In the State of Florida, anybody under the age of 18 can be charged with a criminal offense. However, children arrested for criminal offenses are sent to the Court's Juvenile Division.
Children can be charged with misdemeanors as well as felonies. When a child is arrested in Miami-Dade County, they are taken to the Juvenile Assessment Center (JAC) where they are processed, assessed by mental health professionals, and typically released to the custody of their parents. If the accused child has a prior record, or is charged with a serious felony such as robbery, armed burglary, or narcotics trafficking, they may be held up to 21 days in the Juvenile Detention Center.
The goal of the juvenile justice system is to rehabilitate children so that they do not end up as adult offenders. For this reason, there are a wide array of pretrial diversion programs available. Much like adult pretrial diversion, the charges are often dropped if the accused child completes conditions of their program, such as classes, community service hours, and payment of restitution if necessary.
On the other hand, children can also be charged with very serious crimes such as murder, attempted murder, and carjacking. If the child is 16 or older, they will likely be direct filed. In other words, they will be charged as adults and their cases will be transferred out of the Juvenile Division.
Having a powerful South Florida criminal defense attorney may be able to negotiate with the State Attorney's Office in order for juvenile sanctions to be imposed. This is a very important as initiative taken on part of the accused may save a child from having to go to adult prison.
Juveniles are natural targets for law enforcement officers, who may perceive children as being up to no good. Just like adults, children can be wrongly arrested. As children can be charged with the same crimes as adults, the same legal rights apply.
If you or your child are facing juvenile charges, call me.