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Juvenile Crimes Florida

Private Counsel LLC lawyers practice juvenile criminal defense, and have experience representing juvenile clients and their parents/guardians. When a person under the age of 18 is accused of a crime, he or she will usually be charged and tried through the juvenile criminal justice system which is different than for adults. The child is usually brought by the police to the Juvenile Detention Center Orlando for holding.

Sometimes a juvenile can commit a crime and be charged as an adult. The State attorney calls that a “direct file.” That means they file the charges directly in adult court. This normally occurs after the State’s attorney gets the case and realizes the facts are very serious and the case merits the more serious punishment that can be imposed in adult court to apply to the juvenile defendant.

This normally occurs after the State’s attorney gets the case and realizes the facts are very serious and the case merits the more serious punishment that can be imposed in adult court to apply to the juvenile defendant. If your son or daughter is facing juvenile charges, please contact us at 407-965-1190 for a FREE consultation.


Arrest (“Taken into Custody”)

When a juvenile is arrested (also called “taken into custody”), he or she is taken to a local Juvenile Assessment Center (“JAC”) for assessment, where it will be determined whether he or she should be held in secure detention (similar to jail for adults) or released to the parent/guardian (“home detention”) while the charges are pending. Whether the juvenile will be held in secured detention or released to the custody of their parent or guardian will depend on several factors, including the seriousness of the criminal charges and whether it is determined the juvenile poses a risk to the community. If held in secured detention, the juvenile can be held up to 21 days

The juvenile can also, in some cases, be released to the parent or guardian with a referral to a “diversion program.”

At this step the juvenile’s case will be assigned to a Juvenile Probation Officer, who receives a copy of the charge from law enforcement or the court and will contact the juvenile and his/her family to gather information about the juvenile and family.

The Juvenile Probation Officer assesses and develops a plan to address the charges. They look at the type of offense, the risk the juvenile may present, damages caused due to youth’s conduct and other possible needs.

The Juvenile Probation Officer then makes recommendations to the State Attorney’s Office regarding protection to the community, accountability and  addressing the juvenile’s needs.

Diversion Program

Sometimes the juvenile may be referred to a diversion program. If the juvenile completes the program, no further court action will be pursued by the state attorney. However, if the juvenile fails to complete the program, the state attorney will file a petition with the circuit court’s juvenile division containing formal charges. It is a good idea to get an attorney fast so we can try and avoid filing of charges and get your son or daughter into a court diversion type program.

Teen Court

Teen Court is another program (similar to Pre-trial diversion) that allows first-time juvenile defendants to come before their peers to be judged instead of going to juvenile court. To get into teen court, the State’s attorney’s office must approve the case. Call Attorney Douctre to see if your son or daughter is eligible and if he can get him/her in. Do not wait until the last minute. Once decisions are made on the case, it is very difficult to change the State Attorney’s mind. Teen Court puts the juvenile on trial to determine a sentence (the juvenile must admit guilt to the charge). All the participants except the judge are teenagers. The Jury will decide a sentence which may include such penalties as community service, restitution (payment to the victim for his/her losses), an apology, a reading assignment, an essay, a tour of the county jail, and serving as a Teen Court juror in future case. If the juvenile successfully completes Teen Court, the juvenile criminal charges will be dropped. If the juvenile does not complete Teen Court, the case will be sent back to the juvenile criminal court for prosecution.

Filing Charges

The State Attorney’s Office (local prosecutor) may file charges (called a “Petition for Delinquency”) in the juvenile division of the circuit court, charging the youth with the criminal (“delinquent”) offense.

Court process

The juvenile, normally through his or her attorney, will have the option of reaching a plea agreement with the State (where no trial is held), or having the case proceed to trial. If the juvenile’s case goes to trial (called an “adjudicatory hearing”), the judge will listen to the evidence and decide if the juvenile is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Note that juveniles are not entitled to a trial by jury–only trial by a judge. If the judge finds the juvenile guilty of the charges, she/he can either “adjudicate” the juvenile delinquent, or “withhold adjudication.”

Disposition (Sentencing)

Once a juvenile has entered a plea to criminal charges or been found guilty, the case will proceed to “disposition” or a “dispositional hearing.” This is the sentencing phase. The judge will impose a sentence that is appropriate to the charges and the juvenile’s age and situation. The judge has jurisdiction over the juvenile until his or her 19th birthday. The judge has 2 choices: probation or commitment to a DJJ (Department of Juvenile Justice) correctional/residential center.


Similar to adult probation, the juvenile will be placed under the supervision of a probation officer. The juvenile is placed on probation for either a fixed period (such as for one year for a first-degree misdemeanor) or until the juvenile’s 19th birthday (21 or 22 in some instances). The court can order the probation terminated, usually after completion of all terms and conditions ordered by the court and upon recommendation by the probation officer.

Correctional/Residential Center

Correctional centers are considered a “rehabilitation program” for juvenile delinquents, with 4 possible ranges of restrictiveness:

  • Low-risk Residential — Juveniles at this level are assessed as low risks to public safety, yet require 24-hour supervision. Most placements result from first and second-degree misdemeanors to third-degree felonies.
  • Moderate-risk Residential — Juveniles at this level have been assessed as moderate risks to public safety and require 24-hour supervision.
  • High-risk Residential — Juveniles classified for placement in the restrictiveness level have been determined to be significant risks to the safety of the public, thus requiring a high level of supervision in a structured residential setting that provides round-the-clock care.
  • Maximum-risk Residential — Juveniles classified regarding this restrictiveness level are felt to be serious risks to the safety of the public safety and require maximum-security confinement. These youth usually have a history of violent and serious offenses. This includes a minimum stay of 18 months.