In the State of Florida, juveniles charged with crimes may be prosecuted as adults under certain circumstances. Florida State Statute 985.556 defines the circumstances in which a juvenile can be tried and sentenced in the adult courts.
Voluntary Waiver: Prior to the commencement of an adjudicatory hearing, a child who is accompanied by a parent, a guardian, or a guardian ad litem can demand, in writing, to be tried as an adult. If the child is found guilty, he or she will be treated as an adult in any future criminal proceedings.
Involuntary Discretion Waiver: If the child was the age of fourteen or older at the time of the alleged offense the state attorney can request for the child to be transferred to the adult courts.
Involuntary Mandatory Waiver: This occurs when the child (fourteen or older) has been previously been adjudicated of a very serious felony offense (attempt to commit, or conspiracy to commit murder, sexual battery, armed or strong-armed robbery, carjacking, home-invasion robbery, aggravated battery, aggravated assault, or burglary with an assault or battery) and is now charged with another offense of a crime against a person. The Involuntary Mandatory Waiver can also be invoked when a child of fourteen years of age or older has an extensive felony record and/or has used a firearm during a crime.
The courts use a number of criteria to determine whether or not a child's case should be transferred to the adult court. These include:
- Seriousness of the offense
- The level of violence involved in the offense
- Was the offense a crime against persons or property
- The substantiality of the probable cause and evidence presented
- The sophistication and maturity of the child
- Past criminal record
- Concerns of Public Safety
- The likelihood that the child can be rehabilitated
It's important to note that not every criminal defense attorney is familiar with the juvenile justice system. Furthermore, many of those who regularly defend juvenile clients lack the requisite knowledge to defend clients in waiver of juvenile court jurisdiction proceedings. This is a particularly nuanced area of the law, and the ramifications of having a child moved from the Florida juvenile courts to adult court can be extensive.
Parents and juveniles who are facing an involuntary discretion or involuntary mandatory waiver, should make certain that their attorney has experience in fighting these types of jurisdiction reassignments. Jacksonville, Florida juvenile defense attorney Maria Rogers, P.A. has the experience and knowledge with these types of actions that's necessary to beat the state attorney's motion to have a case reassigned.