The Importance of Criminal Defense Representation for Juveniles

August 24, 2020 Juvenile Offenses

tallahassee probation violation

Juvenile Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

The State of Florida has an entirely separate set of rules when someone under the age of 18 is charged with a criminal violation. In some cases, repeat offenders or those accused of extremely serious offenses can have allegations directly filed into an adult case and are handled by the traditional criminal justice system. Those who do not fall into that narrow category are handled by the juvenile system, and while prison is not a potential penalty, the ramifications can nevertheless be life changing. It is important to speak to an experienced juvenile defense attorney as soon as possible if a loved one has been charged with a juvenile offense.

Charging a Juvenile as an Adult

Occasionally, minors can be charged as adults. This is referred to as direct file and is up to the discretion of the prosecutor. Unfortunately Florida has one of the highest rates of minors charged as adults, even with this discretion built in. There are two main categories of when this happens.

Juvenile Crimes

The list of “common” juvenile crimes will largely resemble the same for adults. More serious offenses will include burglary, assault, disorderly conduct, trespassing, and Battery. Some offenses are more likely to levied at someone under the age of 18 or can only be alleged at a juvenile. These charges include: Vandalism, minor drug violations, underage DUI, and Minor in Possession of drugs or alcohol.

If contacted by police and a case is being pursued, a juvenile will either be released to his or her parents without an arrest or arrested and placed in a Juvenile Assessment Center (JAC). Within 24 hours the alleged perpetrator must be seen by a judge and have the status of their release determined. This begins the process of a juvenile criminal case.

Juvenile Case Progression

Detention Hearing

If arrested, the first time in front of a judge will be at the detention hearing. Under normal circumstances a judge can only hold the accused for up to 21 days. The judge can place all sorts of restrictions on the individual’s behavior, such as restrictions on movement or putting no contact orders on place to protect a named victim. It is important to speak to an attorney as soon as possible if a loved one is detained and facing one of these hearings. A qualified juvenile defense lawyer can make sure that a person’s rights are not violated and that they do not do anything to jeopardize the case this early on in front of the judge.


This is the second step of the process where a juvenile defense attorney can be particularly helpful. A Florida Juvenile Probation Officer gets involved at this point and reviews the case, the background of the youth and any other necessary facts. This allows the officer to make a report, a sort of recommendation on how the case should go forward, in his or her opinion. The officer can recommend harsh punishment, dismissal, diversion, or anything in between. It’s crucial to hit the ground running to make sure that the case is moving in a positive direction towards a good resolution or dismissal.

Juvenile Criminal Case

The next steps are very similar to an adult criminal case. The defendant will be arraigned (advised of charges) and the prosecutor and defense attorney will build their cases. There is still a very real possibility of dismissal at this stage, a skilled defense attorney can tear down the state’s case and convince the prosecutor to dismiss or ultimately win at trial.

If the case goes to trial, juvenile defendants do not receive jury trials, instead a judge will hear the case. Most trial attorneys with years of experience have spent a lot of time in front of juries, but the skills necessary to succeed at convincing a judge are different. It’s important to hire a juvenile defense attorney who has dedicated time to learning this specific set of skills.

Potential Penalties for Juvenile Crimes in Florida

  • Probation – Just like adult probation the defendant is instructed to perform a set of rehabilitative tasks and not pick up any new charges. Requirements of probation can include nearly anything, but common requirements are:
    • Tours of jails
    • Apology letters
    • Mental health treatment
    • Substance abuse treatment
    • Anger management
    • Monitored sobriety.
  • Diversion – Very similar to probation but committed to before the case has advanced too far. The benefit of diversion is that once completed all charges are dropped. The case sits in limbo until completion, able to be reactivated and prosecuted or dismissed based upon review.
  • Juvenile Incarceration – Juveniles can be incarcerated like adults, but instead go to specific juvenile facilities for a specific program. There are four commitment levels:
    • Low Risk – 30-45 days
    • Moderate Risk – 4-6 months
    • High Risk – 6-9 months
    • Juvenile Prison – 18-36 months

Besides the direct penalties, a juvenile conviction can affect job prospects and college acceptance. It is crucial to do everything possible to avoid a conviction or the penalties associated with one.

Tallahassee Criminal Defense Attorney

Don Pumphrey and the members of the legal team at Pumphrey Law Firm have decades of experience representing juveniles throughout the state of Florida. Don Pumphrey ready to fight for the rights of those who have been accused of juvenile and adult crimes alike. The team at Pumphrey Law are dedicated to defending the rights of clients in any circumstance and will fight for the best possible result. Call a Tallahassee criminal defense lawyer today at (850) 681-7777 or send an online message today to discuss your rights during an open and free consultation with our legal team.


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