Cape Coral Juvenile Crimes Defense Lawyers
At Foley & Wilson Law Firm, our seasoned legal team applies over 45 years of experience in Florida criminal law as both prosecutors and defense attorneys to offer unparalleled expertise in defending minors charged with juvenile crimes. As former prosecutors, we have an in-depth understanding of the criminal justice system, including when minors can be charged as adults under Florida law. Our firm is committed to providing exceptional, personalized representation, ensuring each client is treated with dignity and respect throughout the legal process. If you or your child has been charged as a juvenile or adult in southwest Florida, contact our experienced Cape Coral juvenile crimes defense lawyers for immediate assistance.
Understanding Juvenile Crimes in Florida
Juvenile offenses in Florida are categorized into two primary types: criminal offenses and status offenses. Understanding these distinctions is crucial in navigating the juvenile justice system.
- Criminal Offenses: These are actions that would be considered crimes regardless of the age of the person committing them. Examples include theft, assault, and drug offenses. These crimes carry legal consequences that can significantly impact a juvenile’s future.
- Status Offenses: Unique to minors, these are actions considered unlawful due to the individual’s age. Common examples include truancy, curfew violations, and underage drinking. While less severe than criminal offenses, they still require legal attention.
The Juvenile Court System vs. Adult Court
The Florida juvenile justice system differs significantly from the adult court system, focusing more on rehabilitation rather than punishment. Juvenile Court emphasizes rehabilitation, education, and community service, offering more privacy and a less formal setting. The goal is to guide juveniles toward a responsible, law-abiding future. Adult Court, on the other hand, focuses on punishment and operates under more formal procedures and public scrutiny. Being tried in adult court can lead to harsher sentences and long-term consequences.
Early Intervention by Criminal Defense Attorneys Is Essential
Our team at Foley & Wilson Law Firm understands the importance of early intervention in juvenile cases. For instance, engaging with the Department of Children and Families (DCF) before charges are filed can significantly alter the course of a juvenile case, including what charges get filed or whether any charges are filed at all. Our attorneys work diligently to present mitigating circumstances, advocate for alternative resolutions, and strive to prevent the escalation of charges.
When Juveniles Can Be Tried as Adults in Florida
Under many circumstances, juveniles in Florida can be tried as adults. This decision is governed by specific criteria under several different processes:
- Discretionary Waiver: A judge may decide to transfer a case to adult court based on factors such as the severity of the offense, the juvenile’s age, and their past record. This process is instigated by the prosecutor and applies to minors who are 14 years of age or older.
- Direct File: Prosecutors have the ability to file charges in adult court for certain serious offenses committed by juveniles of a specific age when they deem it to be in the public interest to do so. Direct filing applies when the minor is between the ages of 16 and 18 and is charged with a felony, or when charged with a misdemeanor if the accused has a record of two previous adjudications and at least one of them was a felony. Florida law also includes a list of crimes that can lead to direct filing against a person as young as 14. In the event of a capital offense, criminal charges can be filed against a minor of any age.
- Statutory Exclusion: For certain grave offenses, Florida law mandates that juveniles be tried as adults. These offenses include motor vehicle theft as a driver or even as a willing passenger if a third party was seriously injured. A minor 16 or older who has been previously adjudicated for certain violent offenses will also be charged as an adult for any violent crime. Three or more previous felony adjudications will also lead to criminal charges for any offense if the accused has had three or more previous commitments.
- Once an Adult, Always an Adult: Once a juvenile has been convicted and sentenced as an adult, future offenses, regardless of severity, will be handled in adult court.
Foley & Wilson Law Firm: Your Advocate in Juvenile Defense in Cape Coral
At Foley & Wilson Law Firm, we understand the complexities of juvenile crimes and the impact they have on a young person’s life. Our approach is tailored to each case, combining legal skill with a deep understanding of the juvenile justice system in Florida. If you or your child are facing juvenile charges in Cape Coral, contact us for a free consultation. We are dedicated to defending your rights and guiding you through this challenging time with professionalism and respect.