Hearing that your child has been arrested is a nightmare scenario for any parent. One of the first concerns for many parents is how an arrest may affect their child’s future. Below we discuss how to determine whether your child’s arrest will remain permanently on his or her criminal record.
Deal With Law Enforcement
Under Florida law, it is illegal for a law enforcement officer to question a child without a parent present. Furthermore, children have the right to an attorney, just like adults, prior to answering any questions. Invoking this right is especially important if the charge is serious in nature, or if the child does not fully understand his or her legal rights. Police are also required to inform a child’s parent, guardian, or legal custodian of the charges and the child’s rights.
The Question of Jail
While your child may be taken to jail and held for up to six hours to complete the intake process (which consists of fingerprints and photographs), those records are not publicly available, like they often are for adults. You can choose to have them destroyed at a certain time, or they may be destroyed by court order.
After your child completes the intake process, he or she will either be released, placed in home detention, or transferred to another facility pending a hearing. Your child may also be assessed by their local juvenile assessment center or on-call screener, at which point they may be referred to a community-based alternative program, or to a diversion program.
The majority of criminal charges against children are handled in juvenile court. You may be able to resolve your child’s case outside of court, either through alternative discipline programs or diversion programs, but otherwise your jurisdiction’s juvenile court will handle your child’s proceedings. Children may also be tried as adults, particularly if they are charged with felony offenses. If tried as an adult, your child may face adult penalties.
Generally, three possible outcomes may result from your child’s charges:
- The prosecutor formally decides to not pursue the charges.
- The court withholds an adjudication of delinquency, after which the child meets with juvenile probation officers under a youth-empowered success (YES) plan; they are then released either with or without supervision, or committed to a residential facility.
- The court finds the child guilty, and the child is committed or put under community supervision.
Probation is intended to ensure that children who have been charged with crimes maintain good behavior in the future, and also allows them to avoid incarceration and related penalties. However, if children violate the conditions of their probation, their probation may be revoked, in which case they may be transferred to a juvenile detention facility. Multiple probation violations can lead to even more severe consequences. If your child has violated a condition of his or her probation, or is being charged with a violation, you should contact an experienced attorney to discuss your options.
Sealing or Expunging Records
If your child has been charged with, or even convicted, of a crime, you still have options to protect his or her future. Under Florida law, your child’s arrest and criminal records can be either sealed (kept confidential) or expunged (destroyed).
Sealing criminal records makes them unavailable to the public; records of most misdemeanors and some felonies can be sealed. Furthermore, most misdemeanors can be expunged after the accused completes a diversion program that contemplated expungement as its end result. Sealing and/or expunging criminal records do not always eliminate their presence in federal and private company databases.
The complex process of sealing and/or expunging records can confuse many parents, and hiring an experienced attorney to assist with this process can help ensure the best possible result.
Call the Khonsari Law Group for Help
Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss your child’s charges, and to assess your various options. For more information on our juvenile defense services in Florida, contact us online or call (727) 269-5300 today!