Common Juvenile Crimes in Tampa
Thousands of young people enter the juvenile justice system each year in Florida. Some of the most common offenses that lead them there include:
- Domestic violence
- Theft, including shoplifting
- Sexual battery
- Drug possession
- Reckless driving
Although homicides get more media coverage, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice reports that these crimes accounted for only about 0.3% of juvenile arrests in 2022.
Understanding Florida’s Juvenile Justice System
Juvenile justice often sits on the civil side of the court system rather than the criminal side. However, the penalties imposed by the courts can include incarceration, community service, and restitution.
The system has two purposes. First, the judges and prosecutors aim to help juveniles turn their lives around. As a result, they place a heavy emphasis on education and rehabilitation.
Second, the system is also responsible for protecting the public, including other juveniles, from someone who poses a danger to others. When necessary, prosecutors can pursue, and judges can grant lengthy terms of incarceration in either a juvenile or adult detention facility.
What Happens at a Juvenile Detention Hearing?
After an arrest, officers will take the juvenile to a Juvenile Assessment Center. They will book them into the facility. Sometimes, they may release the juvenile to their parents or guardians. Other times, they will detain the arrestee until the juvenile detention hearing. In either case, the court will schedule a hearing within 24 hours.
A juvenile detention hearing is like a bail hearing in adult court. A judge will review the juvenile’s criminal history, current charges, and home situation. Based on this review, the judge will decide whether to:
- Release the child to the parents or guardians without conditions
- Order a conditional release to the parents or guardians, similar to house arrest
- Hold the child at a juvenile detention center for up to 21 days
The judge will also set the next court date for the child’s case. The juvenile and their parents or guardians will sign a document acknowledging that they will return to court.
Possible Juvenile Justice System Outcomes
A case can be resolved in many ways. At the earliest stages, your child’s lawyer might work with prosecutors to get the charges dropped. This outcome is ideal since your child will not have a juvenile record or face judicial punishment.
If prosecutors proceed with the case, a lawyer can try to get them to divert the case. Pretrial diversion programs allow your juvenile to enter an educational and rehabilitative program. If your child completes it, prosecutors will drop the charges. Examples of diversion programs include drug courts for juveniles who need drug or alcohol rehab.
Other outcomes may include:
- Community service
- Commitment to a residential treatment facility
- Incarceration in a juvenile detention center
The judge can order a predisposition investigation and report. This report will include information about the child’s history, family situation, and other factors that help the courts determine an appropriate outcome.
When Can a Child Be Tried as an Adult?
Juveniles as young as 14 can be tried as adults. Florida law reserves this process for juveniles who commit serious felonies or have records as serial offenders. Prosecutors may charge juveniles in adult court to expand the possible punishments available.
Penalties for Adult Convictions in Florida
Upon conviction in adult court, your child faces the same penalties that an adult would face for the same crime. However, a judge does not have to keep the case in adult court for sentencing. The judge can return the case to the juvenile justice system for sentencing.
In adult court, the judge may sentence your child to:
- Death, if they are 16 or older
Adult courts also have adult diversion programs similar to juvenile diversion programs. If your juvenile enters one of these programs, they may be able to avoid a severe sentence and a criminal record.