Orange County Juvenile Defense Lawyer

If your child has been accused of committing a crime, you are probably deeply concerned about the impact the event will have on their future. Although the juvenile justice system is supposed to help preserve a child’s opportunities to reach their full potential without the burden of criminal record, it does not always work the way it should.

Processes in the juvenile justice system are different than in the adult criminal system. You need a defense attorney who understands the differences and how to make them work for your child’s benefit. An Orange County juvenile defense lawyer works diligently to assure a positive outcome for your child.

Differences Between the Juvenile System and Adult Criminal Courts

Anyone under 18 is a juvenile under the law. Understanding the juvenile court system process makes it easier to support a child through the experience. It also could help a parent determine how best to achieve the outcome they believe will provide the most benefit.

Arrest and Detention

Police can arrest an adult they believe committed a crime but they can only “detain” a juvenile. The police can release the child to a parent or guardian or take them to a Juvenile Assessment Center (JAC) for screening. There, a Juvenile Probation Officer (JPO) will evaluate the child and either:

  • Release them to a parent without a recommendation for detention
  • Release them into home detention (similar to house arrest)
  • Recommend they be detained at a juvenile detention facility

If the JPO releases the child to detention at home or in a facility, the child is entitled to a hearing within 24 hours.

Juvenile Rights in Court

Adult defendants appear in criminal court but civil courts hear juvenile cases. Adult defendants have the right to a jury trial but judges make the final decision in juvenile cases.

A juvenile can face consequences even if they were not convicted of a crime. Once a police file reaches a JPO, they interview the child, their family, the complainant or crime victim, and other relevant parties like personnel at the child’s school. The JPO could recommend the prosecutor pursue charges against the child or suggest the child receive counseling, perform community service, enter a formal diversion program, or engage in other services.

A Child Can Sometimes Face Adult Charges

Prosecutors can charge a child as an adult in some cases. Florida Statutes § 985.557 allows a prosecutor to proceed in adult criminal court against a child over 14 when the child is accused of a serious violent offense like aggravated assault, manslaughter, murder, sexual assault, or discharging a firearm on school property. A prosecutor can charge anyone over 16 as an adult if the crime they are accused of is a felony.

When a prosecutor charges a child as an adult, the child must face charges in criminal court. If convicted and sentenced to incarceration, they would serve their sentence in an adult prison.

A parent should contact an Orange County lawyer immediately if a juvenile is accused of a serious crime. The prosecutor has the discretion to charge the child as a juvenile or an adult. Early intervention by a lawyer could convince a prosecutor that seeking rehabilitation through the juvenile court system is better for the child and society at large than seeking retribution through the criminal courts.

Resolving Juvenile Charges

Contact with the juvenile justice system sometimes exposes a problem or a need that a parent was unaware of or unable to address without professional assistance. A JPO could recommend various services and programs to help the parent and child manage situations like substance abuse, anger management, or impulse control.

If a JPO recommends a prosecutor bring charges against a juvenile, an Orange County attorney could try to resolve the charges through a plea agreement. If the prosecutor’s evidence is weak, a legal professional could defend the charge at a trial.

However, although the prosecutor must prove their case, there is no jury. A judge in a juvenile justice case could order the juvenile to face consequences like counseling or community service, even without convicting them of the charge. If the judge convicts a child of a crime, they could be sentenced to serve time at a juvenile detention facility.

Trust Your Child’s Defense to an Orange County Juvenile Attorney

You want your child to have the best chance of success at life, and a criminal record could hold them back. If your child has contact with the juvenile justice system, get help from a team that knows the stakes, like The Umansky Law Firm.

An Orange County juvenile defense lawyer will bring all their skills and experience to bear to help your child. Call us today.

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    Orange County Juvenile Defense Lawyer