In Florida, juvenile crimes are those that are committed by defendants under the age of 18. Both Felonies and Misdemeanors are before a circuit court Judge in Florida. Misdemeanors involving traffic offenses are handled in county court.
Serious felony cases, like armed robbery, carjacking, murders, etc. are reviewed by the State Attorney's Office to determine if the case should be "direct filed." If the case is direct filed then the child will be treated as an adult in adult circuit court and will face adult penalties. Obviously we don't want this to happen since we want the child to receive juvenile penalties that are more reasonable and rehabilitating than adult penalties. An experienced juvenile defense attorney can step in during this process and negotiate a resolution of the case where the child will receive juvenile penalties and not face adult court and adult penalties.
In juvenile cases, there are different diversionary programs which allow the child to keep the charge off their record. In most cases, an experienced criminal attorney will try to get the child into the proper program which would allow the child to have a clean record upon completion.
The Department of Juvenile Justice also plays a major role in juvenile cases; they frequently make recommendations to aid the Judge and prosecutor. The child usually meets with the Department before their first court date. Juveniles with prior records are often offered “programs” by the prosecutor. These programs range from week-long boot camps to youthful offender prison-like sentences. When incarcerated, Juveniles are held at separate facilities than adults (unless the case was direct filed).
One of the distinctions regarding juvenile court is that upon arrest, the child is not necessarily entitled to a bond. This is different from adult court where the defendant is given the opportunity for a bond within 24 hours of arrest. In juvenile cases, within 24 hours of arrest, the child will go before the Judge in a detention hearing, who will then determine whether he will let the child be released and when. The Judge can keep the child for up to 21 days with no bond if the offense is egregious enough. The Judge can also order the child released to the family or kept for any period of time up to 21 days.
Curfew is another issue in juvenile cases. In almost all Juvenile cases, while the child is awaiting his first court date, he or she is usually under a behavior order issued by the Judge. This behavior order will specify certain conditions that the child must follow. Among other things, there is usually a curfew the child must abide by. The Judge will also mandate that the child goes to school, gets a job, or both.
Another issue unique to Juvenile cases is that the child is not entitled to a jury trial. If there is a trial held at the conclusion of the case, the Judge will be the trier of fact and make the decision.
If your child has been charged with a crime in Miami you need an experienced criminal lawyer to fight for your child's rights. Miami Juvenile Defense Attorney Antonio Jimenez has prosecuted juvenile cases in Miami-Dade County and has defended juvenile delinquency cases. He knows how the juvenile system works. Please contact him today to discuss your child's legal options.