CLEARWATER CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY
Helping Children & Youthful Offenders in Tampa Bay
One of the worst experiences you can suffer is for your child to be arrested. Your child needs the best defense available immediately. Mishandling a case in its initial stages can lead to serious consequences. Crimes committed by juveniles are usually tried in separate courts from crimes committed by adults and the rules applied are different. There is no jury in juvenile cases. The judge decides the facts and the law in these cases.
No matter how significant the charge, the Judge will often make very quick assumptions and decisions about your child and your child’s future without really having much reliable information about your child. Even while law enforcement, the prosecutor and the victim are given their opportunity to speak with the Judge, all of this will happen without the Judge consulting you.
If you’re child is under investigation or has been arrested by Pinellas or Tampa Bay law enforcement, you need to hire the best Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney for your child’s needs.
The main goals of juvenile justice in Florida are to keep the public safe, to help children remain with their family, if possible, and offer services to help children make positive changes for their future. These are the hopes of Florida’s laws and though these hopes are noble too often in the process of Juvenile Justice in Florida, it’s the children who are left behind, the children who suffer and the children who pay the consequences. This is true because Florida’s juvenile detention needs reform. In Tampa Bay and Pinellas the focus of the Juvenile Criminal law system should always be on rehabilitating children who have violated Florida law, rather than punishing them.
So for your child our first goal must be for your child never to have to endure an extended stay in jail. The second goal is to have the case against your child dismissed or if not dismissable to have the felony reduced to a misdeamenor. The third goal is to have the charges dismissed thru a pre-trial diversion program where the charged offense will be dismissed if there is sufficient evidence that your child is actually guilty of an unlawful act. If none of these goals is acceptable for any reason then it may be necessary to proceed to trial by testing the strength of the State’s case against your child. Each of these goals and the possible consequences of a trial will be discussed in more detail below and how juvenile statutes and law may affect the outcome of your child’s case.
Because one goal of the law is to keep the public safe, the State Attorney’s Office, not the judge, can file adult charges against a juvenile as an adult with adult sanctions where it is deemed necessary. If tried as an adult the child will be treated as an adult for all purposes and punishments without regard to age; therefore it’s vitally important to have the help of a knowledgeable Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney who will argue which factors the prosecutors should use to not file as an adult. The factors which Prosecutors in Pinellas and Tampa Bay should take into account in filing adult criminal charges against a child include the nature of the offense, the prior record of the child and the threat of the child causing harm in the community. Unfortunately too often filing decisions are made based on other reasons, such as how the case may look in the media or an angry victim or an “out to get them” law enforcement officer; sometimes it is clear that racial, cultural, ethnic or religious values may be part of filing decisions even if not done explicitly.
Where a young person has been charged with a felony that involves a significant amount of jail time, for example manslaughter or aggravated battery or rape, It may be possible to argue to the judge that your child even if being treated as an adult by the prosecution should have the benefit of being a youthful offender under the Florida Youthful Offender Act.
Here is a sample of a MOTION TO DISMISS CASE BASED ON YOUTHFUL OFFENDER STATUTE filed by a Pinellas Criminal Defense Attorney. When young people and young adults are charged with grave crimes, the purpose of the Florida Youthful Offender Statute is “…to improve the chances of correction and successful return to the community of youthful offenders sentenced to imprisonment by providing them with enhanced vocational, educational, counseling, or public service opportunities and by preventing their association with older and more experienced criminals during the terms of their confinement…”, so the in its discretion “…court may impose a split sentence whereby the youthful offender is to be placed on probation or community control upon completion of any specified period of incarceration; however, if the incarceration period is to be served in a department facility other than a probation and restitution center or community residential facility, such period shall be for not less than 1 year or more than 4 years” with other alternatives in the statute.
Whether your child is being tried as an adult or as a juvenile it’s important to contact a criminal law attorney as early in the process as possible so that he can begin an investigation into the conduct of your child and present any mitigating evidence to the prosecutor before a filing decision is made and if necessary try the case.
CRIMINAL PROCEDURE OF FLORIDA JUVENILE LAW – THE PATH OF A CHILD’S CASE IN JUVENILE COURTS IN TAMPA BAY:
- The path of your child’s case will be determined by juvenile law procedure which includes the process of your child’s case beginning with the arrest of your child, the arraignment of your child, the prosecutor’s investigation of your child’s conduct, discovery of the police reports, expert witness and victim’s statement of your child’s case, pretrials where the Court, prosecutors and Defense Counsel discuss possible disposition of your child’s case, a non-jury trial of your child’s case should there be no reasonable resolution of your child’s case acceptable and finally with a case predisposition report should the Court find your child guilty of a crime at the non-jury trial.
- The predisposition report will be used by the Judge to determine a fair sentence for you child based on prior record, the facts of the offense and the history of your child, each of which a Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyer will argue in mitigation.
- If the Judge finds your child is guilty of a crime he can do any of the following with your child: The Presiding Juvenile Judge may place the defendant on juvenile probation. The period of probation must be served successfully.
- Should your child fail to comply with his or her probationary requirements the Judge will set a compliance hearing with the possibility of further punishment if the terms of the probation including any court ordered restitution for the victim and court costs are not met.
- The Presiding Juvenile Judge may commit your child to the Pinellas Juvenile Detention Center at one of four levels which include the following programs: Low risk programs that last from 30-45 days; Moderate risk programs last from four to six months; High risk programs last from six to nine months, and Juvenile Prison that lasts from 18-36 months.
- If treated as a juvenile offender rather than an adult, your son or daughter may first find themselves in the Pinellas Juvenile Detention Center which is a “…76 bed, hardware secure facility that serves youth detained by various circuit courts. Youth are detained pending adjudication, disposition or placement in commitment facility….Services for youth include: education, mental health, substance abuse, and health care. Medical and mental health are contracted services. Educational services are funded by the Department of Education through local school districts. A typical day in secure detention would involve hygiene, meals, school, structured physical and educational activities, and court appearance as scheduled. The average length of stay in secure detention is approximately 12 days.”
- While at the center the children may be visited only by their parents, grandparents, legal guardians with photo identification and proof of the existence of a familiar relationship. Other approved visitors if ordered by the court or specifically approved by the superintendent of the Detention Center. Legal counsel, probation, law enforcement and clergy and other professionals may visit detainees as necessary.
WHAT RIGHTS DOES A CHILD ACCUSED OF CRIME HAVE?
As we’ve already discussed, if anything a Child accused of a crime in Florida has fewer rights than an adult. For example, a child can not have a trial by jury in Florida although any adult may demand one. However, in many other respects the legal defenses to charges, such as problems with a search or a failure to properly secure a warrant which are appropriate for adult criminal acts will succeed for a child if timely and properly argued. An effective attorney will search the charged offense for legal problems and every possible defense.
If your child has been arrested for juvenile aggravated assault or aggravated battery or even murder and the panoply of federal crimes your child may face a number of severe penalties if convicted. A person does not have to physically strike another individual to be charged with aggravated assault if the victim believes a violent attack is imminent. On the other hand, an aggravated battery is the act of making unlawful physical contact with another person and it does not have to be violent. Simply touching or grabbing a person without his or her consent may result in a battery charge. If found guilty, you, your child and your family may be responsible for medical costs to the victim, court fees and fines, if found to be guilty.
Your child may be charged with any act committed under Florida law which is criminal including DUI, drug crimes, trafficking or conspiracy in drugs. Depending upon the facts surrounding the allegation and the amount of drugs involved the State Attorney’s Office may charge your child as an adult. Further, even children and young adults can be charged criminally with sex crimes, computer crimes such as child pornography and identity theft as well as crimes involving grand theft or burglary and weapons and firearm use or possession, in each instance criminal law attorney should look at the allegations to determine what defenses may be used by your child, which is even more important than for an adult.
DOES MY CHILD WHOSE CHARGED WITH A CRIME IN FLORIDA NEED A LAWYER?
A Clearwater criminal defense attorney will help make sure your child is accepted into a diversionary program for the charge to be dropped where possible under the facts and circumstances of the case. This may occur where the charge offense or the amended offense is a minor crime and if it is a first offense by your child. The Juvenile Judge may then require your child to spend time performing some type of community service, attend counseling and write a letter of apology to the victim. Only if every requirement of the diversionary program is successfully completed within a timely manner will the charges may be dropped. But, If the judge chooses to commit the child, your son or daughter may be sent to a low-risk program from 30 to 45 days up to a high risk program that lasts as long as 36 months. Repeat offenders with serious juvenile charges may be sent to juvenile prison for 18 to 36 months.
If your child has been arrested, it is imperative that you seek legal counsel immediately. Robert Hambrick can assist you in getting the best outcome possible, based on the facts of your child’s case and he will fight to prevent your child from being charged as an adult. A single conviction on your child’s criminal record can forever change their life and make it impossible to receive educational scholarships, gain employment or even secure a future loan from a financial institution. Ajuvenile criminal record may adversely affect a child’s future in many ways including making it more difficult to get into a good college or graduate school and in many fields such as engineering, law, medicine or nursing the nature of the offense if it involves drugs, theft or violence may affect the future of an applicant for many years to come.
It’s best to understand the situation and to take immediate action when confronted with an arrest or criminal allegations as you can never re-fight a lost battle in the courtrooms of Florida, that’s why you need to call defense lawyer Robert Hambrick today. If your child is facing criminal charges then you need to be certain of your rights at this painful and confusing time, contact knowledgeable Clearwater juvenile crime defense attorney, Robert Hambrick immediately to ensure your child gets the best possible results.