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.
- 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.
- A Waiver is an option when the prosecution must seek the court’s permission to have the juvenile transferred to adult criminal court. Under an involuntary discretionary waiver, the judge will review the juvenile’s case, their previous criminal history, and any other relevant factors, to determine if the juvenile system is no longer working. However, Florida abides by the “once an adult, always an adult” rule. If the juvenile has been tried and convicted as an adult before, the juvenile will remain in the adult court system. Therefore, the prosecution will file an involuntary mandatory waiver because the juvenile cannot remain in the juvenile system.
- In an indictment, this will be used when a juvenile commits an offense with a death sentence or life imprisonment punishment. An indictment will be adjudicated by a grand jury. This option is not to be used for minor offenses but capital offenses.
Regardless that the child is underage, an important thing an attorney will always remember is; once an adult, always an adult. If the juvenile has been adjudicated as an adult once before, the juvenile will remain in the adult court system and will be treated as an adult. This means they will face the same adult penalties, such as prison sentences, the diminish of many future employment prospects, and the lost opportunity of certain civil rights. If your child has been arrested by the police, their future could be jeopardized. Call the Law Office of Adams & Luka today to speak with an experienced juvenile attorney.