While crimes committed by people under the age of 18 are still very serious, the law generally treats minors accused of crimes differently than it would if they were an adult. In most cases, the goal is to provide treatment and rehabilitation for the minor, as opposed to punishment. This can be very important for a young person who may have simply made a mistake not deserving of the seriousness of adult punishment.
Under Florida law, a child or juvenile is defined as “any person under the age of 18 or any person who is alleged to have committed a violation of law occurring prior to the time that person reached the age of 18 years.”
A child that commits a violation of the law may be committed to the Department of Juvenile Justice (Department) for treatment in an appropriate program for children outside of the adult correctional system or placed on juvenile probation. The criterion that is used in determining whether this is appropriate is as follows:
- Seriousness of the offense;
- Whether the offense was aggressive, violent, or premeditated;
- Whether the offense was committed against persons or property; if the offense was committed against another person, it is considered more serious, especially if personal injury occurs;
- Sophistication and maturity of the offender;
- Record and history of the offender;
- Whether the public is adequately protected, as well as the likelihood of deterrence and reasonable rehabilitation, if the offender is placed in the juvenile justice system;
- Whether the department of juvenile justice can handle the offender appropriately; and
- Whether adult sanctions would be a better punishment and deterrent.
Upon a guilty plea, the court can request that the Department investigate and give a recommendation on the suitability of its programs for the child in what is known as the presentence investigation report. At sentencing, the court considers the presentence investigation report recommendation of whether the offender should be sentenced as a juvenile or adult. Additionally, all parties present may comment on the rehabilitation plan and the court may consider any other relevant and material evidence.
However, if a minor is charged with an offense that is punishable by death or life in prison, or meets certain minimal criteria, the state attorney is given the power to decide whether to charge the minor as an adult. The state attorney can decide to charge a juvenile as an adult by “direct filing” or on capital and life felonies an indictment can be sought and if returned by the grand jury, any petition for delinquency is dismissed and the minor is tried and sentenced as an adult.
South Florida Defense Firm
Facing criminal charges as a minor can have significant consequences, both in the short-term and long-term. If you have been accused of committing a crime, it is important to speak to an experienced attorney as quickly as possible. Contact the south Florida criminal defense attorneys at Farkas & Crowley, P.A. today with any questions you have.