Juvenile Arrest and Juvenile Criminal Charges

Part 3: Right to Counsel

A Juvenile’s right to counsel is governed in part by Florida Statute 985.033.  It states that “A child is entitled to representation by legal counsel at all stages of any delinquency court proceedings…”

In the Juvenile Delinquency system, the State Attorney’s Office represents the State of Florida, just as they do in the adult criminal system.  They have all the same resources at their disposal as they do in the adult criminal system.  It is therefore very important that a child charged with a crime have competent experienced legal representation, just as it is in the adult criminal system.  I have represented Juveniles in Florida since 1998 in both matters that have stayed in the Juvenile system and have been direct filed to the adult system.

Many times, the child is unaware that they have the right to counsel when they are questioned by law enforcement.  They are also unaware that they can request that, at a minimum, that they speak with their parents.  This is not always communicated to the child before they start to speak with law enforcement.  It is important, therefore, as parents, to inform your child of his or her rights under the law.  This may be an uncomfortable conversation, but knowledge is sometimes the child’s best defense when they are being accused of a crime they may not have committed.

Additionally, a child’s right to counsel can not be interfered with by an unwilling parent.  Many times parents may be frustrated with their child and do not wish to hire an attorney for their child.  If the parents and the child are deemed indigent, a Public Defender may be appointed to represent the child in a Juvenile Delinquency proceeding.  If, however, the parents or legal guardians are not declared indigent, even if the child is indigent (which is usually the case, as children rarely have their own financial resources) then those parents or legal guardians are required to secure counsel for their child.  Florida Statute 985.033 states, in part, that “A parent or legal guardian of an indigent child who has been ordered to obtain private counsel for the child and who willfully fails to follow the court order shall be punished by the court in civil contempt proceedings.”  This may come as somewhat of a surprise that a parent can be forced into hiring private counsel, but it is not necessarily all bad news.  Many attorney’s, including myself, charge significantly less to represent a juvenile than an adult for similar offenses.
Another important thing to consider when hiring an attorney to represent a child in a Juvenile Delinquency proceeding is that your child’s attorney represents the child, not the parents or legal guardians.  This means that the child’s discussions with the attorney are confidential.  The parents, although often present during consultations, do not have a right to be present during the consultations.  The attorney represents the interests of the child, which may be contrary to the interests of the parents.  Understand, though, that these are the child’s rights.  Practically, most of my Juvenile clients wish their parents to be involved in the entire process and I take the parents input very seriously.  I will be as cooperative as I can be with the parents of the child, but I cannot violated confidences between the child and myself unless the child wishes me to do so.

Finally, its is important to hire an attorney to represent a child so that the attorney may determine whether there is any legal basis for the charges against the child as well as whether all the legal requirements were property met prior to the charges being filed.

I am happy to discuss any issues you may have if your child is charged in delinquency court during a free consultation.

Shawn L Hungate Attorney at Law, 811 Patrick Street, Kissimmee, FL 34741  407-846-1529

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Juvenile Arrest and Juvenile Charges

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.

Shawn L Hungate Attorney at Law, 811 Patrick Street, Kissimmee, FL 34741  407-846-1529

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Juvenile Arrest and Juvenile Charges

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.

Shawn L Hungate Attorney at Law, 811 Patrick Street, Kissimmee, FL 34741  407-846-1529

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