WHAT TO DO IF YOUR CHILD IS CHARGED AS A JUVENILE DELINQUENT IN FLORIDA

June 20, 2014


By Deland Criminal Defense Attorney Richard “Jake” Jackson

If a child under 18 years of age has been accused of breaking the law in Florida, he or she can be charged either as a juvenile or as an adult.  In most cases the State will charge a child as a juvenile, unless the charges are extremely serious or the child has an extensive record and is an older teenager.

If the child is taken into custody, he or she will be held in the Juvenile Detention Center rather than the County Jail.  There are 21 Juvenile Detention Centers in the State of Florida.  Here is a list of the Detention Centers in the Central Florida area:

County Where
Offense Occurred   
  Detention Center   Location
Volusia, Flagler: Volusia Regional Juvenile Detention Center Daytona Beach, FL
Brevard: Brevard Juvenile Detention Center Cocoa, FL
Seminole, Orange, Osceola: Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center Orlando, FL
Marion, Lake, Citrus, Hernando, Sumter: Marion Regional Juvenile Detention Center Ocala, FL

For more information about Florida’s Juvenile Detention Centers, including addresses and phone numbers, see the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice website at http://www.djj.state.fl.us/programs-facilities/detention-centers.

As a parent or guardian, you should be notified if your child is arrested or is going to be interrogated by the Police.  The child has a right to have a parent or guardian present during questioning, as well as the right to an attorney and the right to remain silent.  The best course of action for a parent is:(1) to request to see the child as soon as possible; (2) to tell the child not to make any statements or answer any questions until he or she has had a chance to talk with an attorney; and (3) to tell the police that you want to have an attorney present before the child is questioned.You should make sure your child understands NOT TO TALK TO ANYONE OTHER THAN THE CHILD’S ATTORNEY ABOUT THE FACTS OF THE CASE.  ANYTHING that your child says to anyone other than his or her own defense lawyer can be used against your child in court.  Be aware that it is very common for Police to use hidden microphones and video cameras that record conversations between you and your child or between your child and another child.

Sometimes the parent has an urge to encourage the child to give a complete confession to the Police, thinking that the child will be treated less harshly for “cooperating.”  Usually the opposite is true: a confession makes the State’s case stronger, so the child is less likely to receive a favorable plea offer.  The child should ALWAYS consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney before making any statement to the Police.

There are many important differences between being charged as a juvenile versus as an adult.  In Juvenile Court the focus is on rehabilitation and treatment of offenders, while in Adult Court the focus is on punishment of offenders.  Many of the legal terms are different in a Juvenile Delinquency case:  The accused is referred to as “The Child,” not “The Defendant;” he is accused of committing a “Delinquent Act” rather than a “Crime;” his guilt or innocence is determined in an “Adjudicatory Hearing” rather than a “Trial;” and the court’s imposition of sanctions is called the “Disposition,” not the “Sentence.”  There is no right to a jury trial in Juvenile Court: the Judge hears the evidence and determines if the child is guilty or not.

Typically the child and parents will be contacted by the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) and invited to participate in a “staffing” regarding the child.  The purpose of this meeting is for DJJ to obtain background information to prepare a report which will include DJJ’s recommendations to the Court and to the State Attorney regarding how the case should be handled.  You and your child are not required to attend the DJJ staffing.  If you do choose to participate, you and the child should NOT discuss the particular facts of the case.  ANYTHING your child says about the case can be used against him or her in court.  Your child should have a good defense attorney at this stage of the process.

Some parents do not understand the need to vigorously defend a Juvenile Delinquency charge, thinking it is “no big deal” because it is “just” a Juvenile Case.  This is a grave mistake.  A delinquency charge can have serious consequences upon Disposition, including incarceration, fines, probation, suspension of driver license, payment of restitution, and other sanctions.  In some circumstances, the parents may be ordered to contribute toward the restitution that must be paid.  In addition to the penalties and restrictions imposed by the Court at Disposition, there are many other consequences for the child in the future.  Eligibility for scholarships, public benefits and housing, certain fields of employment, and military service can be affected by a juvenile record.  The child may also be placed at a competitive disadvantage for college admissions, jobs, housing or other opportunities due to the way his or her case was disposed by the Court.If the child ever has trouble with the law again, how he will be treated in the court system will depend in part on how his Juvenile Case was handled.  For certain types of offenses, the child may be required to register as a sex offender and will be subject to restrictions for the rest of his life.  The consequences of a Juvenile Delinquency case can be severe and far-reaching.  Juvenile charges should be taken seriously, and should be handled by an experienced criminal defense lawyer.

If your child has been arrested or charged with any violation of Florida’s criminal laws, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.  As a criminal defense lawyer in the DeLand-Daytona Beach-Deltona area since 1985, Richard “Jake” Jackson has handled numerous juvenile delinquency cases throughout Central Florida.  You can contact Attorney Jake Jackson at (386) 738-1111 to schedule a consultation in his DeLand office or at Juvenile Detention Facility.

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