Juvenile Justice in Florida
Every state has developed a mechanism to try juvenile offenders on adult charges. According to the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, 3.7% of juvenile offenders in the state were transferred to adult criminal court. While that sounds like a small percentage, it has risen substantially in the past couple of years. Florida criminal defense attorneys have noticed a steady rise in the number of juveniles arrested and then certified as adults. Last year, 3,408 different juveniles faced adult charges in the state of Florida.
Broward County criminal attorneys know that trying teens as adults used to be uncommon, but after a spike in violent youth crime in the late 1980s and early 1990s, states scrambled to find ways to implement harsher sentencing for the youngest offenders. The mantra “adult time for adult crimes” resonated, especially as more school shootings occurred. Arkansans were horrified when an 11-year-old and 13-year-old stormed their Jonesboro middle school with guns in 1998, killing five – especially when it became apparent that the state could not hold them beyond age 21. This concern was not unwarranted. Shortly after he was released, the public learned that the Mitchell Johnson, the older boy, was sharing an apartment with another notorious Arkansas juvenile murderer. The school shooters can even legally buy guns if they so choose. Arkansas now has a law which allows for combined juvenile and adult sentencing for very serious crimes committed by young people.
Broward County criminal lawyer William R. Moore has years of experience in criminal defense, including sex crimes and DUI. A felony or misdemeanor conviction of any type can have far-reaching consequences on your freedom, your employment, and your personal life. If you have been arrested in south Florida, contact Broward County Criminal Defense Attorney William R. Moore, P.A., with offices in Fort Lauderdale-Dade, Broward, and Fort Lauderdale Counties.
When a juvenile is arrested for a crime, it triggers delinquency proceedings. Delinquency is the juvenile equivalent of criminal. The prosecutor may decide to file adult charges instead of juvenile. The prosecutor will weigh the severity of the crime and the child’s age when making that decision. The juvenile will receive a waiver hearing, where a judge will determine if it is in fact appropriate for the juvenile to face adult charges. The juvenile’s criminal defense attorney will typically argue to keep the case in juvenile court. If the juvenile is tried and convicted in adult criminal court, the judge will take into account the youth of the offender when determining sentencing.
Although thousands of Florida juveniles face criminal charges every year, they are never fully evaluated as adults for capital cases, when the state can seek the death penalty. The Supreme Court ruled in the 2005 case Roper v. Simmons that even if an offender is now over 18, if the offense was committed when he was under that age, he can never be put to death for that crime. Surprisingly, the most recent juvenile crime execution in the United States was quite recent. In 2003, when Oklahoma executed 32-year-old Scott Allen Hain, who was 17 at the time of his offense. Most states had banned the juvenile death penalty long before Roper, but some Southern states held out.
If you or your child have been charged with a crime, contact William R. Moore, with south Florida criminal defense lawyers with offices in Fort Lauderdale-Dade, Broward, and Fort Lauderdale Counties. Criminal Defense Attorneys at our law firm handle all types of criminal defense, including DUI, assault, drug possession, and others.
Article contributed by Mallory Shipman, Attorney-at-Law.