Juvenile Charges

There are few things more frightening and overwhelming than your child being charged with a juvenile offense. When a child under 18 is charged with a crime, the juvenile system typically handles the case.

The juvenile system differs from the adult criminal justice system in that its primary focus is on rehabilitating juveniles instead of punishing them. However, there are instances where a juvenile’s case is filed in the adult court.

Attorney for Juvenile Charges in Treasure Coast, FL

If your child is being investigated for a juvenile offense, it would be in your best interest to contact Meltzer & Bell as soon as possible. Our attorneys are experienced with juvenile cases, and they will fight to ensure your child’s rights are protected.

Call Meltzer & Bell today at (772) 291-2534 to schedule a free case consultation or submit your information in the online form. We represent clients in the counties along the Treasure Coast that include Martin and Saint Lucie.

Overview of Juvenile Charges in Florida

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Juvenile Justice System Process

Understanding the juvenile justice system process allows for parents and legal guardians to be adequately involved in what their child is going through. In Florida, a child in juvenile court may go through the following process:

Law Enforcement: Once a juvenile is arrested, law enforcement will take the child to the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). A DJJ counselor will prepare a risk assessment report to determine if the juvenile meets certain criteria for secure detention.

Law enforcement will complete an arrest document that states the charges against the child. Law enforcement will then present a sworn complaint with evidence to the State Attorneys Office.

A juvenile may be released to their parent/legal guardian for non-secure detention where they will receive daily supervision from a DJJ counselor. If the juvenile fails to follow non-secure detention guidelines, they could be put in the detention center.

Detention Hearing: If a juvenile is held in a detention center, the court is required to hold a detention hearing within 24 hours of the arrest. The judge will decide if the child should be released, and if so, what are the conditions needed to protect the community and the public. If the judge decides not to release the juvenile, they could remain in the detention center for up to 21 days.

State Attorney Investigation: Once the State Attorney’s office receives the formal complaint from law enforcement, an Assistant State Attorney (ASA) will review the case. If the ASA finds sufficient evidence, charges may be filed against the child.

Arraignment: Typically about three weeks after the juvenile’s arrest, they will appear for an arraignment. During the hearing, the juvenile will be informed of the charges filed against them by the state and asked to enter a plea. It is imperative that your child has obtained legal counsel by this time.

Discovery: Between the arraignment and trial date, Florida law allows for the juvenile’s defense attorney to interview witnesses prior to the trial.

Pretrial Diversion Programs: There are numerous pre-trial diversion programs available to first-time juvenile offenders. Every program is different but requires the child to abide by specific rules and complete certain sanctions such as counseling, community service and restitution.

Pretrial Conference: This conference is held one week before the trial. The child is required to appear in court, and this is their last chance to plea. If the juvenile pleads guilty or no contest, there will be no trial and the case will be moved to sentencing. In many cases, though, the State Attorney and defense lawyer will deliberate on how to resolve the case without a trail.

Trial: If the State Attorney and the child’s defense lawyer cannot reach an agreement, the case will go to trial. There are no juries in juvenile court; instead, a judge decides the case.

Verdict: The judge will sentence the juvenile with penalties that are appropriate to the crime. Charges typically include probation or commitment. The juvenile courts have jurisdiction over the child until her or his 19th birthday.

Depending on the crime the juvenile is charged with, the State Attorney may choose to charge the child as an adult and transfer their case to adult criminal court. Florida transfers more children from the juvenile system and into the adult court system than any other state in the country.

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Juvenile Sentencing

Like an adult crime, the sentencing for a juvenile offense depends on the type of crime committed and other factors such as previous arrests and the extent of the crime.

Typically, a juvenile will be sentenced to probation, house or juvenile detention. If a child is sentenced to juvenile detention they could be sentenced to one of following levels:

  • Low-risk program that lasts for 30-45 days
  • Moderate risk program that lasts for four to six months
  • High-risk program that can last for six to nine months
  • Juvenile Prison for 18-36 months.

If a child is sent to a juvenile detention center, they will not be sentenced past their 18th birthday.

The second penalty a judge may impose on the juvenile is probation. If a juvenile is sentenced to probation, they will be required to fulfill certain conditions that may include:

  • Submitting to random drug and alcohol testing
  • Attending school full time with no suspensions or unexcused absences
  • Performing community service
  • Participating in individual or family counseling
  • Avoid contact with people who are classified as a bad influence
  • Make restitution to any victims

If a juvenile is ordered to pay fines or restitution, the responsibility to do so will fall on the parents or guardian of the child. If the juvenile’s parents fail to pay fines or restitution, their paycheck may be garnished.

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Additional Resources for Juvenile Charges in Treasure Coast, FL

Martin County Juvenile FAQ– The Clerk of the Circuit and Court Comptroller of Martin County provides a form over some frequently asked questions about juveniles. Some of the questions include where to make restitution payments, what is classified as a delinquent act and where to get information on hard to understand terms.

Agencies that Deal with Juvenile Issues– Follow this link to the Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller of Martin County to see addresses, phone numbers and website of the agencies in the Treasure Coast that handle juvenile issues. Some of the agencies include the Department of Children and Families, Saint Lucie Regional Juvenile Detention Center and the Department of Juvenile Justice.

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Lawyer for Juvenile Charges in Treasure Coast, FL

Going through the juvenile justice system can be a frightening experience for both the child and his or her parents. Having the guidance of a proven and experienced legal counsel from Meltzer & Bell can ease the stress of dealing with the juvenile system.

We represent clients with juvenile charges in counties along the Treasure Coast that include Martin and Saint Lucie. Call Meltzer & Bell today at (772) 291-2534 or submit your information in the online contact form to schedule a case consultation.

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