How Does Juvenile Court Work

Upset Juvenile

The Justice Department has a division dedicated to the handling of juvenile offenders. The Juvenile Division is completely responsible for the prosecuting all felony and misdemeanor offenses committed by juveniles in the state. The only exception to this rule is juvenile misdemeanor traffic offenses. This division is in charge of handling each case from intake to establishing a grand jury. This division is also responsible for sending specific cases to adult court if necessary.

The Juvenile Division processes approximately 600 cases per month. When a juvenile is taken into custody, depending on the type of violation committed, the juvenile is either released into parental custody or placed in the Juvenile Assessment Center. If the juvenile is released to the parents, the case is sent to the State Attorney Office for review. However, if the juvenile is placed in the Assessment Center, the case is sent to the State Attorney the same day for processing.

When taken to the Juvenile Assessment Center, individuals are screened to determine risk. Based on this screening process, juveniles are placed in secure detention, put under house arrest, or released to their parents or guardian. A full team of professionals are on hand at the Assessment Center, including those who can evaluate the juvenile for substance abuse.

Any juvenile placed in secure detention or house arrest will have a hearing the following day. At this hearing, the court will determine if there is probable cause and if the juvenile is in further need of detention. Hearings are held every day of the week to meet these guidelines.

Juveniles cannot be held for more than 21 days in the Detention Center, unless the trial has started or it is deemed necessary by the court. During that period, school attendance is mandatory. If the juvenile is sentenced to residential detention for their offense, they can remain in the Detention Center for an additional 15 days until they are placed in the residential facility.

If the juvenile is sentenced to a diversion program, the parents will immediately be notified of when and where the juvenile must attend. These programs are strictly voluntary, but if the juvenile declines to participate or does not finish the program, their case is sent back to the State Attorney for review.

The State of Florida will allow a juvenile to be charged as an adult if they are charged as an adult by a Grand Jury, if the State Attorney files an Information with the court, or if the juvenile court transfers the case to adult court by Motion. Once the transfer has been completed, an adult arrest warrant will be issued and the juvenile will be arrested as an adult and taken to an adult jail.

If the juvenile is being charged in juvenile court, charges must be filed with the court through a Petition. Once this Petition has been filed, and arraignment will take place. If the juvenile is in the Detention Center, this arraignment will occur at the same time as their detention hearing. If they are in the custody of their guardian, a notification will be sent to the parents for the time and date of their arraignment.

Failure to appear at this arraignment will automatically generate a Pick Up Order (PUO) issued by the court. The PUO will be given to the police who will use this much like an adult arrest warrant to retrieve the juvenile and bring them to the detention center. At that time, the juvenile will be held in secure detention until their arraignment the following day.

During the arraignment, the juvenile must plead guilty or not guilty. If a not guilty plea is entered, the court will determine if a court-appointed attorney is necessary or if the juvenile needs to provide their own representation.

All juvenile cases are non-jury cases and are determined by the judge. If a not guilty verdict is given, the case is closed and no further action by the juvenile is required. If the juvenile is found guilty, the judge will pass sentencing. Sentencing may include:

  • Probation up to the age of 19.
  • Probation up to age 19 with specific conditions attached, such as attending classes or performing community service.
  • Incarceration in the Juvenile Justice Facility for any period of time not exceeding their 19th birthday.

There are many factors taken into account when sentencing a juvenile. This includes determining what type of program would have the most successful impact on the individual, what the home and family conditions are for the juvenile, and what type of sentencing is the least restrictive for the juvenile without placing the public in danger.

If the juvenile violates the terms of their probation, the Court has the right to revoke that probation and send them into a residential program at the Juvenile Detention Center.

Once the juvenile has completed the probation or incarceration completely, the case is closed. All terms and conditions imposed on the juvenile by the court will no longer be in effect.