Don't Let an Early Mistake Ruin your Child's Life

When a parent receives a phone call that his or her child has been charged with a juvenile offense, it can be a completely frustrating and overwhelming experience. The primary concern for any parent is protecting the child's future from the devastating effects associated with the arrest. The most important factor in protecting your child's future is hiring an experienced juvenile defense lawyer. The juvenile system is supposed to focus on rehabilitating juvenile delinquents, but all too often, overly zealous prosecutors push for harsher sentences and for filing cases in adult court. Hiring an experienced attorney can keep the case in the juvenile system, where better options are available for addressing any of the child's rehabilitative needs. Protecting your child's best interest is our paramount concern.

The Juvenile Defense Attorneys at Ashley Goggins Law, P.A. are well-versed in Florida juvenile law. Attorney Goggins started her career as a juvenile public defender and is experienced in providing exceptional Juvenile Criminal Defense services to clients in Duval County. Attorney Goggins will also work closely with the parents of the juvenile to address the child's rehabilitative needs. By being proactive in addressing the child's needs through voluntary efforts, we can often show the Prosecutor and Judge that additional court intervention is not necessary.

The Juvenile defense attorneys at our firm have represented juvenile clients in hundreds of cases, including:

  • Serious felony charges

  • Sex offenses, including molestation of another child

  • Drug offenses, from possession to sale to trafficking

  • Vandalism

  • Burglary

  • Theft

  • Robbery

  • Traffic and misdemeanor offenses

  • Shoplifting

  • Arson

  • Criminal mischief

  • DUI

  • Reckless driving

  • Underage possession of alcohol

  • Underage possession of tobacco

  • Possession of a Weapon or Firearm

AFTER THE ARREST

Talking To The Police And A Juvenile's Right To Remain Silent
When the police come to talk to a child about a criminal investigation, many parents encourage their child to answer all of the officer's questions. Although well intentioned, when the child is suspected of having committed a serious crime, that advice may not be in the child's best interest. Regardless of whether the child is guilty, answering questions is almost never in the child's best interest. Instead, most attorneys agree that if a child is the target of an investigation, the child should invoke his or her absolute and constitutionally guaranteed right to remain silent and refuse to answer any questions until after he or she has consulted with an experienced juvenile defense attorney.


If the juvenile is arrested, he or she will be taken to the Juvenile Assessment Center (JAC). Once at the JAC, the staff will question the child about his or her medical condition, age, school and a way to contact parents or a guardian. The staff at the JAC will then contact the parents, inform them of the charges, and provide information about the time and place of the detention hearing. In certain cases, the JAC will immediately call the parents to release the child to them.

THE DETENTION HEARING


The detention hearing usually occurs the next morning after the arrest. The juvenile will be taken in front of the judge. The judge will review the police reports and other documents and decide whether the juvenile should be released or remain in custody. Detention depends on several factors, including the nature and seriousness of the pending charge and the juvenile's prior record, if any. An experienced juvenile attorney at our firm can appear on the child's behalf and aggressively argue for the release of the juvenile into a safer environment. The attorney can speak for the child to ensure that all legal defenses, mitigating factors and objections are brought before the court. At the detention hearing, the judge has several options, including: 1) holding the child for 21 days in secure detention; 2) placing the child in home detention; 3) releasing the child to the parents.

Detention Risk Assessment Instrument (DRAI)


The JAC prepares this report, which assigns points to determine the level of detention necessary to secure the child prior to the next court date and the conclusion of the case. Certain points are assigned based on the nature of the pending charge and the child's juvenile history. Typically, if the child scores more than 12 points, then the judge can hold the child for up to 21 days. However, the judge has great discretion in determining the child's placement.

If the child is ordered to be detained during the detention hearing, an attorney can later file a motion for detention review to ask the judge to consider other factors that were not previously brought to the court's attention.

Charging A Juvenile As An Adult


During the initial 21-day period, the prosecutors in the State Attorney's Office look at the facts of the case to decide whether charges should be filed. An experienced juvenile attorney can also conduct an investigation and talk with the State Attorney's Office about reasons why charges should not be filed. Additionally, children as young as 14 can be tried as an adult in cases of robbery, aggravated battery, possessing a weapon on school property or grand theft of a vehicle. Furthermore, if the allegations involve the use of a firearm or gun, the juvenile could be charged as an adult under the "10-20-Life" law. If the State Attorney's Office ultimately files charges in adult court, the child will be detained in the county jail and appear before a judge in adult court for a bond hearing.

THE ARRAIGNMENT

Once Charges Are Filed
If charges are filed, an experienced juvenile defense attorney at Escobar & Associates will proceed with the goal of having the charges dismissed through pretrial motions such as a motion to suppress or a motion to dismiss. Additionally, an aggressive defense will often result in more favorable pretrial negotiations with the prosecutor and, hopefully, drastically reduced charges and/or sentencing.

THE ADJUDICATORY HEARINGS (TRIAL)


If no agreement can be reached, then the case will go to trial. In juvenile court, there are no jury trials — only bench trials before the judge. The state is required to prove "beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt" that the juvenile committed the crime. The juvenile is not required to prove anything. Witnesses, including the complaining witness or alleged victim, are subpoenaed to testify. The defense will cross-examine any of the state's witnesses and present all evidence in favor of the juvenile.


The judge decides whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty and announces the verdict aloud in the courtroom. If the defendant is guilty, the judge may order the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) to prepare a predisposition report recommending sanctions for the juvenile. A predisposition report is an inquiry into the background, criminal history and family circumstances of the defendant. It is completed by the DJJ and given to the judge, the defense attorney, the defendant and the assistant state attorney. The report includes a sentencing recommendation for the judge to review. Although the judge may order a predisposition report, it is not required or completed in all cases.

SENTENCING HEARING


Once a defendant has been found guilty at trial or entered a plea of guilty, the court will then proceed to a disposition or sentencing hearing. The Judge may have ordered a pre-disposition report which allows a treatment plan, which recommends the least restrictive environment that will meet the juvenile’s needs and reasonably ensure public safety. At this sentencing hearing where you will learn what penalties your child will face, such as:

Probation or Commitment to the DJJ.

PROBATION

If a juvenile is placed on probation, the juvenile is supervised by DJJ and assigned a Juvenile Probation Officer (JPO). Probation will include conditions/sanctions that include, but are not limited to, monetary restitution, jail tour, community service work, letter of apology, counseling, curfew, anger management and mental health and/or substance abuse treatment.

If adjudication has been withheld, the juvenile may be on probation until the juvenile’s 19th birthday. The length of probation for a juvenile adjudicated delinquent may be for the statutory maximum. The court may terminate the probation at any time, regardless of adjudication.

VIOLATION OF PROBATION

If a juvenile on probation violates the conditions/sanctions of probation, a Violation of Probation (VOP) petition will be filed. If the juvenile admits the violation or the court finds that the juvenile violated probation, the court may revoke, modify, or continue probation and impose any sanctions that could have been imposed at the original disposition hearing. This means the court could then commit the juvenile to DJJ, regardless of whether the juvenile had already been committed.

COMMITMENT

If the court commits the juvenile to the DJJ, it must specify a level of restrictiveness. The DJJ recommends a commitment level, and the judge ultimately commits the defendant, choosing the level that is most appropriate. There are four levels of commitment:

There are four difference levels:

  • Low Risk Programs: 30 – 45 Days,

  • Moderate Risk Programs: 4 – 6 Months

  • High Risk Programs: 6 – 9 Months

  • Juvenile Prison: 18 – 36 Months

ADJUDICATE DELINQUENT AND COMMIT TO DJJ WITH OR WITHOUT PROBATION TO FOLLOW THE COMMITMENT


If adjudication has been withheld, the juvenile may be on probation until the juvenile’s 19th birthday. The length of probation for a juvenile adjudicated delinquent may be for the statutory maximum. The court may terminate the probation at any time, regardless of adjudication.

If a juvenile is committed to the DJJ by the court, that means the juvenile will attend a program designated by the DJJ. Programs can be residential or non-residential. Non-residential programs require that the juvenile live at home and attend a program during the day. Residential programs require the juvenile to live away from home for a period of months to years. The length of stay for all of the programs depends mostly on the juvenile’s needs and participation in the program’s education and treatment. The judge may also impose probation with conditions/sanctions to follow commitment. Once the juvenile successfully completes the commitment program and/or all probation conditions/sanctions, he may be terminated from all court supervision.

Contrary to popular belief, a juvenile case is accessible during background checks and criminal records searches, and juvenile records are not expunged or deleted upon a child’s 18th birthday. Rather, the record is readily available to the State should the individual find himself in trouble with crime as an adult.

If your child has been arrested, it is in your best interest to hire an experienced Jacksonville Juvenile Defense Attorney to protect your child’s rights in court. A juvenile offense is a serious matter with consequences that can affect your child’s future. Contact the Juvenile Defense Attorneys at Ashley Goggins Law, P.A. at 904-903-4522 for a free initial consultation or schedule online.