No parent expects their child to become involved in the juvenile justice system. Knowing your child has been taken into custody by law enforcement is frightening and is often followed by a long journey with lawyers, courts, and stress. Going through the steps of a trial, adjudication, detainment and release can be confusing and stressful, but it is important to fully understand the juvenile justice process in order to protect the rights of you and your child.
If your child is taken in custody, the first thing you should do is call a lawyer. Here are some other steps you can take to help your child.
Understand the Juvenile Justice Process
It is necessary to have an understanding of how the legal system works in order to help your child through the process and ultimately have him or her be released.
Typically, your child will become involved in the juvenile justice system in one of two ways: your child’s school will report an incident to a law enforcement agency or your child will be taken into custody directly. A minor being taken into custody is the equivalent of an adult being arrested.
When taken into custody in Florida, they are referred to a juvenile assessment center or on-call screener and the family is notified. They then undergo detention risk assessment, which determines whether they will be held in a detention center or home detention care while awaiting trial.
Generally, there are three different outcomes for what happens next:
- Case dropped – The case will not be prosecuted.
- Diversion – There are numerous programs the State Attorney can refer your child to if they feel it’s an appropriate case. These diversions can be non-judicial or judicially ordered through the judge. Non-judicial would allow your child to never appear before a judge.
- Adjudication withheld – The court finds the minor to have committed a delinquent act, but does not adjudicate the delinquency. The minor is placed on community supervision.
- Adjudication – The court finds a minor guilty of a delinquent act. The minor can be committed or placed on community supervision.
If a court decides the minor should be committed, he or she may be placed in a residential facility within the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice.
The moment your child enters the juvenile justice system, a record is created in his or her name. Even after minors are released from detainment, their records may be available to the public, hindering their ability to get jobs or become contributing members of society in the future. For your child’s record to be destroyed, a motion for expungement must be filed.
What to do When Your Child is Taken into Custody
- Try to see your child as soon as possible, but do not ask your child to confess to you. If your child confesses to you, you may be called as a witness against him or her. A lawyer is the only person your child can talk to safely.
- Remind your child not to talk to the police without a lawyer present.
- Find out as much information about the charges and the alleged delinquent act as soon as possible.
The Importance of an Attorney
As soon as your child is detained, he or she has the right to an attorney and does not have to talk to police without an attorney being present. If your child has become involved with the juvenile justice system, call LMW Attorneys immediately so we can begin working to protect your child’s legal rights.
LMW Attorneys are also skilled at getting past charges expunged from one’s record. Remember: juvenile records are not automatically expunged. Call our office today for a free consultation regarding the expungement of you or your child’s record.