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Articles Posted in Juvenile Defense

What is Underage Drinking?

Many young adults and students drink alcohol before the legal age of 21. It could be at the sandbar for a family outing, or a high school party when a friend’s parents are out of town, or even a glass of wine at dinner.

A 22-year-old sibling may take her younger brother to a college football tailgate and hand him a Truly hard seltzer or a beer. The police may be doing a lap around the tents and ask to see the younger brother’s ID. Suddenly, the 17-year-old with the hard seltzer in his hand is given a summons to appear in court on the charge of underage drinking.

Juveniles make mistakes. Parents know this, but the criminal justice system knows this too. If a juvenile makes a mistake that breaks the law, the juvenile justice system will step in and suggest legal decisions for that juvenile’s future. While it is scary for the juvenile to be in trouble with the law, hiring a criminal defense attorney that has knowledge of the juvenile system is imperative to help fight for the juvenile’s best interests and protect their future.  A juvenile criminal defense attorney will review the evidence in the juvenile’s case to determine if the State Attorney has enough evidence to prosecute successfully.

After being arrested for a crime, the juvenile will be taken to a Juvenile Assessment Center per the requirements of the Department of Juvenile Justice. There, the juvenile will discuss the next options and the juvenile will undergo an assessment which the Juvenile Probation Officer will report the findings to the State Attorney.  The minor may have a parent present and the police must make a reasonable attempt to contact the parents. However, be advised a law enforcement officer can question a juvenile without a parent present, so long as a reasonable attempt was made to contact the parents. This information can be used against the juvenile.

To fight for the defense, the juvenile, family, and defense attorney would work together to plan and establish a case for the juvenile. Here, the defense attorney can talk to teachers, employers, and other adults in the juvenile’s life; get attendance records, get grade reports, etc., to prove a basis for alternatives to a detention center. These alternatives, called diversion programs, will be an option for the State Attorney to consider with the evidence provided.

School shootings have been increasing in the last several years, which means greater safety measures and stricter guidelines have been put into play. Bringing a weapon to a school, whether it be an elementary school all the way to high school, is not just a cause for suspension or expulsion, but can incur criminal charges as well. The Florida School Board of Education defines a weapon possession as acquiring a firearm or object that has the capabilities to cause serious harm or put another person in reasonable fear of injury. Those objects may include swords, knives, pocketknives, guns, pepper spray, etc. Florida schools have a zero-tolerance policy; if a student brings any of those objects or a firearm to school grounds, school facilities off site, at a school bus stop, on a school bus, or within 1000 feet of the school, that student will be expelled for one (1) year and submitted for criminal charge.

If the incident involves a firearm, the charge will be, under Florida Statute 790.115 (4): “any minor under 18 years of age who is charged under this section with possessing or discharging a firearm on school property shall be detained in secure detention, unless the state attorney authorizes the release of the minor and shall be given a probable cause hearing within 24 hours after being taken into custody. At the hearing, the court may order that the minor continue to be held in secure detention for a period of 21 days, during which time the minor shall receive medical, psychiatric, psychological, or substance abuse examinations pursuant to s. 985.18, and a written report shall be completed.” As you can see, these penalties are invoked quickly following the arrest. It is possible to limit these penalties at the initial hearing before the Judge.

Florida law states that minors under the age of 18 are not allowed to possess a firearm, unless they meet the few exceptions of transporting the firearm to a lawful competition or hunting activities. If a minor is found to have a firearm and not within the certain exceptions, the minor can be charged with a 1st degree misdemeanor. A conviction can range from a three-day detention sentence and 100 hours of community service for a first offense, to a maximum one year in jail and $1,000.00 fine. Those charges have harsher criminal convictions if that possession is on school grounds.

Unfortunately, that answer is yes. The legal system does not follow the same rules as buying alcohol or cigarettes; you do not have to be 21 or 18 years old before certain regulations take effect. There aren’t set age laws where a person must be 18 years old to be placed in the adult criminal system. Depending on many factors, including the nature of the felony and criminal history, your child can be tried as an adult in the state of Florida. A juvenile is considered to be 17 years of age or younger, but those felonies can be serious enough to be handled by a criminal court instead of the juvenile system. If the crime was sexually motivated or a serious, violent crime, the child has a long criminal history and the juvenile system is no longer working, or if the child has already been tried as an adult, the chances are high the case will be transferred to an adult criminal court. Unless the crime is a capital offense, the youngest age a juvenile can be tried as an adult in the state of Florida is 14 years old.

There are three (3) different categories in which a juvenile can be transferred to the adult criminal system.

  1. Florida is one of the few states that offer direct filing. Prosecutors have the discretion to file a juvenile’s case in adult criminal court without needing to have approval by a judge or jury. The 2 types of direct filings are Mandatory filing, which applies to 16 or 17-year old juveniles who have committed any type of felony offense; and Discretionary filing, which applies when the juvenile is 14 years or older. Discretionary direct filing occurs on only a variety of crimes, approximately 21 different felonies, all of which can be found under Florida statute 985.557. Examples of those felonies include: aggravated assault and battery, homicide, grand theft auto, armed robbery, etc.

As a parent or guardian, it can be stressful to see your child in handcuffs or get a phone call that your child is at the police station for allegedly breaking the law. Minors do have specific rights in the juvenile justice system that are important to know if the situation ever arises. A person is considered a minor in Florida if they are under 18 years of age.

If a minor is arrested, the police must read the minor their Miranda Rights, which means they have the right to an attorney and anything they tell the police can be used against them in court. If the minor is not read their Miranda Rights, any conversation between the minor and law enforcement will not be admissible in court as evidence. The minor may also have a parent present. If a minor requests their parents, the police must make a reasonable attempt to contact the parents and share the minor’s location, but police may still question the minor without a parent present. The minor has a right to an attorney, and either the parent may retain one or the minor will be assigned a court-appointed public defender. One exception to police questioning without an attorney is if the child is under 13 years of age and has been arrested for sexual assault or homicide, in which case the child may not be questioned at all without an attorney present.

After the minor is arrested and processed, a Juvenile Probation Officer will perform a risk assessment to determine if the minor is a flight risk. With that assessment, a Department of Juvenile Justice Officer will decide if the child may return home or should be held in a juvenile center before their detention hearing. If the minor’s risk level requires a juvenile center placement, they will be taken to either a Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Center or a Juvenile Assessment Center.

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I would like thank my attorney Thomas Luka. I knew from the beginning I had the right guy in my corner. While celebrating with family and friends at a Public Park in Seminole County, a fight broke out among various people. Myself, and a good friend, broke up the fight and the instigators left. Six months later, I was wrongly accused as the person who started the fight. The first attorney I hired could not even get a response from the State Attorney handling the case. Someone referred me to Tom and I felt comfortable at his demeanor and reactions.

After conversations with Tom, who knew I would settle for nothing less than a FULL DISMISSAL due to my innocence, I hired him. His firm of Adams and Luka did the due diligence by interviewing witnesses and the police who were on the scene, as well as starting a dialogue with the State Attorney. After gathering statements from witnesses, Tom was able to present a strong argument on my behalf to the State Attorney on why the case should be dismissed. If the State Attorney was not willing to dismiss the case, Tom was ready to take the case to trial.

The result by Thomas Luka: Case Dismissed.

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Thomas Luka left a life-long great impression of lawyers. He was always professional, on time, and answered things honestly. From the start and during the 14 months it went on - Tom was very upfront and honest with me about the possible outcomes. The result was better than I had hoped for. Tom really over-delivered. HIGHLY RECCOMEND. Marcela Giorgi
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Adams and Luka were very professional and savvy in the courtroom. When you're in court with Mr. Luka you will think you have the best attorney there. I recommend this law firm. Pioneer Tech
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Rich Adams is an outstanding criminal attorney. I have had the opportunity to refer several friends and clients to his practice for handling of criminal matters, and on every occasion he has produced an excellent result. Rich practices with attention to detail, a thorough knowledge of the law, and a passion to defend his clients. I will continue to refer clients to Rich Adams, and would strongly recommend him for your legal needs. Brian Pink
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