The Florida judicial system recognizes that crimes committed by individuals below the age of 18 years should be handled carefully. The intent here is to correct and rehabilitate rather than punish. With these objectives in mind, the law has instituted the Juvenile legal system that deals explicitly with instances of a misdemeanor, felony, violating a local ordinance, or contempt of court. Juvenile courts call them “delinquent acts,” and offenders are given penalties accordingly.
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Juvenile crimes lawyers are professionals who have an in-depth understanding of a young person’s emotional, mental, and psychological makeup. They’ll take the time to gather information about the facts of the case and build an effective defense to ensure that a single childhood mistake does not follow a young person into adulthood. Get in touch with our Daytona Beach lawyers right away as soon as your child is arrested, and you receive notification from law enforcement. We are open 24/7 ready to hear your case and craft a defense strategy specific to your situation. Call us today!
Juvenile Crimes Can be Delinquency Offenses and Status Offenses
The justice system categorizes juvenile crimes into delinquency offenses or status offenses, and issues penalties according to the severity of the act. Repeat offenders and those committing serious crimes such as rape or murder are typically tried in adult courts.
Delinquency offenses are the juvenile version of a criminal charge. Rather than presenting at a criminal court of law, juvenile courts are used instead. The justice system understands that kids don’t fully comprehend the seriousness of their actions. These acts include:
- Theft or taking money and property belonging to another person without their knowledge and consent. Fines and restitution to the victims are typical penalties.
- Drug or illegal substance possession is a misdemeanor drug violation. Offenders can get sentences like mandatory drug counseling, house arrest, probation, or detention in a juvenile facility.
- Emotionally distressing someone with acts like stalking, bullying, harassing, or threatening is a punishable offense. Most schools have a strict anti-bullying policy and may suspend the offender. Counseling and house arrest may also be awarded.
- Trespassing on a property when they’re asked to leave, open-house parties, and underage DUI are other serious offenses.
Status offenses are only applicable to juveniles. They include acts like:
- Missing school for 15 days or more out of 90 calendar days without a valid excuse, termed “habitual truancy.” Even if the juvenile has parental consent, they must undergo punishment such as counseling and community service. Taking alternative classes to make up for missed schooling is also mandatory.
- The state of Florida enforces a curfew for minors to keep them safe. Children are restricted from appearing in a public location without adult supervision between 11:00 pm and 5:00 am from Saturday through Thursday. Breaking curfew can earn them a written warning for the first offense.
- Any individual below the age of 21 years is not legally permitted to possess or consume alcohol, which can be considered a misdemeanor. The offense carries a fine of $500 and possibly time in jail.
Delinquent Act Penalties can be Formal or Informal
Any penalties and punishments are geared toward disciplining the juvenile and preventing any further offenses. Accordingly, juvenile courts, judges, and prosecutors prefer to use informal or formal steps to handle a delinquent case. Here’s how:
Police officers would prefer to avoid the juvenile entering the legal system. They’re likely to issue a warning and let the offender go. Or, they may inform the parents and release the child into their custody. If the officer does choose to arrest the juvenile, the prosecutors may decide to forego a formal hearing. Depending on the situation, the case might end up in juvenile court. Judges typically order penalties that won’t be included in the permanent record. Like, for instance, community service, fines, counseling, and restitution to the victims.
If the crime is serious, the prosecutor may choose to file formal charges and file a petition in juvenile court. The minor is produced before a judge within 24 hours for an arraignment. The judge hears the facts of the case and arguments from the prosecutor and defense attorney.
Minors are not entitled to a jury trial, but their parents are present. In juvenile cases, the court takes a holistic approach by exploring the family situation and learning more about the minor’s background. Parents are also permitted to participate by speaking before the judge. Often, penalties are ordered in keeping with the other factors aside from the actual delinquent acts. Here are some of the ways the case can proceed.
- Plea agreement where the juvenile pleads guilty or no contest to the charges for lesser charges. The judge may decide to order counseling or probation to discipline the minor and avoid further charges from being filed.
- Diversion program where the court diverts the case but maintains jurisdiction. Minors must go through rehabilitation, counseling sessions, community service, and restitution. Formal charges can be dropped on condition that the juveniles follow court orders.
- Adjudicatory hearing where the judge hears arguments and sustains the petition if the minor is guilty.
Typical Penalties Awarded to Juveniles
Penalties are awarded to juveniles with the purpose of educating them on the consequences of breaking the law. Typically, sentences may include restitution, fines, counseling, and community service. Probation, house arrest, and curfew could also be awarded. Detention in a juvenile correction facility is ordered only in rare cases when the crime is serious.
Contact the Attorneys at Smith & Eulo Right Away
Juvenile offenses can have long-term repercussions on a young person’s life. Repeated offenses can make it hard to get a higher education, scholarships, and gainful employment. Your minor could also lose the right to vote.
Your best chance at giving them the best defense and resolving the issue is consulting the experienced attorneys at Smith & Eulo. Trust in their expertise gained from more than 20 years dealing with similar cases. They are trained in handling juvenile cases and advise you on what to say and do in court.