Understanding Florida’s Department of Juvenile Justice – It’s Process, Principles and Mission
Crimes committed by a person under the age of 18 in Florida are usually handled by the Juvenile Justice System. For certain serious crimes, the State Attorney’s office can, in its discretion, charge the juvenile as an adult.
Unlike the adult criminal court system, which is punitive in nature, the Juvenile Justice process focuses on rehabilitating offenders. The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) works closely with the court in the administration of the Juvenile Justice process.
It is important to consult with an attorney, as these crimes can become complicated, depending on the age of the perpetrator and the nature of the crime. There is no reason for any parent/ guardian or juvenile to go into a courtroom without an attorney, or at least an idea of what to expect. Attorney Art Fulmer offers free consultations, will guide you every step-of-the-way, and will appear in court alongside you or your child.
As soon as you are made aware that you will be dealing with the juvenile justice system, it is important to know the vision, mission, the guiding principles of the DJJ, the typical process starting from the child’s intake or arrest, and parental issues that may stem from a juvenile intake or arrest.
The Vision of the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ):
The children and families of Florida will live in safe, nurturing communities that provide for their needs, recognize their strengths and support their success.
The Mission of the Department of Juvenile Justice:
To increase public safety by reducing juvenile delinquency through effective prevention, intervention and treatment services that strengthen families and turn around the lives of troubled youth.
The Guiding Principles of the Department of Juvenile Justive:
- Prevention and education are paramount.
- Strengthen partnerships with judicial, legislative and community stakeholders.
- Promote public safety through effective intervention.
- Provide a safe and nurturing environment for our children.
- Preserve and restore physical and mental health.
- Intake and/or arrest. Once a child is turned over to the DJJ, a probation officer reviews the case and completes a standardized Risk Assessment Instrument (RAI).
- Detention Hearing. If DJJ decides to detain the child, a detention hearing before the circuit court must occur within 24 hours of being taken into custody.
- Delinquency Petition. If the state attorney decides to proceed with the case, a delinquency petition is filed. However, if agreed to pay the state attorney and all parties, the child could be placed into a diversionary program and upon successful complete, have the case dismissed.
- Adjudicatory Hearing. At this stage the court will hold a hearing to determine whether the child committed a violation of the law. This is analogous to a trial in adult court.
- Disposition Hearing. This is analogous to sentencing in adult court.
Parents or guardians are responsible for providing for their children and deterring them from committing delinquent acts. A parent can essentially be punished for their child’s criminal behavior, which is sometimes a surprise. For example:
- Parents or guardians are required to attend hearings and can be held in contempt of court if they fail to appear.
- Parents or guardians can be liable for paying restitution to the victim for damage or loss caused by the child’s offense.
- Parents or guardians can be ordered to perform community service, along with the child, if the court finds they did not make a good faith effort to prevent the child from engaging in delinquent acts.
- Parents or guardians can be ordered to pay costs associated with representation of the child.
- Parents or guardians can be ordered to take a parenting skills course.
- If a child is placed into a secure detention facility, the court can order the parents to pay the fees.
Art Fulmer is a juvenile defense attorney based in Lakeland, Florida. He has been successfully representing juvenile criminal clients since 2006. If you would like to speak with an experienced attorney to learn more about your legal rights, please contact us today.
Resources: Florida Department of Juvenile Justice website