Criminal offenses committed by a person under the age of 18 in Florida are typically handled by the Juvenile Justice System. The Juvenile Justice System focuses on rehabilitating youthful offenders as opposed to the adult court system which is punitive in nature.
The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) plays a major role in the administration of the Juvenile Justice System in Florida along with the Court system. DJJ’s stated mission is 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.”
It is important to be aware that children under the age of 18 can be prosecuted in adult court. When this happens it is called a “Direct File” which means the child bypasses the Juvenile System and is treated as an adult. The reason a child is direct filed is usually the result of a repeat juvenile offender, and / or a juvenile offender who has committed a serious crime.
It is important to remember that even though your child is a minor law enforcement and the State Attorney’s Office will not treat them that way. That’s why hiring a lawyer with experience is critical to ensuring that your child does not fall victim to the system.
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Houson R. Lafrance