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Coping with Juvenile Arrests in Florida

The arrest of a child is often a traumatic and distressing experience, both for the youngster and his/her parents. Juvenile criminal activities refer to those perpetrated by anyone under the age of 18. If adjudicated delinquent, the defendant is inducted into a rehabilitation program drawn up by the Florida Department of Children and Families. If your child or someone you know has been taken into custody or accused of a crime by law enforcement officers, here’s what you need to know:

• While law enforcement officers have the right to take your child into custody, they must inform you or the child’s legal guardians.

• A child can be questioned without his/her parents or legal guardians present, but the court has the right to accept the resultant testimony based on whether the accused youngster was aware of his/her constitutional rights.

• Law enforcement officers are well within their rights to detain your child at a county jail for up to 6 hours for the purpose of fingerprinting and photographing if they have reason to believe that he/she has committed a crime. These records must be held separately and away from the public eye, and must be destroyed on orders from the court.

• Your child has the right to be represented by an attorney, just like any adult. The attorney must respect the wishes of your child over yours, in spite of the youngster being a minor. Any communication between your child and his/her attorney is confidential.

• If a juvenile court finds your child adjudicated delinquent with which he has been charged, there are certain circumstances that allow the conviction to be used later in an adult court if your child has been charged with and is tried for further criminal offenses.

• Court hearings of juvenile trials are not always held in camera.

• While juvenile records are kept private and access to them is limited to the child, his/her attorney and his/her parents or guardians, any information that is garnered from court hearings that are open to the public is allowed to be published in the press.

• While most juveniles are tried in juvenile courts, there are some circumstances under which the accused is tried as an adult in an adult criminal court depending on the seriousness of the crime.

• A juvenile accused of a crime cannot be placed in jail unless he/she has been tried and adjudicated delinquent in an adult criminal court or is being transferred to an adult court for the first time. He/she must be held separate from adult inmates, in cells that are not visible or audible to them, at all times.

• A juvenile accused of a crime is usually placed in detention after which the DCF must notify you. A hearing before a judge must be conducted within 24 hours of the detainment. If the court decides that detention must be continued, a trial must begin within the next 21 days.

This post was contributed by Kelly Kilpatrick, who writes on the subject for the colleges for criminal justice. She invites your feedback at kellykilpatrick24@gmail.com.