When a person under the age of 18 commits a crime they are usually treated as a minor and dealt with in the juvenile court system. A person over the age of 18 committing the same crime will be dealt with in the regular courts. The entire juvenile process, from arrest and indictment, through the trial and final sentencing, is purportedly designed to change the behavior of the offender as opposed to mete out punishment. Adult sentencing, on the other hand, is meant to incorporate elements of punishment, rehabilitation, restitution for victims and deterrent of further crimes, both for the offender and society at large.
The 12th Judicial Circuit Court of Florida deals with juvenile crimes in Sarasota and Manatee. The court has gone to great effort to produce a guide on its website that shows first time offenders — and their parents — what to expect if they end up in juvenile court. Despite such helpful advice from the courts, the process of being accused of a crime and becoming embroiled in the criminal administration process can be particularly scary for anyone involved, especially if the alleged offender is a juvenile.
Rights of young offenders
A juvenile accused of a crime has certain constitutional rights. Any abuse of these rights should be thoroughly investigated.
- The right to have a lawyer present — like adults, a minor charged with an offense must have a caution read to them following their arrest. Often referred to as “Miranda rights,” the caution must inform the person charged that they can wait for a lawyer before being asked any further questions about the incident. A lawyer will be provided by the state if a person can’t afford their own.
- The right to say nothing — the right to stay silent is fundamental and the police are not entitled to infer anything from your decision to stay silent.
- The right to have your parents with you — as such situations can be stressful and confusing, having parents or guardians present is an essential right for juveniles and offenders must be notified that they do not have to respond to any questions until their parents arrive.
If you or your child is facing juvenile court, whether for the first time or otherwise, a lawyer with particular experience handling juvenile courts can help to ensure that all your rights are preserved. We can walk you through all stages of the juvenile criminal process and help you achieve the best possible result.