The Morris Firm Can Defend Your Child If They Have Been Charged With Serious Criminal Charges
The defense of a child in juvenile court is very different than in adult criminal court. Preventing a juvenile case from being moved to adult criminal court is a key issue. In the juvenile system, there are no jury trials, and each case is heard by a Circuit Court Judge.
A juvenile charge is a stressful experience for any parent and an important juncture for the child. In some situations, a juvenile charge can serve as a much-needed wake-up call that will be an invaluable learning experience. It is important to handle juvenile cases in a way that allows children to learn and move on with their lives while avoiding a result that lingers even into adulthood.
The Morris Firm has extensive experience defending juvenile criminal cases, and we can use that experience to your family’s advantage. When it comes to your child’s future, nothing should be left to chance.
Contact our Pensacola juvenile crime attorney at The Morris Firm today, so that we can begin working to protect your child from the harsh criminal justice system. Call (850) 503-2626.
Why You Need a Lawyer for Your Juvenile Defense Case
Children make mistakes and unwise decisions. It’s a part of growing up and learning how to be a productive adult. Unfortunately, these mistakes can sometimes land a young person in serious trouble, and they have to contend with a justice system that, while often well-meaning, does not always have their best interests in mind. You need an advocate who will make sure your child’s rights are protected and will do everything possible to ensure they have the best opportunity to overcome their present circumstances.
An attorney experienced in juvenile law can do a thorough investigation of the scene of the arrest, gathering any exculpatory evidence which may be beneficial to your child’s case. They can put together a solid argument for leniency or dismissal of the charges, and make sure that police and prosecutors afford your child all the rights to which they are entitled. Your lawyer can keep you updated on your child’s progress, and make sure you understand all of your options during this difficult and confusing time.
Why You Should Hire The Morris Firm for Your Child’s Defense
The Pensacola juvenile defense attorney at The Morris Firm has successfully defended thousands of clients throughout Florida. We take pride in our ability to provide top-quality representation to everyone who walks through our door. When you hire The Morris Firm, you bring in one of the best legal minds in Pensacola to defend your child’s rights and make sure that they are able to put this difficult period behind them.
Types of Juvenile Offenses in Florida
While juveniles are capable of committing crimes like adults, there are certain types of crimes that a young person is more likely to be charged with.
Some of the most common offenses committed by juveniles include:
- Drug and alcohol possession and use
- Reckless endangerment
These crimes come with penalties that range in severity, from a second-degree misdemeanor to a felony, depending on how much harm is committed and the juvenile’s prior convictions.
The Juvenile Justice System in Florida
In Florida, juvenile convictions are more focused on rehabilitation than on punishment. Juvenile courts have jurisdiction over cases involving offenders under the age of 19. Once a minor is arrested, they are sent to a juvenile assessment center where they will either be detained or sent back home. Regardless of whether or not the minor is detained, they will receive a detention hearing with a judge within 24 hours. The child may have a lawyer present at the hearing.
Following the hearing, a state lawyer will decide whether or not to file charges. Charges filed against a juvenile are called “delinquency petitions.”
If a delinquency petition is filed, the child must attend an arraignment where they will plead:
- Not guilty
- No contest
Most juveniles who plead guilty or are found guilty in trial face probation. Some juveniles may be eligible for pre-trial intervention.
Juvenile Adjudication of Delinquency
Under Florida law, a sentence imposed in a juvenile court is considered an adjudication of delinquency. This adjudication is different from a criminal conviction in adult court, although it is often treated like one. It is not as damaging to one’s record as an adult criminal conviction, but it may affect certain opportunities going forward.
Many employment applications ask about criminal convictions, but adjudications of delinquency aren’t convictions. Employers may consider delinquency adjudications in hiring decisions, but they would need to obtain a court order to access juvenile records. It may still be in the interest of the applicant to inform a potential employer of the adjudication, as there are other ways for companies to access this information.
Driving privileges may be suspended for periods ranging from six months to five years for certain delinquency adjudications, including possession of drugs or paraphernalia, offenses committed with a firearm, misrepresentation of age and possession of alcohol, or possession of a firearm by a minor.
Delinquency adjudications may affect an application for military service. They are considered convictions for a criminal offense under Army regulations. The Air Force, Marines, and Navy treat these adjudications on a case-by-case basis.
Children adjudicated delinquent of a felony offense may not obtain a license for or possess or use a firearm until age 24.
Frequently Asked Questions About Juvenile Offenses
If your child has been arrested and charged with a crime, you doubtless have many questions. An experienced juvenile defense attorney is the best source for guidance about your own child’s case, but here are a few answers to common questions about the juvenile system in Florida.
What is a diversion program, and how can it help my child?
A diversion program is a non-judicial means of handling juvenile offenders. Some of the diversion programs available in Florida include:
- Youth Offender Program (YOP) – Qualified first-time juvenile offenders and their parents participate in a hearing that encourages the child to think about their actions. This program usually lasts 90 days, and charges are dismissed on completion of the program.
- Juvenile Drug Court – Addresses substance abuse-related crimes. This program provides a multi-phased treatment solution and includes regular status updates in front of a judge.
- Youth Crisis Center (YCC) – Provides short-term and long-term housing for at-risk teens. This program provides a safe location for juveniles who have been displaced from their own homes or have aged out of the foster care system, and helps them to transition from their present circumstances into adulthood.
- Helping At-Risk Kids (HARK) – Designed for juveniles who witness or participate in domestic violence.
Your child’s probation officer may recommend that the child receive help through a diversion program if they qualify.
When can a child be tried as an adult?
In the state of Florida, although those under 18 years of age are traditionally tried in the juvenile court system, in some situations, a child under 18 may be tried in the adult system, where the goal is punishment rather than rehabilitation. The concern that your child may end up in the adult system is well-founded—a 2014 MSNBC report found that Florida leads the country in the number of children tried as adults.
Florida has a “direct file” statute which allows a prosecutor to charge an offender who is age 14 or 15 in adult court for one of 21 specific felonies, or an offender who is age 16 or 17 for any felony at all. This decision is not subject to judicial review and may not be appealed. Being tried in adult court can be very detrimental to a young person’s future. They don’t have the same access to solutions for rehabilitation and counseling as those in the juvenile system, and they may be required to spend years in prison and will be followed by their criminal record after completing their sentence.
What is the “Romeo and Juliet” law?
Florida statute 943.04354 allows some offenders to petition the court to waive their requirement to register as a sex offender. This law applies to cases where the victim was between 13 and 17 years old, the offender is no more than four years older than the victim, the sexual activity was consensual, and the offender has no other sex crimes on their record that require registration. The purpose of this law is to prevent teenagers who are sexually active with others of their age from being branded as sexual predators.
Compassionate Representation for Minors
At The Morris Firm, we understand how difficult it can be to go through the juvenile court system. As a parent, you are likely anxious about what will happen to your child and how this ordeal will affect their future. Allow our Pensacola juvenile offense attorney to take on your child’s case and represent them zealously. With over a decade of criminal defense experience, Attorney Brandon Morris knows how to navigate the juvenile court system and protect your child’s rights.
Contact The Morris Firm if your child needs legal representation for a juvenile offense. Call us at (850) 503-2626.