An Orlando juvenile defense attorney should be retained immediately after a minor has been accused of any type of crime throughout the state of Florida. It is a mistake to assume that the consequences levied against the minor won’t be as severe as those facing an adult. In some situations the justice system may choose to evaluate the minor to adult level, leading to corresponding consequences.

What Happens After A Juvenile Is Accused Of A Crime?

Whenever an individual younger than age 18 is looking at criminal charges in Florida, the case should be handled by the juvenile justice system. The juvenile justice system is very unique from the adult criminal justice system since the primary outcome is based on rehabilitation rather than punishment. In some situations as mentioned above, however, a juvenile case could be directly filed in adult court. While this is not done frequently, these direct filed cases are often associated with a juvenile offender with multiple allegations against him or her, including a serious crime.

A knowledgeable Orlando juvenile defense attorney should be retained right away by the parents of a child who is facing these serious consequences. You will need assistance in understanding the juvenile system and support through the duration of the case from an experienced attorney.

Juvenile Diversion Programs, Probation & Detention Centers

When your daughter or son is processed through the juvenile system in Florida there will be many different questions about the legal process that lies ahead of you. One mistake that is made at a young age can have lasting impacts on the child’s life in terms of education or career. If this is your child’s first time facing the juvenile justice system, you need the support of an experienced criminal defense attorney in Orlando to assist you with identification of options.

The sooner you take action, the easier it will be to figure out which of these choices is most appropriate for you. Many people do not realize the full range of opportunities that can be accessed early on in the case. The State Attorney’s Office, for example, has many different diversion programs that will allow minors to complete some minor sanctions and then have the remaining charges against them dismissed.

In the event that diversion is not an option, however, many juveniles are placed on a probation period and required to meet various probation terms such as completing community service hours, attending school regularly, abiding by a curfew, refraining from committing any new violations and report to a probation officer. In the event that a juvenile continues to violate the law or the terms of the probation, a predisposition report is created and the youth may need to serve a sentence in a juvenile detention facility.

This is frequently the last resort of the juvenile system and why it makes sense to hire an experienced Orlando criminal defense attorney at the outset of your case to minimize these options. You need an attorney who has practiced in this field for years, who knows the ins and outs of justice system who will do everything possible to protect your child’s best interest. The earlier you take action, the easier it will be to fight back.

Phases Of A Juvenile Case

There are many different stages associated with juvenile cases throughout the court system. These are handled differently than adult cases and typically go much more quickly as a result.

1. Arrest, Release & Detention

The first phase of a juvenile case in Florida is the arrest, release and detention. While law enforcement will deliver the child to the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) at the Juvenile Assessment Center after the juvenile has been taken into custody, a counselor working for DJJ then puts together a report to assess risk to identify whether or not the child’s case fits the grounds for detention.

If the officer determines that non-secure detention is recommended, that child could be released to his or her guardian or parent and they may receive additional supervision managed by a DJJ counselor. There are strict rules associated with non-secure detention that must be followed carefully, and if the child fails to comply with these rules he or she could be moved to a detention center.

2. Detention Hearing

The next phase of a juvenile case is the detention hearing. The detention hearing has to be scheduled and completed  no later than 24 hours of the arrest if a juvenile is kept overnight. A judge then evaluates the specifics of the case to determine whether or not the juvenile should be released and what conditions, if any, may be necessary to protect the public. If the juvenile is not released, he or she could stay in that juvenile detention center for as long as 21 days. In certain situations the judge may have the discretion to extend this to 30 days.

3. Intake

The next phase of a juvenile case is known as intake. The State Attorney uses this time to evaluate the details of the case to determine whether or not any charges will be formally  filed against the juvenile. This occurs between the time of the child’s arrest and the next court date. If there is ample evidence, then the State Attorney may file a petition outlining the charges that the State will file against the juvenile.

4. Arraignment

Arraignment is the next step in a juvenile case, and one that should prompt the parents of the accused individual to hire a criminal defense attorney. A juvenile typically appears for arraignment approximately three weeks after the arrest. This is the phase of a case in which the State formally notifies the juvenile of the charges against the accused and asks them to file a plea to these charges. The plea options include not guilty, guilty, or no contest. It is critical to have retained an experienced Orlando criminal defense lawyer by this time because less than one month after the arraignment the trial may be scheduled.

5. Discovery

Once the trial has been scheduled and after the arraignment date, the attorneys will begin a procedure referred to as discovery. This means exchanging the evidence that will be used in the case. The victim and any other witnesses may be subpoenaed to provide a sworn statement under oath about the facts  of the case. The State Attorney will also be providing the juvenile’s criminal defense attorney with any documents, reports or recordings that they have and intend to us in court.

6. Pre-Trial Diversion Programs

Pre-trial diversion programs may be an option, but only when you retain a lawyer who takes action quickly to explore this opportunity. There are a few different programs for first time juvenile offenders to be involved in. Every program is different, but requires the juvenile to follow critical rules and complete various sanctions.

These sanctions could include an apology letter, restitution, community service or counseling. If the program is completed effectively by the minor the charges will be dropped. If the juvenile fails to fulfill the requirements of the program, the charges are then reactivated and the State will pursue prosecution.

Juvenile Pleas & Verdicts

A defendant can always alter a previous plea of not guilty. The defense and the State Attorney will usually work together at this phase of the case to try to resolve the case without a trial. After the juvenile shifts their plea no contest or guilty there is no trial and sentencing occurs. If no agreement can be reached between the prosecution and the criminal defense attorney, then the case goes to trial. A judge decides all trials in juvenile court and there are no juries.

The State bears the responsibility of proving and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt that the defendant indeed did commit this crime. The defendant, however, is not required to prove anything. The victim and any other witnesses may be subpoenaed to testify and cross-examined by the State.

After all of this information has been effectively presented to the court, the judge then makes the determination about whether the defendant is not guilty or guilty and will verbally share this verdict in the courtroom. In the event that the defendant is determined guilty, the judge can request that DJJ put together a predisposition report recommending juvenile sanctions. This report is an inquiry into the criminal history, family circumstances and background of the juvenile. It is completed separately by DJJ and then provided to the defense attorney, the Assistant State Attorney, the judge and the defendant. This includes a sentencing recommendation, although the judge holds the ultimate ability to determine whether or not to accept this. Judges are not required to order DJJ to put together a predisposition report.

After the defendant has entered a plea to the charge and been found guilty, the sentencing hearing or dispositional hearing is set. The judge then sentences the juvenile in a way that they deem to be appropriate for the charges and other issues associated with the case. The juvenile court will maintain jurisdiction regarding the accused until their 19th birthday. However, this can be extended to age 21 in certain situations.

Sentencing Types in Juvenile Cases

There are two primary kinds of sentences that may be imposed on the juvenile. The first is probation, and the judge will also likely request an apology letter, counseling or community service, depending on the specifics of the case.

The second type of sentence is known as commitment, which means that the juvenile could be committed at a level considered in line with his or her crime. There are four major areas of commitment. A low risk program lasts up to 45 days, moderate risk assessments can be as long as six months. This is in comparison to up to nine months with  a high risk program and juvenile prison may be assessed for as long as 36 months.

Contact An Experienced Orlando Juvenile Defense Attorney

Given the high stakes involved and potentially long-lasting consequences from juvenile charges, it is important to retain the services of a knowledgeable Orlando criminal defense attorney immediately. Attorney Chad Frost is a former Florida State Attorney who’s prosecuted hundreds of cases. He understands exactly how the prosecution thinks and can bring that knowledge to your child’s case. Contact Frost Law today at (407) 670-5569 for a free consultation and case review.