Are you the parent or guardian of a minor facing juvenile criminal charges in Clearwater, Florida? If so, you may feel overwhelmed and need help finding where to seek help. You want the best legal representation possible for your child—someone who can defend their rights with patience and success.
With that in mind, it’s crucial to find a Juvenile Criminal Defense Lawyer in Clearwater who has experience handling cases similar to yours and understands how important this is for your family.
Fortunately, we have decades of experience successfully fighting against juvenile criminal charges on behalf of our clients throughout Clearwater, Florida. You must hire a lawyer you can trust. At Smith & Eulo, you get dedicated counsel from an experienced defense attorney determined to get the best results.
What Happens if My Child is Arrested?
Children under 18 years old are first sent to juvenile court and will undergo the Juvenile Justice Process after being arrested or charged with a criminal offense. Here, the process is a bit different even though the child committed a crime or violated a law the same as adults. Due to their lack of maturity, a different response is applied.
Developing children, especially teenagers, are subject to multiple trials and errors. They experience peer pressure and short-term judgment. At the same time, their home life and the people around them can affect the developing children’s thought processes and views. Overall, it’s a crucial stage in everyone’s life.
The good thing is that most juvenile offenders don’t re-offend as adults as long as they have the proper guidance.
The following factors can correct delinquent behavior:
- Intelligent intervention
With this in mind, there are several resources available to you that the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice provides. Otherwise, you can always look for a reputable Juvenile Criminal Defense in Clearwater specializing in your child’s case for a more in-depth solution.
What to Expect During the Juvenile Justice Process
The Juvenile Justice Process can be complicated, so having an experienced lawyer by your side is essential. They will guide you through each step as you face these hurdles with your child. The process will go as follows:
Probation – Intake
Once your child has been arrested, they will undergo a DRAI assessment at a Juvenile Assessment Center (JAC). If a JAC is unavailable in your area, an on-call screener will assist them. After that, a Juvenile Probation Officer (JPO) will meet with you and your child to discuss their risks to the public and the service needs. Once done, the JPO will make a recommendation to the State Attorney.
The youth will be placed temporarily in a secure detention facility while awaiting court disposition. It may take up to 21 days but can take longer if they violate court-ordered sanctions. However, within 24 hours, they will go for a detention hearing.
The purpose of the detention hearing is as follows:
- Establish the nature of the youth’s charges
- Determine if the police had enough cause to take the child in
- Find out if the youth’s family can afford to pay for an attorney; if not, a Public Defender is appointed
- Set a date for the adjudicatory trial
- Know where continued detention is necessary
Once the judge determines that detention is required, they will choose from non-secure detention, secure detention, or home detention.
They will undergo a non-jury trial or an Adjudicatory hearing where the youth will appear before a Judge to determine the suitable sanctions and outcomes.
Probation – Supervision
After the hearing, the youth will meet with the JPO to develop a YES plan. It translates to Youth-Empowered Success Plan, a planning tool used to rehabilitate adjudicated delinquents.
Following adjudication, the youth is placed in a residential facility. It’s where they will remain until deemed fit to return to the community. If there’s no space, they will stay at the secure detention center until one is available.
Probation – Transition & Reentry
The JPO will help the youth go into a slow transition until they’re fit to go back to the community. In addition, they may be served by the Community Reentry Team.
Are Juvenile Records Sealed or Expunged?
While juvenile records are confidential, these are still accessible through local law enforcement. However, you can have them sealed or expunged according to Ch. 943, F.S., administered by the FDLE.
The youth can generally have most of their misdemeanors and felonies sealed and expunged after completing a diversion program that authorizes sealing and expunging records.
You’ll need the following for the process:
- Fingerprint card
- Sealing or expungement fee
Submit these to the FDLE once the State Attorney’s Office certifies eligibility. Once the FDLE issues a certification of eligibility, you can bring it to court for the record to be sealed or expunged. A Juvenile Criminal Defense attorney in Clearwater can assist you in these cases.
What Happens if the Youth is Tried as an Adult?
There are certain felony cases where the child is transferred to the adult criminal division to be charged as an adult. Once the child pleads guilty or is found guilty of the criminal offense, they will forever be considered adults in future violations.
There are three ways a child’s case may be transferred to adult court:
- The state seeks to have the grand jury charge juveniles of any age. Indictments are for offenses punishable by death or life imprisonment when the youth is younger than 14.
- The prosecutor requests a waiver motion to transfer a youth of at least 14 to adult court. The judge will review the youth’s history, where they will base their decisions.
- Mandatory or discretionary direct file by the prosecutor means the judge can’t prevent the transfer, and there’s no hearing. It stems from the state law requiring a youth who’s 16 years old and above to be tried as an adult for certain crimes.
If your child is transferred to adult court, you should consult with a juvenile criminal defense lawyer in Clearwater. They will help the child be treated fairly and ensure proper legal representation during these trying times.
Work with a Highly-Qualified Lawyer from Smith & Eulo
If your child is arrested, the only way is to get legal help from a competent lawyer. It’s the only way to ensure that your child’s rights are protected and that they have a fighting chance in court.
At Smith & Eulo, you can immediately get in touch with a Clearwater Juvenile Criminal Defense lawyer. Don’t hesitate to contact us today, and we can study your case to develop the best solution.