As a parent, there are few things as frightening as watching your child face criminal charges. If you are in this situation, you likely have hundreds of questions about what is going to happen. Here is a brief overview of the basics of the criminal justice process for defendants who are younger than 18 years old.
The criminal trail
Under Florida law, juveniles do not have the right to a jury trial. A judge will conduct the adjudicatory hearing (the official term for a juvenile criminal trial) in a public court room. If necessary to protect the juvenile or others, the judge has the discretion to close the trial to the public.
Just like in an adult criminal case, your child has the right to the representation of an attorney. This right does not only allow them to have an attorney in court – they can also have an attorney present at every other significant stage of the criminal justice process, such as during police questioning.
Florida courts prioritize rehabilitation over punishment for minors that commit delinquent acts. This means that, under certain circumstances, if your child is convicted, the court may order your child to attend a court education program instead of incarceration.
When minors can be tried as adults
If your child is at least 14 years old, there are certain key offenses that can grant the prosecutor the authority to request a transfer of the case to adult criminal court. These offenses include:
- Murder or attempted murder
- Armed robbery
- Sexual battery
- Aggravated battery or assault
There is no easy way to face the prospect of your child in the criminal justice system. But knowing what to expect, and how the process works, can help you to prepare a defense and be ready to put up a fight for your child’s freedom.