January 26, 2018

Is Florida Sending Too Many Juveniles Through the System?

Posted in Blog |

In the state of Florida, too many locales are sending a substantial number of young offenders into the criminal justice system when this may not be the best approach.  Injustice Today reported on the problem, indicating that while Miami-Dade and Pinellas counties have found ways to try to keep offenders out of the justice system, the rest of Florida is needlessly punishing youth offenders much more harshly than is necessary and is potentially having an adverse impact on the future of many young Florida residents.

When a young person is accused of wrongdoing, the consequences could be serious and could affect the rest of that young person’s life. An Okaloosa County juvenile attorney should be consulted by parents whose children are accused of wrongdoing. Our legal team can help families to fight serious charges and to reduce the likelihood that a young offender will have his or her life derailed because of harsh penalties.

According to Injustice Today, both Pinellas County and Miami-Dade County have a practice of issuing civil citations instead of arrests to 94 percent of young people who are eligible to face civil instead of criminal penalties.  The rest of the counties in Florida, however, are not diverting even half of all eligible young people into the civil justice system instead of the criminal justice system. This is a major problem for young people facing harsh penalties for minor offenses.

Too Many Juvenile Offenders are Facing Penalties That are Too Harsh

Both Pinellas and Miami-Dade Counties received an A- grade on a new report grading Florida counties on whether they are pursuing alternatives to criminal consequences for young people who commit minor offenses. The report was prepared by a nonprofit think tank called the Caruthers Institute.

According to the report, more than half of the counties received a grade of F on the report because in many of those counties, offenders accused of minor offenses like vandalism, underaged drinking, shoplifting or possessing marijuana were arrested and put into the criminal justice system. These minor offenders could have instead faced civil penalties, which could mean being forced to make restitution, undergo treatment or attend classes. 

When a young offender faces civil penalties for wrongdoing, that offender will not be at risk of being sentenced to being held in custody. The young person would also not be formally processed within the criminal justice system and would not be left with a criminal record — unlike if the offender is arrested instead of receiving a civil citation.

Many counties leave the issue up to the police regarding whether offenders should be arrested or should be issued a civil citation. Because of a lingering focus on appearing tough-on-crime, often law enforcement officials choose arrest when civil citation might be the better plan in the long-run. 

As long as this practice continues, young people will continue to have their futures put at risk by aggressive enforcement of the law that leaves even minor offenders potentially facing criminal charges. An Okaloosa County juvenile attorney can provide representation to young people accused of wrongdoing to help try to ensure that an arrest does not cause a young person’s future to be derailed.

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