Minors—those who are under the age of 18—think differently than adults, and that difference is not always recognized by the criminal justice system. These differences in thinking occur because minors’ brains are still developing. As a result, minors often make decisions and handle situations in a manner opposite of what is expected. Failing to act accordingly often results in minors getting into trouble.
Florida has implemented juvenile-specific alternatives for criminally charged minors. Minors facing criminal charges are more likely than not to avoid being tried as adults. Instead, in the majority of cases, these legal proceedings are tried in the juvenile justice system.
The juvenile justice system differs from the criminal justice system used to try adults. The juvenile justice system also follows different procedures. For example, the juvenile justice system does not use a trial by jury. Instead, it opts to have a judge hear and make a ruling on the facts.
The juvenile justice system focuses more of its efforts on rehabilitation as opposed to punishment. The system recognizes that juveniles can still be positively influenced. As such, many minors found guilty are sentenced to alternative programs such as probation, rehabilitation, or other education programs instead of time in jail.
A minor may still be tried as an adult. Many believe that a minor will always be tried in the juvenile justice system. This is incorrect. A minor facing criminal charges can, in fact, be tried as an adult.
Whether or not a minor is tried as an adult depends on several different factors. According to Florida law, a prosecuting attorney can refer a minor’s case to the adult criminal court via a direct file. This can occur in the following instances:
- A minor, aged 16 or 17, commits any felony
- A minor, 16 or 17, was charged with a crime and had been previously adjudicated for a different crime
- A minor and his or her family request that the case is heard in an adult criminal court
Charging a minor as an adult will result in the use of adult criminal court procedures. Here, the defendant’s minor’s rights are waived. Instead of being heard and adjudicated by a judge, these matters are adjudicated by a jury.
The adult criminal court emphasizes punishment as opposed to rehabilitation. Alternative sentencing programs focusing on education are not preferred. Instead, minors face the same penalties faced by adults. This can mean time in jail—even for several years—and a loss of future rights such as voting or purchasing a firearm.
It is important for minors and parents to remember that criminal charges can have lasting consequences. While the juvenile justice system does offer minors the opportunity to become rehabilitated, it is more than just a “slap on the wrist.”
Contact a St. Petersburg Criminal Defense Attorney
Seek the legal counsel of an experienced criminal defense attorney if you, a minor, or your minor child has been charged with a crime. Although minors have the advantage of the juvenile justice system, the potential procedural and legal issues associated with any criminal charge should be discussed and identified with an attorney. The criminal defense attorneys at Khonsari Law Group are determined to provide you with outstanding criminal defense. Schedule your free consultation by calling (727) 269-5300 or writing us online today.