Florida’s Direct File Law Sends the Most Kids to Adult Prisons
More kids in Florida wind up in adult prison than kids in any other state in the United States, and in the state of Florida, Orange County has the highest number of direct files. Florida is one of just fifteen states that gives prosecutors the ability to send juvenile cases directly to the adult court system due to the state’s direct file law. According to a report by Human Rights Watch, Florida prosecutors transferred over 12,000 youth offenders to adult courts between 2008 and 2012.
Juveniles placed in the adult court system often don’t understand the consequences of their actions. Those who receive a prison sentence frequently encounter violence and abuse in adult prison. Spending time among hardened criminals also increases the likelihood that youth offenders will re-offend upon release. If your child is arrested for an offense in central Florida, it’s important to understand how suddenly their prospects can take a turn for the worst.
How Florida’s Direct File Statute Hurts Youth Offenders
A direct file is just one of three methods by which juveniles can end up in the adult system, but it is responsible for 98% of all juvenile transfers. A minor may also be transferred to the adult system by a grand jury indictment or by waiving a juvenile court hearing.
When a prosecutor receives a juvenile case, he or she has full discretion in deciding whether it heads to juvenile or adult court. At no point can a judge review or appeal the prosecutor’s decision; even if a judge in adult court believes that the case would fare better in the juvenile system, he cannot make a recommendation to send it back. Likewise, juveniles are not allowed to challenge the decisions prosecutors make. When prosecutors are allowed to use discretion, it leads to similar cases having very different outcomes in different judicial circuits.
Aside from inconsistent sentencing, it’s been established that juveniles don’t fully understand consequences. Neuroscience has confirmed that young adults think and function quite differently from fully-grown adults. In fact, the human brain doesn’t fully mature until the mid-twenties. The prefrontal cortex in the brains of juveniles is often weak; this is the area of the brain responsible for planning, logical thinking, risk management, impulse control, and more. Adolescents, naturally, are often more impulsive, reactive, and less capable of understanding the long-term effects of their actions.
Additionally, youth offenders are more capable of being rehabilitated than adult offenders. Sending them to adult prisons, which focus more on punishment than rehabilitation, deprives juveniles of the opportunities they need to blossom into constructive members of society.
Orange County Juvenile Defense Lawyers Can Help Your Teen
Adult prisons in Florida do not help children work through the issues that led to their interference with law enforcement in the first place. In many cases, children are exposed to physical and sexual violence and become harder to rehabilitate than they would have been had they gone to juvenile prison. Recidivism among juveniles who spend time in adult correctional facilities is high; according to a report by The Atlantic, youths placed in the adult system are “34 times more likely to recidivate than their counterparts in the juvenile system.”
If you find out your child has been arrested, it’s important to immediately speak with a juvenile defense attorney in Orlando to fight the charges presented. Juvenile offenses are often minor crimes that can carry severe repercussions; in many cases, the “crime” was an act that not long ago would have been rectified by a trip to the principal’s office.
As soon as law enforcement arrests your teen, he or she faces significant setbacks. An arrest carries an enormous impact on a teen’s future — from being denied entry into the college of his or her choice to being rejected from leasing an apartment or securing a steady job, your child could miss important opportunities, even if your child was arrested for something as minor as getting into a fight or underage drinking — common misbehaviors among young adults.
Attorney William Umansky and his wife attorney Zahra Umansky understand that children sometimes make irrational choices that unjustly lead to criminal penalties. As criminal defense attorneys and parents, they want the best outcome for your children. Allow them and their dedicated team to protect your child’s rights every step of the way. Call The Umansky Law Firm at 407-228-3838 or contact us online for a free consultation.