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Delray Beach Juvenile Delinquency Lawyers

If you are a juvenile who has been arrested, or the parent of a juvenile who has been arrested, you may be dealing with confusion and anxiety.  Arrests are difficult at any time, but are particularly overwhelming when the person charged with the crime is a minor.  At Demand the Limits, our Delray Beach juvenile delinquency lawyers are not only experienced criminal defense attorneys, but also familiar with the juvenile justice system.  They can help you navigate a system that is confusing, focusing on keeping your child as safe as possible, as well as getting the help that your family needs to return to normal.

What You Should Know

In Florida, if a minor is charged with a crime, generally those charges are handled by the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ).  The DJJ is similar to, but not the same as, the adult criminal justice system.  While the DJJ Is focused on increasing public safety, it emphasizes prevention, intervention, and treatment over incarceration and punishment.  The primary goal is rehabilitation.  However, in cases where a minor has repeatedly offended or the circumstances of the crime suggest that rehabilitation may not be an option, the DJJ may transfer a prosecution out of the juvenile court and into the adult criminal justice setting.

The decision whether to proceed against an accused as a juvenile or as an adult offender is a significant one.  Not only does trying an offender as an adult open up a much larger range of sentences, but it can also strip a juvenile of most of the protections that he or she would have in a juvenile court setting.  Therefore, it is important to get representation as soon as possible, because an attorney may be able to influence whether a juvenile is tried as a juvenile or as an adult.  You can contact the South Florida juvenile delinquency attorneys at Demand the Limits to schedule a free, confidential consultation to discuss what options may be available for your family.

What happens after a juvenile is arrested depends, in part, on the county where the arrest occurred.  Demand the Limits focuses its practice are in Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade counties, but if you have questions about what might occur in other South Florida counties, please contact us for those answers.  Generally, if a juvenile is suspected of a crime, the juvenile may be arrested immediately or after an investigation has occurred.  Arrested juveniles may be released to their parents or to the county’s Juvenile Assessment Center (JAC).  If the juvenile is released to a parent or guardian, then the arresting agency will send the charges to the State Attorney’s Office for review.  If a minor is released to the JAC, the case is immediately referred to the State Attorney’s Office and the detention process begins.

The first component of the detention process is the Detention Risk Assessment Instrument (DRAI), which is an evaluation of the juvenile that looks at the minor’s criminal history, current charged offense, and any aggravating circumstances.  Then, the Department of Juvenile Justice makes a determination regarding where the offender should be held pending trial.  Options include: secure detention, house arrest, or released to his parents.  Most parents assume that the best option is to be released to parents, however, if a juvenile offender has committed a serious or dangerous offense, less restrictive pre-trial containment gives them an opportunity to reoffend, reducing their chances of a great final outcome.  Therefore, it can be helpful to consult with an attorney to determine the best scenario and then have the attorney advocate for that scenario with DJJ officials.

For offenders who are released to their parents, the arraignment hearing does not occur at the time of arrest.  Instead, juveniles will be served a summons at some time after their release.  This summons directs their parents and/or guardians to attend an arraignment hearing and to produce the juvenile at the hearing.  Failure to appear at this hearing will result in the court issuing a Pick Up Order, which functions like an arrest warrant.

When the DJJ determines that a juvenile defendant meets the criteria for statutory detention, the minor is transported to the nearest regional juvenile detention center for a detention hearing.  The detention hearing occurs the day after the juvenile is remanded to the juvenile detention center for custody.  Juveniles placed on home detention will also have a detention hearing the day after being remanded to detention.  This hearing, which is similar to an arraignment in adult court, is where a judge determines if there is probable cause to believed that the juvenile committed a crime and should be detained. In fact, a formal arraignment is usually held at the same time as the detention hearing.

In Florida, minors cannot be detained for more than 21 days unless their adjudicatory trial has already begun or a continuance has been granted by the court.  Therefore, most juveniles can expect to face an actual hearing on their charges within a very short period of time following their arrest.  This system has pros and cons.  On the one hand, it avoids overly lengthy detentions of juvenile offenders prior to any type of adjudication in the matter.  On the other hand, it can be difficult to adequately prepare a criminal defense within that shortened time period.  An experienced juvenile delinquency attorney can help determine how fast to push through the initial adjudication process, balancing the potential dangers of long-term incarceration on a juvenile with the need to develop a strong defense for the minor.

In addition to facing proceedings in the juvenile justice system, it is also possible for minors to be tried as adults.  This process is not automatic, but can happen in three ways: grand jury indictment; the state filing an indictment or information in adult court; or the juvenile court transferring the case to an adult court on the state’s motion.  Generally, juveniles will only be transferred to the adult system if the crime charged is a serious one and/or the juvenile has a long history of criminal behavior.  At Demand the Limits, we believe that even serious offenses committed by juveniles are best handled in the juvenile justice system, where the focus remains on rehabilitation and the potential penalties are much less severe than in the adult criminal justice system.  In fact, one of the most important fights we might wage in your child’s defense is to keep his or her case in the juvenile justice system.

As with the adult criminal justice system, there are two basic please in the juvenile system: guilty and not guilty.  If a defendant pleads guilty, the case is set for a disposition hearing.  The DJJ prepares a Predisposition Report (PDR), which considers multiple factors and then recommends whether to withhold adjudication, adjudicate with conditions or sanctions, or adjudicating the minor as delinquent and recommending commitment to the DJJ.

If a defendant pleads not guilty, the case is set for an adjudicatory hearing. Unlike adult criminal trials, these hearings are heard by a single judge and do not have a jury trial.  If the judge finds the minor not guilty, the case is concluded.  If the judge finds the minor guilty, then the judge orders the DJJ to prepare a PDR.

Contact Our Delray Beach Juvenile Delinquency Lawyers

The juvenile justice system can be complicated and intimidating for families.  Let the experienced juvenile justice attorneys at Demand the Limits guide you through this difficult time.  Contact us today for a free and confidential consultation.