Knowing your child is facing criminal charges and a possible conviction in juvenile court can be frightening. Navigating the congested Florida juvenile courts without an experienced juvenile defense attorney can be a daunting process. Further, cases involving juvenile crimes can be difficult and complex, as juvenile cases are often handled differently than adult court prosecutions.
A Florida juvenile court record could negatively affect your child’s future by impacting both educational and employment opportunities for years to come. While the juvenile system is intended to rehabilitate rather than punish, all too often unrepresented or misrepresented juvenile defendants wind up spending time in detention and unnecessarily paying harsh penalties for the mistakes so often associated with youth.
Defending Juvenile Charges
In any juvenile case, the first step will be determining the strength of the prosecution’s evidence. The prosecution must have sufficient evidence to prove each element of the alleged offense. Your experienced criminal defense attorney will begin by uncovering any weaknesses in the prosecution’s case. The next step will be launching a full investigation to uncover all facts that the defense could use to establish the juvenile’s innocence or mitigate any punishment.
Juvenile Court and Adult Court Differences
The juvenile court system differs significantly than the adult court one. In Florida, the circuit courts have jurisdiction over all cases in which a minor has been alleged to have committed a delinquent act or violation of law. A violation of the law is alleged using a delinquent complaint, which is filed by a law enforcement officer when a Florida juvenile is alleged to have committed a misdemeanor, felony, contempt of court, or violation of a local ordinance.
A juvenile does not have all the same protections as an adult. Notably, juveniles in Florida do not have the right to a jury trial. If the case proceeds to trial, the juvenile court judge will determine your child’s guilt or innocence.
Juvenile Pre-trial Diversion
For first time juvenile offenders, there are several programs available that will allow your child to avoid conviction for the charge. While the programs vary in their requirements, all will require the juvenile to obey certain rules and complete certain sanctions. Sanctions can include community service hours, restitution to the victim, letters of apology, counseling, etc. If the juvenile successfully completes the program, the charges will be dropped.
Defending Your Child Against Juvenile Charges
A conviction in juvenile court could have negative repercussions on your child for years to come. As such, it is imperative to mount a zealous defense against any juvenile charge. Many options exist within the juvenile system to seek dismissal of the charges or negotiate for probation. Still other juveniles will elect to take their case to trial before the judge if they feel they have a strong chance of rebutting the prosecution’s evidence. Your skilled defense attorney will examine the facts of your child’s case to determine the best course of action.
To schedule a free consultation with one of our dedicated and experienced Gainesville juvenile attorneys, call our law office today.