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.
The detention hearing must take place within: six (6) hours if the minor is 12 years old or younger, 12 hours if the minor is 12-17 years old and is a non-violent offense, or 24 hours if the minor is 12-17 years old and is a violent offense.
After a detention hearing, the State Attorney will either move forward in court or recommend a diversionary program. If the case moves forward, the State Attorney will file a delinquency petition. If a diversionary program is recommended, the minor has the option to participate in the program. In the instance the program is successfully completed, the case will be dismissed. In certain occasions, the minor will be tried as an adult if the offense is serious enough or they are a repeat offender and close to the age limit. All decisions are at the judge’s discretion.
If the State Attorney moves forward in court, next will come the arraignment hearing. The arraignment hearing decides how the minor will plead: guilty, not guilty, or nolo contendere (I am pleading neither guilty nor not guilty, but I will accept the consequences of the offense(s) I am charged with). If the minor pleads guilty or nolo contendere, the case will move to a disposition hearing. There, the court will determine sentencing and how the minor will serve the time. If the minor pleads not guilty, the case will move to an adjudicatory hearing where both sides will argue if the minor committed the crime. As a minor, their adjudicatory hearing must take place within 21 days of the arrest unless for rare exceptions, in which it must be within 30 days. This will conclude with a disposition hearing.
Because the child is a minor, the juvenile justice system does have different procedures in place to afford the minor additional rights and a separate process from adult court. It is important to consult our attorneys at the Law Office of Adams and Luka, P.A. who are familiar with the Florida Juvenile Division Delinquency Court and the juvenile justice system.