Juvenile Crimes Lawyers in Fort Myers, FL
If you are a juvenile or the parent of a juvenile who has been arrested, is under investigation, or has been contacted for a police interview, it is important for you to know that juveniles have the same constitutional rights as adults. This includes having the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. The juvenile justice system does, however, have its own set of rules and laws that apply to minor offenders. Although certain felony charges can result in a minor’s case being transferred to the adult criminal justice system, most minors have their cases adjudicated entirely within the juvenile system. For this reason, retaining the services of an experienced juvenile defense attorney is invaluable.
A juvenile crime is a criminal act committed by a minor—that is, a person below the age of 18. In Florida, the most common juvenile crimes include:
- Alcohol-related offenses
- Criminal trespassing
- Curfew violations
- Disorderly conduct
- False reporting
- Mischief or criminal nuisance
- Possession of drug paraphernalia
- Possession of marijuana
- Possession of stolen property
- Possession of a weapon
- Reckless endangerment
- Resisting an officer
- Running away
- School-related disciplinary offenses
- Simple assault or battery
- Theft or larceny
- Tobacco offenses
- Traffic violations
- Unauthorized use of a motor vehicle
Once a law enforcement agency initiates an investigation concerning a minor, the case is typically referred to the Department of Juvenile Justice. In determining whether the juvenile or adult justice system should have jurisdiction over the case, several variables are then considered, including the minor’s personal history and the severity of the offense. If the case remains in juvenile court, formal charges may be filed in a petition. Then, evidence is presented and argued in an adjudicatory hearing. Following the hearing, a judge makes a determination as to the best interest of the youth. Potential outcomes could include but are not limited to confinement, counseling, victim reimbursement, and probation.
In cases in which the crime is minor, one possible outcome may be diversion. In diversion, the youth has the option of participating in various programs as an alternative to traditional sentencing. The court may also instruct the youth to do community service, write a letter of apology, or pay restitution. By completing diversion, the youth may be able to have adjudication withheld or earn a complete dismissal of the charges.
In cases that are more serious or in which the youth has a past criminal history, the court is more likely to recommend probation. Probation can also come with requirements to complete community service and pay restitution, in addition to having to report regularly to a probation office.
The main objective of the juvenile justice system is rehabilitation over punishment. However, it is important to remember that juvenile charges can have serious long-lasting consequences. Depending on the circumstances, juveniles can have their rights taken away and spend time in a jail or detention facility. They can be excluded from receiving college financial aid, accessing various educational opportunities, joining the military, and living in public housing. The justice system can continue to be involved in the juvenile’s life well into adulthood. If a juvenile is charged with a felony, he or she can even be sentenced as an adult, and the adult criminal court is no laughing matter.
If a judge has waived your child’s juvenile court protections, or if your child has been automatically transferred to the adult system and is facing trial as an adult, you have to have a strong case and an aggressive, knowledgeable defense attorney on your side. If your child or anyone you know is charged with a juvenile crime, contact Robert Foley Law immediately for a free initial consultation.