Fort Myers Juvenile Crimes Defense Lawyers
Juveniles (minors under the age of 18) are treated differently than adults when it comes to being arrested, charged and prosecuted for crimes, but that doesn’t mean that juveniles don’t have important constitutional rights, including the right to have an attorney represent them. It’s important to know that the purpose of the juvenile justice system is aimed at rehabilitation and not punishment. It’s equally important to know that juveniles can be treated and tried as adults in many different circumstances in Florida. Having a skilled and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney is crucial to helping achieve a good result for juveniles facing criminal charges and helping them avoid contact with the criminal justice system that can damage or ruin their futures just when they are starting out.
At Foley & Wilson Law Firm, we understand the intricacies of juvenile criminal law in Florida and how it interacts with the adult criminal justice system. With 45 years of experience in Florida criminal law as both criminal prosecutors and defense attorneys, our team provides exceptional legal representation with a high degree of professionalism and skill, while treating our clients with the dignity and respect they deserve and helping them achieve a favorable outcome. If you or your child has been arrested and charged with a juvenile or criminal offense in southwest Florida, contact our experienced Fort Myers juvenile crimes defense lawyers today.
Facts About the Florida Juvenile Justice System
A minor under 18 years old is considered a juvenile when it comes to certain offenses. Juveniles can be arrested for status offenses, meaning they are illegal based on the age of the suspect, such as underage drinking, being out after curfew, using tobacco, or truancy. Juveniles can also be arrested for all the crimes applicable to adults. Some of the most common juvenile arrests are for offenses such as:
- Alcohol-related offenses
- Criminal trespassing
- Curfew violations
- Disorderly conduct
- False reporting
- Mischief or criminal nuisance
- Possession of drugs or drug paraphernalia
- Possession of stolen property
- Possession of a weapon
- Reckless endangerment
- Resisting an officer
- Running away
- School-related disciplinary offenses, including truancy
- Simple assault or battery
- Theft or larceny
- Tobacco offenses
- Traffic violations or unauthorized use of a motor vehicle
After an arrest, the Department of Children and Families will generally get involved and meet with the parents before making a recommendation to the state attorney, who will decide whether to file formal charges or not. The assistance of a skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney can prove invaluable at this stage and often help avoid charges or influence what level of charges get filed.
When Juveniles Can Be Charged as Adults in Florida
Even though under 18, there are many different ways under Florida law in which minors can be charged as adults and sentenced as adults if convicted, including being sent to prison. In fact, Florida leads the country when it comes to juveniles being charged as adults. The ability of the prosecutor to charge a juvenile as an adult varies with the offense, but there is no minimum age under which a prosecutor cannot do so.
For minors 14 years old or older, the prosecutor can ask that the case be transferred to criminal court through a process known as discretionary waiver. A hearing is held in juvenile court, after which the judge has the discretion to transfer or keep the case. Florida law requires prosecutors to request a transfer or direct file if the minor has already been adjudicated delinquent for certain offenses.
In some cases, the prosecutor can or must bypass the juvenile court and file the case directly in criminal court. This includes felonies for defendants aged 16 or more, and even misdemeanor offenses if the defendant has been adjudicated twice before, including for at least one felony. If the charge is a capital crime, then the prosecutor can direct file in criminal court regardless of the defendant’s age.
Importantly, Florida follows the rule of “one an adult, always an adult.” This means that if a minor has been convicted and sentenced as an adult once before, then any subsequent offense will be charged in criminal court.
Contact Foley & Wilson Law Firm for Help With Juvenile Crime Defense in Fort Myers
At Foley & Wilson Law Firm, we apply our decades of criminal law experience toward keeping minors out of trouble in juvenile court and out of criminal court wherever possible. We work to keep the focus on rehabilitation and not punishment and avoid any lasting consequences. If you or your child has been arrested in Fort Myers, call our office for a free consultation to discuss your situation and find out how we can help.