One Florida City Reinstates Juvenile Curfew
Children in New Smyrna Beach, Florida are subject to immediate arrest if they’re out after 11 p.m. on school nights or midnight on weekends.
Proponents argue curfews curb crime and protect youth by keeping them off the streets. “If you limit the opportunity for youth to be out at 11 o’clock, 12 o’clock, one o’clock and two o’clock in the morning, you limit and control that exposure, and then you put it back where it ought to be — in the home,” Mayor George Flaggs Jr. remarked. “I’m a stern believer that you can’t be too punitive. … You have to deal with it from a holistic point of view and that is, include the family, the school and the community.”
But some elected officials moved in the other direction. Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed a statewide ban on curfews that prohibits both cities and counties from implementing them. The ban takes effect in September.
Texas state Rep. David Cook, a Republican who wrote the bill, said he hopes to see “a better relationship between juveniles and law enforcement agencies” as a result of the statewide ban on curfews. Cook also raised concerns that curfews could violate constitutional rights.
Curfew laws could affect the three of the most common juvenile offenses, which are possession, conspiracy, and property crimes.
Adults typically get caught with controlled substances at parties or in vehicles. Children typically use controlled substances in dark alleys and parks. They typically use these substances in groups. If police arrest everyone in the group, and they normally do, possession charges might not hold up in court.
Prosecutors must prove knowledge and control, in addition to proximity. And, they must prove these things beyond a reasonable doubt. If five children are passing a joint, a Tampa criminal defense lawyer can argue that the four non-joint-holders didn’t have control of the joint.
Usually, juvenile conspiracy cases are gang crime cases. Unlike RICO cases, gang crime conspiracies can be very informal. Two kids in the same place at the same time might be a gang, under Florida law. Wearing gang-affiliated clothes or sending gang-affiliated texts could suffice as well.
Prosecutors could make a case with such circumstantial evidence. But the standard of proof, at least informally, is even higher. If a Tampa juvenile charges attorney introduces any other alternative theory (e.g. Bill likes red shirts), the charges might not hold up in court.
Property crimes are not only difficult to prove. Usually, prosecutors aren’t very interested in them. Vandalism and other property crimes require complaining witnesses. Generally, these witnesses lose interest in these cases as the criminal court process drags on. Frequently, they don’t become uncooperative, but they aren’t cooperative either. Additionally, as far as many prosecutors are concerned, such matters are civil matters, since insurance usually compensates these owners.
Resolving Juvenile Offenses
These evidence issues, along with the nature of juvenile criminal defense create many resolution options that have a (somewhat) happy ending, for defendants and their families.
Frequently, prosecutors offer pretrial diversion, especially in property crime cases. A Tampa criminal defense attorney can often obtain pretrial diversion in other cases as well, especially if the evidence is weak or a defense might apply.
Program requirements vary in different courts. Usually, defendants must stay out of trouble for a few months and jump through some other hoops, such as completing a community service requirement. If the defendant successfully completes pretrial diversion, prosecutors dismiss the case.
We briefly mentioned the nature of juvenile cases above. Usually, courts and prosecutors want to keep families together if possible. Incarceration and foster care are expensive. Monitoring is relatively inexpensive. If caregivers accept some responsibility for the situation and demonstrate the willingness to make changes, this outcome is even more likely.
Reach Out to a Savvy Hillsborough County Attorney
A criminal charge is not the same thing as a criminal conviction. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Tampa, contact the OA Law Firm. Convenient payment plans are available.