Juvenile Justice System in Miami
Serving Miami & Fort Lauderdale with Aggressive Criminal Defense
In Florida, those who are under age 18 and charged with a crime will usually have their case handled by the juvenile justice system. Within that system, the focus is rehabilitation rather than punishment—a much preferred option to the ordinary adult criminal justice system. A skilled Miami juvenile justice attorney at the Hoffman Firm may be able to represent you or your child in a criminal case for a first time or subsequent offense.
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The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice plays an important role in administering the juvenile justice system in Florida. By keeping juvenile offenders away from adult counterparts—since involvement in the adult system may lead to future offenses—and the juvenile system focuses instead on rehabilitation and redirection. Although there is a preference for rehabilitation with minors, there are situations in which juvenile crimes are filed in adult court because a minor is a repeat offender or is accused of perpetrating a serious crime that mandates harsher punishment.
Undergoing the Juvenile Justice Process
It is common for parents to have questions about the juvenile justice system. Following an arrest or investigation, juveniles may be held in a detention center. If so, there will be a hearing held within 24 hours of arrest. At the hearing, there is a determination about whether release is appropriate. When a juvenile isn’t released, they may need to stay in detention for a maximum of 21 days.
The case will be reviewed by a prosecutor. If the prosecutor has enough evidence, charges may be filed. If a prosecutor decides not to prosecute due to new evidence, the case will be closed and the juvenile will have an arrest record. In that case, it may be appropriate to apply for expungement or sealing. However, if a juvenile is a first offender and charges are pursued, they may be referred to Teen Court—a pretrial diversion program that falls under the Juvenile Arbitration Program.
Otherwise, there will be an arraignment. It’s important to be represented by an attorney at the arraignment—an attorney can make sure a juvenile understands his or her plea, whether guilty, not guilty, or no contest. A juvenile can be sentenced immediately if he or she pleads guilty or no contest. However, if the plea is not guilty, a juvenile’s defense attorney can depose witnesses.
The Pretrial Conference
Juvenile cases are tried before a judge with no jury. The juvenile can testify or not, but has the right to be in the courtroom while being tried. If they are convicted, the Department of Juvenile Justice may be asked to complete a predispositional report prior to sentencing, through which it will look into the juvenile’s background, circumstances, and criminal history, as well as a recommendation for sentencing.
The consequences of juvenile charges may be severe, even though the focus is on rehabilitation within the juvenile justice system. Convictions can follow a child and impact his or her future school and job potential. It is advisable to retain an experienced lawyer who can present a strong defense, whether that involves arguments about lack of evidence, mistaken identity, or motions to suppress.
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