Like any parent, you hope that your child never has to go through the juvenile system. Sometimes, however, events happen that are out of your control and you get a call informing you of your child’s arrest. The devastation is unexplainable.
Thankfully, you do not have to go it alone. With an attorney, you can better your child’s chances of fighting off the allegations.
It’s important to act promptly. If your child has already been taken into custody, he or she has a right to communicate with you and the right to an attorney. Do not let your child speak to the police before contacting an attorney.
What Happens after Your Child Is Taken into Custody?
If your child has been taken into custody for a suspected delinquency, he or she will be sent to the Juvenile Assessment Center (JAC) for detention pending disposition in court. At the JAC, your child will undergo screening by staff from the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) to determine whether he or she should continue to be held in secure detention or placed in home detention.
If statutory criteria for secure detention are met, the child is detained at the facility pending a disposition. If not, the child is sent to home detention and informed of the date/time of his or her disposition hearing.
At the Disposition Hearing…
A child who is detained has to be given a hearing within 24 hours of being taken into custody. At the disposition hearing, the judge will determine whether there is probable cause to believe the child perpetrated a delinquent act. He or she will also determine the need for detention based on the law and material evidence provided.
If the court finds that a probable cause exists, it will make such an order and call for an adjudicatory hearing – a non-jury trial. If not, the court will release the child from detention and dismiss the case.
What You Need to Know about the Juvenile System
The juvenile system is very different from the adult criminal justice system. For one, it is geared more toward rehabilitation than incarceration. Discretion is given at various steps of the process. For example, there are diversion programs available allowing charges against a child to be dropped if he or she completes counseling, does community service, and writes letters of apology.
You may also seek to have a case referred to community arbitration programs outside the juvenile court system. An attorney will guide you on how to pursue these options.
Even if the case against your child proceeds, if it is kept in juvenile, there will be no public record of it and no jail time.
You want to keep it there.
But in Florida, it is possible to try a child as an adult. Some state attorneys may even seek to prosecute your child in an adult court. It is wise to have an attorney by your side, fighting to keep the case in juvenile court.
Have a Florida attorney represent your child immediately after arrest. An attorney will help your child secure home detention pending a hearing and challenge the legal basis of the charge and whether requirements were met before it was filed at the hearing. The attorney may also help you pursue non-court resolution programs or keep the case in juvenile courts.