Juvenile Crimes Lawyer in Sarasota, FL
There are always consequences for your actions. This is an important lesson to learn in life, and the earlier you embrace it, the better you will be down the road. For this reason, the state of Florida will prosecute you if you commit a crime, no matter if you’re an adult or still a child.
However, because children often aren’t fully aware of their actions and the related consequences, and to give offenders the chance to redeem themselves and live law-abiding, productive lives, juvenile crimes are treated differently than those committed by adults. The entire legal process, including punishments, is unique.
If you’ve been charged with a juvenile crime in Sarasota, FL, get in touch with Smith & Eulo to help you navigate this process. Until then, here’s everything you need to know about these charges and what they mean.
Juvenile Crimes: Explained
Although treated differently by the law, juvenile crimes are the same as any other crime. Whether it’s theft, burglary, assault, battery, or anything else, the only difference is that juvenile crimes are committed by those who are under the age of 18 at the time of the offense.
However, age isn’t the only factor. The courts will consider the specifics of the individual case, as well as the person who committed it, to decide if juvenile justice is the right path forward. In some cases, even if you are under the age of 18, if the courts determined you knowingly and intentionally committed the act, they can still try you as an adult, which will lead to more serious punishments.
At the moment, the youngest a person can be to be tried as an adult is just 14. This usually does not happen unless the charge is for something very serious, such as murder or drug trafficking. But it is possible.
There is no minimum age to be tried in juvenile court.
Blurring the Lines Between Juvenile and Adult Court
The juvenile justice system is largely separate from the regular courts, but it’s not uncommon for a case to be dealt with by both, especially when the offender is nearly an adult.
A common thing to happen is that kids will be tried in regular court but sentenced in juvenile court. This helps keep kids out of the prison system, but it also puts the crime on a person’s record, which is a powerful consequence for someone so young.
Juvenile Justice in Florida
The juvenile justice system works a bit differently than the traditional courts, though minors are still afforded the same, if not more, protections and rights as anyone else accused of a crime.
After being arrested by a member of law enforcement, the minor will be taken to a Juvenile Assessment Center (JAC), where the decision will be made about whether to press charges. For smaller offenses, the courts may decide to proceed with just a warning, though this is not always the case.
If charges are going to be filed, then the accused will be taken to juvenile detention center for no more than 24 hours. Florida law requires that they have their detention hearing at least within this window.
At this point, a judge will likely issue a “Notice to Appear.” This allows them to leave the detention facility so long as a parent or legal guardian makes a legally binding promise to bring them back to court for their trial.
In some rare cases, when the judge determines the child to be a risk to themselves or others, the judge will not approve the release. But when this happens, the trial, according to law, must happen within 21 days. This measure is to prevent the unnecessary or excessive incarceration of minors.
Juvenile Diversion Programs
The purpose of the juvenile justice system in Florida is not to ruin young people’s futures. Instead, it is to demonstrate that there are consequences to be paid for breaking the law. For this reason, juvenile diversion programs were created.
Typically including an admission of guilt, reparations, community service, letters of apology, and so on, these programs give children the chance to make amends for their actions without facing excessive long-term consequences.
One of the best things about these programs is that they remove the arrest from the child’s record upon completion. The duration of the diversion program changes from case to case.
Some judges are more willing to approve this option than others, and the terms of the deal are always up for negotiation. Therefore, if you are facing juvenile charges, make sure to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney. They will help you work with the justice system to develop a program that works for all.
Juvenile Trials and Sentencing
If a pre-trial diversion is not issued, then the case will go to trial. However, unlike adults 18-years-old and over, juveniles who have been accused of a crime will not receive a jury trial. Instead, all decisions related to guilt and sentencing will be made directly by the judge.
During the trial, the same standards of proof apply. The prosecution must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the crime was committed by the person who has been accused.
If found guilty, the judge will issue sentencing, which usually means one of two things: probation or time served in a juvenile detention center.
Probation is the more lenient of the two punishments. It is a legal status in which the accused is free to go but restricted from doing certain things. The biggest is always going to be avoiding criminal activity. If arrested or found guilty of any crime during probation, your case may be reopened and you may face harsher consequences.
During your time on probation, you will be assigned to a probation officer who will be responsible for making sure you’re complying with the terms of your probation.
The alternative, and more severe, option is incarceration. Juveniles, unless tried and convicted as adults, will not go to regular prison but will instead be sent to a Juvenile Detention Center.
The maximum amount of time a minor can spend in a Juvenile Detention Center in Florida is 36 months, or three years.
If incarcerated, it’s quite likely you will reenter society under probation, the terms of which will be determined by the courts.
Hire the Best Juvenile Crimes Lawyer in Sarasota, FL
No matter how old you are, if you’ve been accused of a crime, the first thing you should do is hire an experienced criminal attorney. However, as a minor, it’s even more important. There are many more variables to consider, and the stakes are much higher.
Of the many reasons why, you should hire a lawyer to handle your case, the most important are:
- Negotiate the charge — Not all juvenile arrests are brought to the Juvenile Justice System. A lawyer can meet you at the Juvenile Assessment Center and help avoid charges from ever happening.
- Pre-trial diversions — If charges are filed, this is going to be your best option. An experienced lawyer can make it happen and create the best possible outcome.
- Sentencing — If convicted, sentencing is not set in stone. A good lawyer will work with the courts to help find a solution that is as fair as possible.
At Smith & Eulo, we have immense experience working in juvenile crimes in Sarasota, FL and understand the system well. If charged, get in touch with us as soon as you can so that we can begin crafting your defense and protecting your future.
* Here are some additional legal resources in the Sarasota area to help you navigate your situation.
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