When Can a Minor Be Charged as an Adult in Florida?

Juveniles Tried as Adults in Florida Criminal Cases

Waking up in the middle of the night to the sound of your phone ringing and finding out your child has been arrested is a parent’s worst nightmare. After attempting to figure out what your son or daughter did to end up behind bars, your next thought might be whether he or she can be charged as an adult.

Florida leads the country in charging minors as adults. The factors which determine whether your child will face the criminal justice system include his/her age, past criminal history, the seriousness of the offense, and other relevant factors.

While the juvenile justice system is designed to rehabilitate minors who could correct their behavior and avoid becoming a criminal in the future, the criminal justice system is meant to punish criminals. Keep in mind, the courts favor sending minors to juvenile court, unless the alleged crime is especially heinous in nature.

Unlike most states, Florida doesn’t establish a minimum age requirement to refer a child to an adult court. There have been cases in recent history involving children as young as 12 or 13 years of age.

The following are the ways a juvenile’s case may be transferred to adult court:

  • Direct file – The “direct file” statute is responsible for 98 percent of all children in Florida ending up in the criminal justice system. This rule enables prosecutors to refer to a minor’s case from juvenile court to adult court without obtaining a judge’s or jury’s approval. There are two types of direct file: discretionary and mandatory. The former allows prosecutors to file charges for specific felonies against a child who is 14 years of age or older, while the latter relates to certain offenses a child 16 years old or older commits. However, there is no minimum age for capital offenses which are punishable by life imprisonment or death.
  • Waiver – There are three types of waivers: involuntary discretionary, involuntary mandatory, and voluntary. An involuntary discretionary waiver occurs when the prosecutor may file a motion, asking the court to transfer a child’s case to adult court. An involuntary mandatory waver allows a prosecutor to request a transfer a child’s case to adult court since the minor is charged with a second or another violent crime and was previously obtained a delinquent adjudication. A voluntary waiver means a child requests moving his/her trial to adult court.
  • Indictment – If a minor—no matter what age—is charged with a crime which carries a death or life imprisonment sentence, the State can seek a grand jury indictment.

Once a prosecutor decides to try a minor in adult court, the child’s rights will be waived during the trial process. Minors in the criminal justice system will face the same penalties as adults.

If your child has been arrested in Pensacola, contact our experienced criminal defense attorney at the Morris Firm today and let our firm protect your child’s rights and future.

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