Juvenile Delinquency, and the Tampa Courts

When a person under the age of 18 years has been arrested for a criminal offense, the case will most likely end up in juvenile delinquency court; although, adult charges are possible for more serious offenses. The juvenile delinquency lawyers at Brandon Legal Group have the experience necessary to properly help you or your child through this unfamiliar territory.

The allegations against the child are formally initiated by the Office of the State Attorney by the filing of a Petition alleging that the child has committed a delinquent act. The decision on whether to file a petition rests solely with the State Attorney regardless of any recommendations made by the Department of Juvenile Justice. Delinquent acts most often are criminal acts.

Once a Petition has been filed, it must be served with a summons on the child, the child’s parents, custodians, or guardians and the guardian ad litem. The parents or custodian is responsible for getting the child to the hearing at the date and time named in the summons. If the child is detained, the child is served in custody and must be arraigned within 48 hours after the Petition is filed.

The first major hearing is the arraignment. At arraignment the child enters a plea of guilty, no contest, or not guilty. Most times it is advisable to enter a plea of not guilty to give you and your attorney time to investigate the case thoroughly and to review the discovery documents. At this hearing the Court will also appoint the Public Defender to represent the child if the child otherwise qualifies for appointment. If a not guilty plea is entered, the case will be set for an adjudicatory hearing. The adjudicatory hearing must be held within 90 days of the date of arrest or service of the summons, whichever is earlier. The attorneys at Brandon Legal Group are experienced trial attorneys that will fight the allegations against you or your child at the adjudicatory hearing.

First-time offenders are often eligible for a diversion program or a “Walker Plan,” which is a proposed plan of treatment, training or conduct. These programs are discretionary with the Office of the State Attorney. However, our attorneys can help negotiate with the State Attorney for the purpose of persuading them to offer diversion or a Walker Plan that is beneficial to the child. If the child successfully completes the program, the Petition may be dismissed by the court upon proper motion. If the plan is violated, the court may enforce it, modify it, or set the case for an adjudicatory hearing.

If the child is found to have committed a delinquent act, either after trial or entry of a plea, the court has a variety of options at disposition. These include:

  • Commitment to a residential facility under the control of the Department of Juvenile Justice
  • Place the child on probation
  • Revoke the child’s driver’s license
  • Order the child and the child’s parents to pay restitution
  • Order the child and the child parents to participate in a community work project
  • Issue a judicial warning
  • Other sanctions reasonably related to the needs of the child

The Court also must decide whether to adjudicate the child delinquent or to withhold adjudication of delinquency.

If the child is placed on probation, violations of probation will be enforced through an Order to Show Cause and indirect contempt sanctions if the court finds a violation or violations. A first-time violation is punishable by up to 5 days in secure detention and second or subsequent violations are punishable by up to 15 days in secure detention. Multiple violations can be addressed in the same hearing and those multiple violations can be punished with consecutive sentences. J.M. v. Gargett, 101 So.3d 352 (Fla. 2012).

Brandon Legal Group will fight for the best result for every child it represents. Contact Us to discuss your case for free.

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