What Is The Juvenile Criminal Process From Arrest To Resolution?

Disclaimer: This article is in response to questions frequently asked of Mr. Cobb and is an unedited dictation transcript. Just like talk to text on your smartphone, there may be misspelled words or sentence fragments.

Florida’s juvenile procedure is very important to understand, from arrest to resolution. Adult criminal cases are handled under Rule 3, while juvenile cases are handled under Rule 8. If you were to imagine the legal system for juvenile cases, it looks diagrammatically very similar to how an adult case is handled. If you were to take a sheet of paper and draw on it, you would draw an upside down capital letter Y. At the top of that upside down letter Y, you would write the word “Arrest.” Right below that, you would make a tick mark, and you’d put the word “Arraignment.” Some counties don’t use the word arraignment. For example, Okaloosa County calls arraignment Plea Day, and this confuses many lawyers if they are not used to practicing in different counties. This is why knowledge of local rules is so important. One key difference between adult and juvenile cases is that in the adult case, you can waive a client’s appearance at arraignment.

However, in juvenile cases, their appearance at arraignment is required by virtually all judges. The reason is because most judges want to “Teach them a lesson,” although I personally find it to be pointless, and a major inconvenience for clients and their families. The next thing that will happen is that after the case goes to arraignment, there will be a pretrial conference. There may or may not be a motion hearing scheduled on what is called the Court’s Miscellaneous Docket. Finally, you will have it come down to a docket day, and that’s where the diagram veers out in two directions. In one direction it goes to settlement, and in the other direction it goes to trial. There is no right to a jury trial on a juvenile case, because the judge acts as both judge and jury.

Additionally, a trial in a juvenile case is actually not even called a trial. The technically correct terminology is to refer to that trial proceeding as a disposition review hearing. A disposition review hearing is very much like an adult criminal jury trial, with the exception that it’s not going to take as long as a jury trial. This is because most of the things that you do in a jury trial are very different than what you do with the bench trial, in either adult court or juvenile court. A lot of things are streamlined, simply because you don’t have to approach every time an objection is made because there is no jury. Overall, it’s somewhat similar to a bench trial in adult court. However, when it comes to juvenile cases, the handling of these cases is critically important. It must be done correctly, so that the young person in question does not have legal damage inflicted upon their life that can haunt them forever.

What Are The Penalties For Juvenile Offense Convictions In Florida?

The penalties for juvenile offense convictions can start with a Conditioned Negotiated Dismissal. This is an agreement between the state of Florida and the defense, stating that the charges will be dismissed if a juvenile does A, B, and C. There may be more or less conditions, depending upon the case. The penalties can range up to incarceration in a juvenile detention facility. A juvenile can be held, confined in a juvenile detention facility, until they are 19 years of age. Finally, the worst outcome for a juvenile is if their case is kicked over to adult felony court. Not too long ago, the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that the death penalty is illegal in juvenile cases. The worst possible thing that can happen to a juvenile is that they would be sentenced to an extremely long period of time in the state prison, as if they were an adult.

However, the Supreme Court has said that it is unlawful to give them life in prison without parole, or to stack sentences in such a way that it amounts to life in prison. For example, one of the creative ways that judges have sentenced juveniles who have multiple counts is to sentence them in such a manner that the maximum penalty runs back-to-back. A second-degree felony carries a 15-year maximum. Now, imagine a group of juveniles break into an apartment complex, and they burglarize 10 different units. If that juvenile is waived to adult court, and has a significant prior record, based on 10 counts at a 15-year maximum for each, the judge could theoretically impose the maximum in each one back-to-back, in what we call Consecutive Sentencing instead of concurrent.

It would result in a 150-year sentence. Since that exceeds the lifespan that is reasonably foreseeable for any juvenile, it becomes an unlawful sentence. The worst thing that can happen through adult sentencing is to be in jail or prison for many decades.

Disclaimer: This article is in response to questions frequently asked of Mr. Cobb and is an unedited dictation transcript. Just like talk to text on your smartphone, there may be misspelled words or sentence fragments.

For more information on Juvenile Criminal Process In Florida, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (850) 669-5882 today.

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