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Juvenile Offenses

Tallahassee juvenile offense attorney

Any criminal allegation against a minor should be taken seriously. Tough-on-crime prosecutors often seek consequences that will be devastating to a child’s future and may impact educational and career opportunities. Juvenile charges can result in a delinquency record and even placement in a facility or state-run program outside the home.

The Florida Juvenile Justice System originally was created to rehabilitate rather than to punish children. However, it still is understandably a scary place for a parent to maneuver on behalf of their child. If your child has been arrested, it is important to hire an experienced juvenile lawyer in Tallahassee, FL, so your child is not detrimentally affected for the rest of their life.

Never let your child talk to a law enforcement officer until AFTER you have consulted with an attorney. A knowledgeable defense attorney can help your child fight against these allegations and work towards getting the charges dismissed.

Defense Attorney for Juveniles in Tallahassee, FL

You may not know where to turn for the help your child needs in fighting these serious allegations. The Tallahassee juvenile defense lawyers at Pumphrey Law can help you understand your child’s rights and how to protect them. When you discuss the facts of your child’s case with a defense attorney, we may be able to find defenses or other factors to get your child’s charges reduced or dismissed.

Call Pumphrey Law Firm for a free consultation regarding your child’s case in Tallahassee, Florida. We represent minors in need of criminal defense in Leon County or any of the surrounding counties including Quincy, Crawfordville, Monticello, and Bristol.

Call us today (850) 681-7777 for a free consultation to discuss your case.

Juvenile Crime Information Center

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Juvenile Delinquency in Florida

According to Leon County’s 2nd Judicial Circuit court page, juvenile delinquency is defined as any person under the age of 18 who has been arrested and/or charged with a criminal offense. Some of the more common charges for juveniles include:

Contact a Leon County juvenile defense attorney to discuss the details of your child’s case in a free consultation

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What is the Process for a Juvenile Arrested in Florida?

The process for juvenile offenses differs from the process for adults charged with a crime. In Florida, any minor under the age of 18 who is accused of a crime will be referred to the Department of Juvenile Justice. The process for the juvenile justice system is as follows:

  1. Arrest or citation – A minor who is suspected of committing a delinquent act may be arrested or issued a citation by a law enforcement officer.
  2. Intake and screening – Once minors are given a citation or arrested for an alleged delinquent act, they are taken into custody and referred to a Juvenile Assessment Center (JAC). During this stage, a juvenile probation officer (JPO) is assigned to conduct a Detention Risk Assessment Instrument (DRAI) on the minor. The assessment is meant to gather information about the juvenile, their home life, and the nature of the alleged offense. The JPO will use this information to determine if the juvenile must be detained further, or if they can be released to a parent or guardian. Under Florida Statute Section 985.26, a minor cannot be placed or held in detention care for more than 24 hours, unless the court orders such detention.
  3. Detention hearing – If the DRAI concludes that the juvenile shall remain in custody, then the court is required to hold a detention hearing within 24 hours. During this hearing, a judge will determine if there is sufficient reason to keep the minor detained, and if so, for how long. Potential outcomes at this stage include the judge ordering the minor to be detained until further court proceedings, order the youth to a diversion program, or allow time for the prosecution to file a petition to try the minor in adult court.
  4. Arraignment hearing – If the State files a petition for delinquency and the youth is still detained, the court must hold an arraignment hearing within 48 hours of the delinquency petition’s filing. During this hearing, the minor can comment and respond to the allegations against them in the petition for delinquency. If the minor admits to the delinquent act, the next step could be moving to a disposition hearing. If the minor denies the allegations against them, the next step is for the court to schedule an adjudicatory hearing.
  5. Adjudicatory hearing – The adjudication hearing is where the court determines if the allegations against the minor are valid. The minor and their defense attorney can introduce evidence, testify, and cross-examine witnesses to help defend their case. Unlike with adult trials, an adjudicatory hearing is conducted without a jury, meaning that only the judge makes the final call. The potential outcomes of an adjudicatory hearing are that the judge finds the delinquent act was not committed, therefore dismissing the case, or the judge finds the minor did commit a violation of law, resulting in a disposition hearing.
  6. Disposition hearing – The disposition hearing is where the judge sentences the minor to specific sanctions for the delinquent act. Possible outcomes of a disposition hearing include the minor getting sentenced to probation, community service, home detention, restitution, or commitment to Department—meaning the minor would be confined to a Leon County Juvenile Detention Center.

The juvenile justice process is complex. If you are a minor who has recently been accused of a delinquent act, or you are the parent of a minor who is facing the possibility of juvenile detention, contact an experienced Tallahassee defense attorney to represent your case.

Juvenile Civil Citation Program in Florida

Florida offers a civil citation program for first-time misdemeanor juvenile offenders. These programs are offered to offenders who committed non-serious delinquent acts and provide an alternative to custody in the Department of Juvenile Justice.

Under Florida Statutes Section 985.12, the Florida Legislature has found that civil citation and prearrest diversion programs can have a positive effect over the criminal justice system and help reduce recidivism for previous offenders.

It’s important to point out that while these programs are encouraged, it is not mandated for a county, municipality, or other institution to participate in such programs. If a juvenile does not qualify for the civil citation program, he or she will have to stand trial for the alleged offense. In these instances, a judge will decide the child’s fate.

If you are a juvenile who has been offered a civil citation or other diversion program, you may be required to complete any of the following:

  • Completion of community service hours;
  • Payment of restitution;
  • Family counseling;
  • Urinalysis monitoring;
  • Substance abuse treatment;
  • Mental health treatment; and/or
  • Payment of program fee(s).

Under Florida Statute Section 985.12(2)(e), a juvenile who does not successfully complete their civil citation or other prearrest diversion program can end up getting arrested again by a law enforcement officer for the initial offense. If this occurs, the juvenile’s case will be referred to the State Attorney, who decides if they can continue with the program or if they should be prosecuted for the delinquent act.

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Consequences of Juvenile Crime

The consequences of juvenile crimes can seriously impact a minor’s future. The potential outcomes of an adjudication of delinquency (meaning a guilty verdict), can include the following:

  • Probation: Probation will require a minor to meet certain conditions, such as completing a specific number of community service hours and paying restitution to compensate the victims for financial damages. It also can include court-mandated counseling for anger management of drug or alcohol abuse. Curfews and mandatory drug testing may also be ordered;
  • Residential placement: A juvenile may be sentenced to residential placement in a juvenile detention facility or a residential treatment center. This is typically for more series allegations or for repeat juvenile offenders; and/or
  • Fines and/or restitution: A minor may be required to pay back fines or restitution to the victim(s) of the alleged delinquent act.

In addition to the potential sanctions listed above, a minor who receives a delinquent adjudication will result in them obtaining a juvenile record. Having this record can impact future opportunities, such as education admissions, scholarships, or employment opportunities.

Important: The exact penalties will vary depending on the severity of the alleged delinquent act and the juvenile’s criminal history. In some cases where the crimes are especially heinous, juveniles are charged as adults and can be sentenced to several years behind bars.

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Juveniles Tried as Adults in Florida

In certain instances, a child can be tried as an adult and even sentenced to a state prison. In Florida, the State Attorney decides if a child is tried in the juvenile or the adult system. Generally, the decision is based on the juvenile’s age, the crime committed, and other statutory guidelines.

Florida Statute Section 985.557 explains that a minor who is 14 or 15 years-old at the time of an alleged offense can be direct filed by the state attorney to have adult sanctions be considered or imposed for any of the following offenses:

A minor between the ages of 16 and 17 years-old can be “direct filed” for any offense aside from a misdemeanor, unless the juvenile had been previously adjudicated for two delinquent acts, including one classified as a felony offense.

Upon a guilty plea or verdict, the Department of Corrections usually files a report with recommendations to the court regarding the juvenile’s charges. A minor who is found guilty in adult court may be sent back to the Department of Juvenile Justice for imposed sanctions and programs. Under Florida Statute Section 985.565(4), if a state attorney is required to file a motion to transfer and certify the juvenile for prosecution as an adult under s. 985.556(3). If the motion is granted, the court must impose adult sanctions. It is to a juvenile’s advantage to be tried as a child, and not an adult.

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Florida Juvenile Justice Resources

The following provides useful juvenile justice resources in Florida:

  • Florida Department of Juvenile Justice
    The DJJ’s mission is to reduce juvenile delinquency through prevention, intervention, and treatment services.
  • Florida Department of Children and Families
    DCF was created to improve the lives of individuals and families through an integrated approach that includes finding homes for children in foster care and providing food stamps and temporary assistance for needy families.
  • Disc Village
    A non-profit, community-based agency that provides for the initiation, management, and coordination of delinquency and substance programs in Leon County and North Florida, including programs for juveniles. The program’s Juvenile Assessment Center is located at:

    • JAC in Tallahassee
      3333 W Pensacola St, Ste 400
      Tallahassee, FL 32304
      Phone: (850) 574-8814
  • Leon County Teen Court
    A non-judicial proceeding for first-time misdemeanor and felony juvenile offenders. All proceedings are conducted by trained teen attorneys, bailiffs, and jurors with adult supervision and observation.

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Importance of Finding a Lawyer in Tallahassee for Juvenile Court

Young people who face criminal allegations have too much at stake to lose. Even though the juvenile justice system is less severe than being charged as an adult, the sanctions that come with a delinquent adjudicated can seriously impact your future. You could be required to complete a large amount of community service, pay restitution, complete health evaluations, or even be committed to a juvenile detention center. In the more severe cases, you could be tried in an adult court, facing adult consequences with a conviction.

If your child has been arrested, you need help now; time is of the essence. Finding the right legal guidance can make all the difference during this challenging time. Take the first step toward safeguarding your loved one’s future. Your child’s rights will be protected when you hire a juvenile defense lawyer in Tallahassee at Pumphrey Law Firm.

Our attorneys will work with you to achieve the best outcome for your child in Leon County, Florida, or any of the surrounding counties, including Gadsden County, Wakulla County, Jefferson County, and Liberty County.

Call (850) 681-7777 for a free consultation.


Page Updated January 30, 2024

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