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Juvenile Delinquency Defense

The term “juvenile delinquency” refers to allegations against a person under the age of 18 years old of committing a delinquent act or a law violation. Juvenile cases are civil in nature, but similar in many ways to criminal proceedings against adults.

The way the case is resolved in juvenile court makes a huge difference in how it will impact the child’s future. The best result is getting the charges dismissed on the merits. The standard sentencing alternatives in juvenile court for the most serious charges include probation and commitment programs administered by the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). For a first offense, many of these cases are diverted into specialized diversion programs.

After a juvenile is accused of a crime, an experienced juvenile defense attorney can represent the child at every stage of the case from the beginnings of the initial investigation through final resolution or appeal.

Attorneys for Juvenile Delinquency Cases in Tampa, FL

Our juvenile defense attorneys in Tampa, FL, are experienced fighting cases in juvenile court. We can help you understand the charges that are pending, the typical penalties for those charges, and the best way to fight the juvenile case.

Our main office is located in downtown Tampa in Hillsborough County, FL, just a few blocks from the courthouse. We have a second office in New Port Richey in Pasco County, across from the courthouse located at the West Pasco Judicial Center.

Call us at 813-250-0500.

Judges for Juvenile Delinquency in Hillsborough County, FL

Visit the judicial directory to find judges for Juvenile Delinquency cases in Hillsborough County, FL, including:

  • Division A – Lawrence M. Lefler
  • Division F – Thomas N. Palermo
  • Division M – Delinquency Crossover – Robert A. Bauman
  • Division E – Juvenile Delinquency Drug Court – Elizabeth G. Rice
  • Division B – Juvenile Mental Health – Ronald N. Ficarrotta

The Process in Juvenile Court in Hillsborough County

After the child is arrested, a juvenile cannot be held in detention care for longer than 24 hours. Most children are released to their parents and some are detained until a first appearance hearing in front of the judge.

What happens at first appearance? Section 985.255, F.S., requires a juvenile to have a detention hearing to determine the existence of probable cause and the need for continued detention within 24 hours of being taken into custody and placed in detention.

At the first appearance, many children are released to their parents on home detention. Some are held in the juvenile detention center for 21 days why the prosecutor makes a filing decision. A juvenile cannot be held in detention for more than 21 days unless an adjudicatory hearing has been commenced.

The initial decision as to the juvenile’s continued detention is made by the DJJ and is based on a risk assessment according to procedures developed by the DJJ. Under some circumstances, the child must be placed in secure detention until the detention hearing including:

  • if the juvenile is classified as a PJO pursuant to s. 985.255(1)(j), F.S.;
  • if the juvenile is charged with possessing or discharging a firearm on school property in violation of s. 790.115, F.S.; or
  • if the juvenile has been taken into custody on three or more separate occasions within a 60-day period.

Disposition Hearings in Juvenile Court

After the juvenile is either placed in secure or nonsecure detention, the court will schedule an adjudicatory hearing. The adjudicatory hearing is a non-jury or bench trial in which the juvenile court judge will determine whether the child committed the delinquent act or law violation.

When a Juvenile Case is Direct Filed in Adult Court

The prosecutor with the State Attorney’s Office has the discretion to file certain types of cases in adult court as provided in Section 985.557(1), F.S.

Florida law allows the state attorney to direct file information in adult court when a juvenile is 14 or 15 years of age and is charged with one of the following felony offenses:

  • Aggravated battery;
  • Aggravated assault;
  • Aggravated child abuse;
  • Kidnapping;
  • Burglary with an assault or battery in violation of s. 810.02(2)(a), F.S.;
  • Burglary of a dwelling or structure in violation of s. 810.02(2)(c), F.S.;
  • Robbery;
  • Sexual battery;
  • Arson;
  • Aggravated stalking;
  • Unlawful throwing, placing, or discharging of a destructive device or bomb;
  • Armed burglary in violation of s. 810.02(2)(b), F.S.;
  • Grand theft in violation of s. 812.014(2)(a), F.S.;
  • Grand theft of a motor vehicle in violation of s. 812.014(2)(c)6., F.S.;
  • Grand theft of a motor vehicle valued at $20,000 or more in violation of s. 812.014(2)(b),
  • Carjacking;
  • Home invasion robbery;
  • Possessing or discharging any weapon or firearm on school property in violation of s. 790.115, F.S.;
  • Carrying, displaying, using, threatening, or attempting to use a weapon or firearm during the commission of a felony;
  • Any lewd or lascivious offense committed upon or in the presence of a person less than 16;
  • Manslaughter; or
  • Murder.

The juvenile defense attorneys at the Sammis Law Firm in Tampa, FL, can represent juveniles at all stages of their case.

Obtaining a Copy of the Juvenile Delinquency Records?

Under Florida Statute Section 985.04, the records from juvenile delinquency cases are confidential.

Only certain people can receive a copy of the records including:

  • the child;
  • the parent or guardian of the child;
  • the child’s attorney of record;
  • law enforcement officers involved in the case;
  • officials with the Department of Juvenile Justice; and
  • prosecutors with the State Attorney’s Office.

The clerk’s office charges $7.00 for a certified copy of the final disposition in a case.

Additional Resources

Juvenile Delinquency in Hillsborough County – Visit the clerk of court website to learn more about juvenile delinquency in Tampa and Hillsborough County, FL. Find the fees to order records in juvenile cases.

Juvenile Diversion Programs in the 13th Judicial Circuit – Visit the website of the clerk of court in Tampa, FL, to find a list of Juvenile Diversion Programs. These diversion programs for juveniles in the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit in Hillsborough County including Juvenile Arbitration, Juvenile Arrest Avoidance Program, Shock Education Program, and Teen Court.

This article was last updated on Friday, March 22, 2019.