Keeping Juveniles Home And Out Of The System
Overall, juvenile crime arrests in the Sunshine State have dropped sharply since the 1990s. This decline is not necessarily food news all the way around. For example, this decrease has given families a false sense of security.
So, they may not supervise their children as closely, reasoning that they will probably not get in trouble and, even if they do, the trouble will be easy to deal with. Unfortunately, this attitude often has severe consequences when law enforcement inevitably makes an arrest.
Although the same criminal laws apply to juvenile defendants, a Tampa juvenile charges attorney needs specialized experience to handle these matters. Only juvenile courts handle juvenile criminal matters. These courts have their own evidentiary and procedural rules. Many of these rules are unwritten.
Frequently, these matters are “wrong place, wrong time” or “bad company” arrests. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or associating with the wrong people, could justify an arrest. Officers only need probable cause at this point. But these charges often do not hold up in court.
Drug or alcohol possession, such as kids passing a joint or a bottle at a party, are a good example. In court, prosecutors must:
- Produce the Substance in Court: Prosecutors often rely on the exigent circumstances exception. If officers respond to a distress call, such as an out-of-control party, they may enter premises and seize any drugs or other contraband they see in plain view. If the original complaint was a noise complaint or something along those lines, this exception is harder to establish.
- Prove it Was Illegal: This item is often significant in possession of marijuana cases. It’s impossible to physically distinguish between hemp, which is legal, and marijuana, which is illegal.
- Establish Possession: In court, possession means more than proximity. The state must also establish knowledge and control. These elements are hard to prove in the aforementioned group-passing situations.
An attorney can use these defenses during pretrial settlement negotiations. Most prosecutors would already rather see children remain with their parents. A legal defense makes this outcome even more likely.
Aggravated assaults, as well as simple assaults, are serious crimes. However, these offenses also have a number of moving parts. Therefore, lack of evidence is often an issue.
For example, most assault cases require complaining witnesses. By the time a trial rolls around, many alleged victims have lost interest in the case and refuse to cooperate. Technically, prosecutors can subpoena these witnesses and force them to testify against their will. But that’s a bad scene for everyone, especially if the complaining witness was also a juvenile.
Because of these issues, a trial usually isn’t necessary. An attorney can usually force a favorable pretrial settlement agreement. Even if the juvenile has a criminal record, this agreement usually involves little or no time behind bars.
Reach Out to a Dedicated Attorney
Serious juvenile criminal cases almost always have at least a reasonably happy ending. 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.