Fort Lauderdale Juvenile Defense Lawyer
Protect Your Future with an Aggressive Defense
If your child was arrested for a crime, you need a lawyer with the skill and experience to handle the case. At Hager & Schwartz, P.A., we are committed to helping parents like you protect their children's futures through effective juvenile defense representation. Juvenile crimes involve a unique set of complications not found in other areas of criminal defense, and contrary to popular belief, a conviction will not necessarily disappear when your child turns 18 years old.
Contact our office today to see how the Fort Lauderdale juvenile delinquency lawyers at Hager & Schwartz, P.A. can help you. We offer free and confidential consultations!
Types of Juvenile Delinquency in Fort Lauderdale, FL
The term "juvenile crime" refers to a broad range offense handled by juvenile courts.
Some of the common juvenile crimes in Florida include:
- Theft crimes, such as shoplifting
- Property crimes, including vandalism
- Violent crimes, such as assault and battery
- Drug crimes, including drug possession
- Underage drinking and underage DUI
These crimes are not limited to juveniles (including underage drinking and DUI, which applies to adults less than 21 years old), but they are more common among young offenders.
Who is Legally a "Juvenile" in Florida?
In most cases, the court labels anyone between the ages of 10 and 18 a juvenile. There are exceptions to this rule, though, such as older juveniles who commit violent crimes or felony offenses. These cases may be tried in adult criminal court. In juvenile court, young offenders are offered special protection and provisions that are not available to adult defendants. For example, it is often easier for a juvenile to get an expungement if their case is handled in juvenile court.
Stages of a Florida Juvenile Case
Compared to the stages of an adult criminal case, the juvenile court system is much different. The main difference is that juvenile courts are designed to rehabilitate minors to help them avoid becoming repeat offenders when they become older, rather than punish them like adult court.
The following are the various stages of juvenile cases in Florida:
- Arrest – When a child is arrested, the police will bring the minor to the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) at the Juvenile Assessment Center (JAC). A DJJ counselor will conduct a risk assessment report to decide if the minor may be released to their parent or guardian for non-secure detention or held in secure detention while being supervised daily. Violating the rules of non-secure detention will result in a child being held in a detention center.
- Detention Hearing – When a minor is held through the evening, he/she is subject to a detention hearing within 24 hours of the arrest. A judge will decide whether to release the juvenile and determine the proper conditions to ensure the community is safe. If the judge rules against release, the minor will remain in the juvenile center for up to 21 days (or up to 30 days for more serious offenses).
- Intake – From the child’s arrest to the next court hearing, the State Attorney (prosecutor) will assess the circumstances of the case and decide what charges to file against the minor.
- Arraignment – A minor will appear for arraignment after three weeks (on average) after an arrest. This court hearing gives the minor—and his/her attorney—an opportunity to enter a please (e.g. not guilty, guilty, or no contest).
- Discovery – From the arraignment to the trial date, attorneys on both sides will exchange evidence, which is known as discovery. During this process, any witnesses will be subpoenaed to provide a sworn statement under oath to the defense lawyer. Additionally, the prosecutor will provide the defense with any evidence they have.
- Pretrial Diversion Programs – First-time offenders may be eligible for certain pretrial diversion programs that require the minor to follow specific rules and complete specific sanctions (e.g. community service, counseling, restitution, etc.). If a child completes the program, his/her charges will be automatically dropped. Failure to complete the program will lead to trial.
- Plea Agreement – If a minor pleads not guilty, the prosecution and the defense may engage in plea negotiations to determine a resolution to the case without going to trial.
- Trial – If a plea agreement cannot be reached, the case will proceed to trial. Rather than having a jury decide the verdict, a judge has the authority to do so. If the defendant is found guilty, the judge may order the DJJ to file a predisposition report.
- Pre-Disposition Report – This report investigates the minor’s criminal history, as well as his/her educational and family background. Additionally, it also includes sentencing recommendations.
- Dispositional Hearing – Also known as a sentencing hearing, a judge determines whether the child will be placed on probation or commit the minor to a detention center. The juvenile court has jurisdiction over the minor until he/she turns 19 years old.
Common Penalties for Juvenile Crimes
As we mentioned before, there are two types of sentences: probation and commitment to a detention center. Probation is often associated with community service, counseling, restitution, and other rehabilitative services.
On the other hand, there are four levels of commitment: low risk, moderate risk, high risk, and juvenile prison. The low risk program lasts between 30 and 45 days, the moderate risk program lasts between four and six months, the high risk program lasts between six and nine months, and a juvenile prison sentence lasts between 18 and 36 months.
How Hager & Schwartz, P.A. Can Help You
If your child has been arrested for a juvenile offense, time is of the essence. For this reason, it would be wise to get in touch with the defense attorneys at Hager & Schwartz, P.A. as soon as possible. Having worked as former prosecutors, our lawyers have experience on both sides of the courtroom. They also share decades of legal experience, so don’t want to give us a call!
Are you ready to speak with a juvenile justice lawyer? Call our office 24/7 to schedule your free consultation with a Fort Lauderdale juvenile defense attorney. We can help you explore your legal options.