Juvenile Sentencing Pros And Cons
A juvenile court judge hears basically the same cases as an adult criminal judge. The resolutions are also mostly the same. About 95 percent of criminal cases, in adult and juvenile court, settle out of court. But juvenile court and adult court sentencing philosophies are different. In adult court, it’s basically all about punishment. In juvenile court, most judges are more interested in rehabilitation.
That difference gives a Tampa juvenile charges attorney additional options. The alternatives vary, mostly depending on the facts of the case and the prosecutor’s offer. An open plea and a slow plea might also be available in some cases. An open plea basically means throwing yourself on the mercy of the court. A slow plea usually means the defendant pleads guilty and a jury assesses punishment.
Most juvenile criminal cases involve first-time offenders and non-violent crimes, like theft or drug possession. Judges almost never incarcerate these defendants, unless there are extreme extenuating circumstances.
A verbal warning/community service sentence is usually the lowest rung on the ladder. Frequently, a trip to the principal’s office changes a child’s behavior, especially if the principal has a black robe. Community service requirements vary, but they usually involve about fifty hours of picking up trash.
If children commit minor offenses, like vandalism, and are sorry for what they did, and not just sorry they got caught, this lowest sentencing level might be in order.
Most offenders in this category receive regular probation. During probation, offenders must personally check in with a probation officer, go to school full time, avoid alcohol or drugs, and stay out of trouble. If the defendant violates probation, the judge could incarcerate the juvenile. More on that below.
Generally, juvenile defendants are eligible for deferred disposition probation. If the defendant completes probation, the judge dismisses the case. So, there’s no conviction record.
Enhanced probation is the final non-incarceration option. In addition to the regular requirements, judges might include an electronic monitoring requirement. Deferred disposition might be available in enhanced probation cases, but it’s more difficult to obtain.
Judges usually incarcerate juvenile offenders who commit violent crimes and have criminal records. However, since the sentencing philosophy is different, the incarceration alternatives are different too. In fact, juveniles almost never serve time in a traditional jail or prison.
House arrest usually involves the aforementioned electronic monitoring. The difference is that a probation officer uses this information to track the juvenile’s movements. People who are on house arrest are subject to immediate detention if they go outside a designated place. This sentencing option could be available in borderline incarceration/probation matters.
Sometimes, the judge wants to get the child out of his/her current environment. In these cases, the judge usually orders some combination of removal and/or juvenile facility placement. This combination is the quintessential rehabilitation/punishment blend. Placement is usually with a relative, like an aunt or uncle. Typically, there is a path back to family reunification. The juvenile facility could be a short-term stint in juvenile hall or a longer stay in a secure juvenile facility.
In extremely serious cases, like a mass shooting, judges usually assess blended sentences. The defendant starts in a secure juvenile facility and finishes his/her sentence in an adult prison.
Reach Out to an Experienced Hillsborough County Attorney
Convicted juvenile offenders rarely go to jail. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Tampa, contact the OA Law Firm. We routinely handle matters in Hillsborough County and nearby jurisdictions.