The criminal justice system is not reserved for adults, and there are plenty of cases where the offender is a juvenile. The biggest concern for most youthful offenders (meaning those defendants charged with a crime while under the age of 18) is whether the system will try you as an adult, or allow you to proceed through the juvenile court. There are benefits to maintain your status as a juvenile defendant, but there are also some missteps to avoid.
Three mistakes and/or misperceptions about how the juvenile justice system works in Florida include:
- The belief that most offenses occur when school is out. This is simply not true and you can be charged with a crime as a juvenile at any time of the year, including times when you are not on a break from school or over the summer. It is important to keep this in mind, because many younger defendants think the authorities are looking for reasons to make arrests in the warmer months, but some figures show the number of arrests is actually lower over summer break than at other times of the year. Remembering this statistic may help a youthful offender to think twice before acting out, and can help to keep an arrest from taking place.
- The thought that taking a hard line will teach a younger offender a lesson, by teaching them a hard life lesson in a restrictive setting. The truth is that rehabilitation works better than facilities with strict rules, and the incident of repeat offenses decreases when juveniles are given a second chance rather than a wakeup call.
- The idea that giving a juvenile offender a “good scare” will help to deter future bad acts. Much like full lock down facilities do little to deter repeat performances, scaring a youthful offender into desirable behavior usually does not work.
In many of these situations the harm done to the offender can be greater than any good that is accomplished, because resentment tends to build when needs are not met. And it is common for most offenses to take place as a result a “cry for help”, or the need for attention. Most instances of juvenile bad acts are harmless, while others are more severe. The key is to have the punishment fit the crime, while working to teach a lesson that will last a lifetime. We have experience helping juvenile offenders reach solutions that do as little damage to their future as possible, while providing a much needed education. Call us today if you have a loved one that has been charged with a crime as a youthful offender, or if you have questions about how the distinction between being charged as an adult versus a juvenile is made.
If you minor child has been charged with an offense, take the steps necessary to help maintain a good record. Call our office to speak with a skilled criminal defense attorney in Stuart and the Treasure Coast. The first visit is a free consultation, call today.