The Juvenile Justice System in Florida

July 16, 2021 Criminal Defense, Juvenile Offenses

The Juvenile Justice Process

  • Prevention: The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice utilizes the Office of Prevention and Victim Services to implement programs, strategies, initiatives, and networks designed to prevent children from making contact with the juvenile justice system.
  • Contact with Law Enforcement/Custody: In the juvenile justice system, youth are taken into custody, whereas adults are arrested. Once a juvenile is in custody, he or she is referred to their local Juvenile Assessment Center and the family is notified.
    • Diversion Program: The juvenile could be referred to a diversion program, which is designed to keep youth from entering the juvenile justice system through the legal process.
    • Adult Court: A juvenile can be referred to adult court if he or she is over the age of 18 or if he or she was charged with a crime as an adult. Youth in adult court can be sentenced to youth or adult sanctions.
    • Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiatives (JDAI): JDAI is an initiative that focuses on moving low-risk youth from secure detention centers into community-based alternative programs. It works for system-wide change in philosophy, practice, and policy in coordination with the local jurisdiction level and the state level.
  • Detention Risk Assessment Instrument (DRAI): DRAI is used to determine if a youth meets detention criteria and to determine whether the youth should be placed in secure, non-secure, or home detention care before a detention hearing.
    • Secure Detention Center: A juvenile may be required to stay in a secure detention center until further action is determined if there is a higher risk level.
    • Wait for Court Date at Home: A juvenile may be permitted to wait for their court dates at home under certain conditions depending on their risk level.
  • Court Disposition: The youth will undergo an adjudicatory hearing (non-jury trial), where he or she will appear before a judge who will determine the outcomes and sanctions.
    • Case Dropped/ “Nolle Prossed”: This is a formal entry by the state attorney that the case will not be prosecuted.
    • Adjudication Withheld: This occurs when the court finds that the juvenile committed a delinquent act but withholds adjudication and instead places the youth under community supervision.
      • YES Plan: The Youth-Empowered Success (YES) Plan works with probation officers and case managers to establish meaningful goals in collaboration with the youth and their family.
    • Adjudicated: This occurs when the court finds the juvenile guilty of committing the delinquent act and can choose to either commit the youth or place the youth under community supervision.
      • Residential Facility: A juvenile is sent to live and receive treatment in a residential facility after a Juvenile Court Judge rules on the child’s behavior. These programs promote rehabilitation to help youth learn not to break the law again.
    • Transition and Reentry: Juvenile Probation Officers help youth transition back into the community. Youth may be served by a Community Reentry Team to help them navigate this process.

 Juvenile Records and Confidentiality

 The confidentiality of juvenile records depends on the nature of the charge. Florida Statute Section 985.04 provides that all juvenile criminal records, including the name, photograph, address, and crime or arrest report of a child must remain confidential unless one of the following facts exists:

  • The child was taken into custody for an offense that would be a felony if committed by an adult.
  • The child was charged with a violation of law which, if committed by an adult, would be a felony.
  • The child was found to have committed an offense which, if committed by an adult, would be a felony.
  • The child was transferred to adult court.

Florida Statute Section 943.053 provides that if one of these facts exists, the juvenile’s criminal history information shall be available on a priority basis to criminal justice agencies for criminal justice purposes free of charge. After providing the Criminal Justice Information Program with all known personal identifying information, people in the private sector and noncriminal justice agencies may pay a fee to access criminal history information.

Expunging Juvenile Records

 Under Florida Statute Section 943.0585, a child may petition the court to seal or expunge their juvenile record of a single criminal case provided the juvenile otherwise qualifies. If the record is expunged, the juvenile records will no longer appear on a background check. However, a drawback to pursing a court ordered expungement is that it can only be utilized once in a person’s lifetime. Therefore, you should attempt to seek an expungement under another statute if available.

Under Florida Statute Section 943.0582, a child may petition the court to seal or expunge the nonjudicial arrest record of a juvenile who successfully completed a pre-arrest or post-arrest direction program for a non-violent misdemeanor no later than twelve months after completion of the diversion program. Once expunged under this statute, the juvenile record will no longer appear on a background check.

**The information on expunging juvenile records is for informational purposes. This area of criminal defense is not practiced by the attorneys at Pumphrey Law. Please click here to locate an attorney in your area.**

This article was written by Caroline Calavan

Caroline Calavan Pumphrey Law











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