traffic criminal cases are NOT eligible for any kind of diversion program. The DUI Diversion program is an exception to this.
In rare, more serious cases, a child may be tried in adult court. This is called “direct filing”. In Florida, a child may NOT be put in adult jail unless they have been convicted in adult court or are being transferred to adult court for the first time. A child may be “direct filed” into the adult system if the child’s age and the crime the child is charged with meets certain criteria. If the child does go to adult jail, they must be completely secured from adult inmates.
A “direct filing” considers many factors, including the crime that is charged. Crimes like Homicide (Murder, Manslaughter, etc.), Armed Robbery, Firearm charges, Burglary of an Occupied Dwelling, Sexual Battery, and other serious offenses are the most likely to be direct filed into the adult criminal justice system.
I have both successfully negotiated cases to remain in the juvenile system and have handled cases that have been direct filed on with successful outcomes. In rare cases, it is possible for the Judge to still hand out Juvenile Sanctions (punishment) for the child even in adult felony court. If your child is charged with any crime, regardless of how serious it is, please give me a call to discuss your child’s rights. My consultation is free.