Florida’s juvenile court system is for people aged 17 and under, though they can have jurisdiction over people aged up to 21 in special circumstances. The juvenile court system functions as an institute to rehabilitate juveniles who have committed “delinquent acts”–but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have an attorney.
If a minor in your life has been accused of a delinquent act it’s important to work with an attorney to strategize for the minimum amount of penalties possible. Even if they were to receive a juvenile criminal record, their childhood mistakes could affect them long term.
What crimes can a juvenile be charged with?
If your child has been accused of committing a delinquent act, their offense may be categorized as either a delinquency offense or a status offense.
Delinquency offenses are crimes that would lead to a criminal trial if they were committed by an adult. These include the following:
- Stealing money, possessions, or property from someone else. If charged with this act, a minor would typically pay a fine and restitution.
- Knowingly possessing a controlled or illegal substance. Penalties for this action include drug counseling, house arrest, or even juvenile detention.
- Causing distress or fear in another person through threats, stalking, harassment, or other actions. A minor will be penalized for these crimes with counseling and house arrest.
Status offenses occur in situations that only minors find themselves in.
- When a student misses 15 or more days of school in a 90 day period, a minor can be convicted of truancy. A student with these charges will have to attend counseling or alternative counseling, or complete community service.
- Violating Florida’s 11 PM to 5 AM curfew between Sunday and Thursday The first offense for this act is a written warning.
- Minors in possession of alcohol can be charged with a misdemeanor in Florida, and they may have to pay $500 and may have jail time
Formal or Informal Charges
When a minor is caught committing a delinquent act, the arresting officer, prosecutor, or juvenile court judge may choose to pass a formal or informal judgement.
Informal judgments are when an officer lets a minor go with a warning or holds them until their parents pick them up. In court, informal judgments are when the judge orders them to complete community service, counseling, or pay restitution. No charges will show up on their permanent record.
Formal action occurs when the prosecutor chooses to file a petition for formal charges. In this case, the minor will be arraigned and appear before a judge. Their court appearance won’t include a jury, and the judge will be the deciding factor in their case. A hearing may result in the following:
- Counseling or probation if the juvenile has plead guilty or is not contesting the charges
- The judge may choose a diversion program for the minor to complete, such as rehab, community service, counseling, or restitution
- The judge may “sustain the petition” if the minor is ultimately found guilty
The type of action chosen will depend on the act that was committed.
If your child is accused of a delinquent act, you can keep their childhood mistakes from affecting their future by contacting an experienced juvenile defense attorney near you in the Tampa area. Contact us today for a free consultation, or call now to speak with one of our criminal defense lawyers.
Here are some legal resources in the Tampa Bay area to help you navigate your legal situation.