Juvenile Offenses

Your child’s future is important and a Florida juvenile offender record can have unfortunate consequences. It can affect future employment, education, scholarships, and many other opportunities. Mistakes happen and it’s critical to address them as soon as possible, with the guidance of an attorney who is compassionate, honest, and who supports your family’s best interests. Because not all Jacksonville criminal defense attorneys are equal in this regard, it is in your best interests to ask as many questions of your prospective attorney as possible to see if they are suited to represent your child.

There are a variety of ways in which an individual under the age of 18 can get detained and tried as a youthful offender. These offenses commonly include:

This website was created to help you better understand the Florida Juvenile Justice System and the prospective process that your child faces. You can find information on specific statutes, penalties, defense options, and common procedural errors related to certain crimes. Learning about your child’s alleged juvenile offense is only the first step towards combating the charges and is no substitute for an attorney-client relationship nor should any of this information be considered legal advice. Only an experienced Duval County juvenile defense lawyer can give you official legal advice.


Regardless of the circumstances surrounding your child’s alleged offense, it’s important to remember that their detainment does not mean they will be adjudicated of the crime. As a parent of two young children, Bill Roelke understands your concerns about protecting your child’s future from the effects of his or her arrest. Bill represents young men and women in both minor and serious offenses. His clients come from a variety of backgrounds throughout Duval County, Clay County, St. Johns County, and Nassau County.

Call (904) 354-0333 or send an online message for a free, confidential consultation concerning your child’s legal options following an arrest. During your consultation, Bill Roelke will help you understand your child’s charges and their potential consequences to your child. Bill will also listen attentively and tactfully gather relevant information to accurately determine available legal options and potential weaknesses in the prosecution’s case. Contact Roelke Law today to learn more.

Florida Youthful Offender Information Center

Florida Juvenile Delinquency Categorization

Juvenile delinquency includes any youth less than 18 years old who has been charged with any crime. These crimes are generally processed and evaluated at the Duval County Juvenile Assessment Center (or the respective assessment center in your local county). After assessment, the youth is either released to their home, placed in home detention, or placed in secure detention until their hearing. The Fourth Circuit Court holds jurisdiction over these cases in the Jacksonville area.

Unlike criminal cases for adults, there is no jury trial in juvenile cases. Additionally, the youth is detained rather than arrested. He or she is also “adjudicated” of a crime rather than being found guilty. Some of the other terminology also differs. Juveniles do, however, maintain the right to have a speedy trial, which generally takes place 90 days from arrest or from when the petition is filed.

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Florida Juvenile Delinquency Process

In Florida, juvenile delinquency is defined as the commission of a crime by a person less than 18 years old. After detainment by a Florida law enforcement agent, the juvenile may find him or herself:

  • Taken to the county Juvenile Assessment Center (JAC) to be processed and find if detainment is required (and if so, what type of detainment is also determined); or
  • Released to their parent or guardian with the charges forwarded to court; or
  • Released to their parent or guardian with referral to a juvenile diversion program.

The Juvenile Probation Officer (JPO) conducts an interview with the youth and their family during the intake process in order to create a solution to address the offense. There are many factors that can affect the scope of the plan, including the nature of the youthful offense, the risk that the minor presents to the community, damages that resulted from the offense in question, and special needs the juvenile may have. The JPO makes his or her recommendation to the state attorney, either to prosecute the juvenile or permit enrollment in a diversion program. Note that in certain felony cases, the juvenile may be tried and sentenced in an adult court, as an adult.

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Potential Sentencing for a Juvenile Offender in Florida

The Florida Youthful Offender act (Fla. Stat. § 958.04) lays out possible sentencing for individuals adjudicated as youthful offenders. A youth may be adjudicated as a youthful offender if he or she:

  • Is at least 18 years old or has been transferred to the criminal division of the circuit court for prosecution;
  • Is found guilty, has given a plea of nolo contendere or guilty, to a crime that is a felony in the state and the person is younger than 21 years old at the time of sentencing; and
  • Has not been previously classified as a youthful offender under the Florida Youthful Offender Act, though a person guilty of a capital or life felony cannot be sentenced as a youthful offender.

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Potential Penalties for a Youthful Offender in Florida

Instead of other criminal penalties authorized by law, a youthful offender may be faced with one or more of the following Court ordered penalties:

  • Probation
  • Community Control
  • Incarceration
  • Split Sentence (probation/community control and incarceration)
  • Basic Training

However, the youthful offender will also be faced with mandatory participation in work assignments; careers, academic, counseling and other rehabilitative programs including:

  • Reception and orientation
  • Evaluation, needs assessment, and classification
  • Educational programs
  • Career and job training
  • Life and socialization skills training (including anger/aggression control)
  • Prerelease orientation and planning
  • Transition services

The Department will also provide certain services for youthful offenders. This includes religious services and counseling, social services, substance abuse treatment and counseling, psychological and psychiatric services, library usage, healthcare, visiting and mail privileges, as well as recreational, athletic, and leisure time activities.

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Jacksonville Civil Citation Programs

Youth who are first time misdemeanor offenders may face a civil citation rather than traditional penalties such as probation or incarceration. This alternative sentencing was intended to prevent the cycle of crime and a youth’s future encounters with the Florida Justice System. Every county in Florida, including Duval County, must establish a civil citation program.

These programs allow eligible juvenile offenders to perform one or more of the following services if deemed appropriate rather than be referred to the Department of Juvenile Justices:

  • Up to 50 hours of community service
  • Participation in family counseling
  • Drug screening
  • Substance abuse treatment
  • Mental health treatment
  • Pay any restitution
  • Write an apology letter to the victim
  • Prevocational services
  • Submit to school progress monitoring

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Juvenile Diversion Programs in Duval County

A juvenile’s probation officer may recommend a juvenile diversion program as an alternative form of sentencing. However, this must be approved by the prosecutor and the juvenile must waive his or her right to a speedy trial. If the minor satisfies the requirements of the program, the charges will be dismissed and no further judicial action will be taken in regards to those specific charges. If the juvenile does not complete the program the prosecutor will file a petition charging the minor with the offense.

The Teen Court was created with the philosophy that youth who violate the law are less likely to offend again in the future if a jury of peers is deciding the punishment. This special diversion program is available to first-time misdemeanor offenders between 10 and 17 years of age. Teenagers trained for the roles of prosecuting attorney, defense attorney, bailiff, and jurors fulfill these parts. The presiding magistrate is an adult attorney or judge. Additionally, the defendant’s parent or guardian signs a contract agreeing to carry out the sentence imposed by the Teen Court. Should the defendant successfully complete all of the imposed sanctions, adjudication is withheld and there is no conviction.

Sanctions given by the Teen Court include:

  • Community Service (8-35 hours, mandatory)
  • Jury Duty / Peer Circle (3-4 appearances, mandatory)
  • Open Court apology to parent/guardian
  • Tour of the jail
  • Apology letter to the victim
  • Apology letter to parent / guardian
  • Essay (2-6 p gs)
  • Book Report (2-6 pages)
  • Anger Management Counseling
  • Mental Health Counseling
  • Substance Abuse Counseling
  • No association with victim/co-defendant until completion of Teen Court Program
  • Attendance at Focus on Females (females) or Consequences of Crime (males) class

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Sealing and Expunging a Juvenile Record in Florida

Under the Florida Youthful Offender Act (Fla. Stat. § 958.13), any records related to the arrest, indictment, information, trial, and dispositions of alleged offenses of a person adjudicated as a youthful offender shall be subject to the same record sealing and expunction as are the records of adult offenders. However, this does not prohibit a youthful offender or their attorney from discovery of records or information authorized by law or required by the state.

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Definitions Related to the Florida Youthful Offender Act

“Department” refers to the Department of Corrections.

“Community Control Program” refers to an intensive supervised custody in the community. This includes surveillance on designated days such as weekends and holidays, which is maintained by officers with restricted caseloads. It further restricts the youthful offender to the community, home, or other residential placement under specific sanctions.

“Court” refers to the judge who designates the defendant as a youthful offender.

“Probation” refers to a form of community supervision that requires specified contacts with parole or probation officers under certain terms and conditions.

“Youthful Offender” refers to any person who is sentenced by the Court or classified as such by the Department.

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Purpose of the Florida Juvenile Justice System

According to Fla. Stat. § 985.02, the general purpose of the state’s juvenile justice system is to provide general protection for children. This includes providing:

  • Protection from abuse, neglect, and exploitation
  • A permanent and stable home
  • A safe and nurturing environment in an effort to preserve personal dignity and integrity
  • Adequate nutrition, shelter, and clothing
  • Effective treatment for physical, social, and emotional issues
  • Equal opportunity and access to quality education as well as other community resources to develop individual abilities
  • Access to preventive services
  • When necessary, an independent and trained advocate or a skilled guardian if alternative placement is necessary
  • Gender-specific programming to address needs of a specific gender group

This statute also provides for the creation of substance abuse programs. The Florida Legislature has found that it is in the state’s best interests, after reviewing the impact of substance abuse on health, that children who are dependents of the state and in delinquency programs be provided with services to help them become independent of the state. In order for this to happen, the Legislature has given the state’s dependency and delinquency programs the ability to identify and provide suitable intervention for children with substance abuse problems (including problems within the family).

In regards to juvenile detention, the Florida Legislature has found that there is a need to find secure placement for youth who have allegedly committed delinquent acts. This detention should only be used, however, when less restrictive placement alternatives are not available or appropriate prior to adjudication and disposition. The decision whether detention is even necessary should be based on an assessment of risk. These risk factors include clear evidence that a child may fail to appear, may inflict bodily harm on others, presents a history of committing serious property offenses prior to adjudication, disposition or placement; has acted in contempt of court; or requests protection from imminent bodily harm.

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Florida Youthful Offender Resources

Florida Department of Juvenile Justice – The Florida Department of Juvenile Justices (FDJJ) is a government agency created to promote the wellbeing of youth in Florida. Though understanding the needs of youth, recognizing their strengths, and promoting their successes, the agency hopes to continue its mission of education, outreach, and early intervention.

Florida Department of Children and Families – The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) is responsible for improving the lives of families on the state. This includes, children, elderly, disabled, and other at-risk individuals.

Clay County Service Center
1845 Town Center Blvd. #225
Orange Park, FL 32003
FAX: (904)723-2079

Southside Service Center – Duval
3740 Beach Blvd. Suite 3720
Jacksonville, FL 32207
FAX: (904)723-2079

Gateway Service Center
5000-1 Norwood Avenue
Jacksonville, FL 32208
FAX: (904)723-2079

Nassau County Service Center
463688 State Rd. 200
Yulee, Fl 32097
FAX: (904)548-9309

Florida Juvenile Justice Association – This Association was founded in 1994 with the mission of working towards a fair and commonsense approach towards justice for youth across the state of Florida. Juvenile justice system professionals, public and non-profit agencies work together to help protect the futures of the state’s at-risk youth.

Duval County Clerk of Courts, Juvenile Department – The Clerk of Courts for Duval County is responsible for a long list of county-wide duties, including providing access to important court-related information. This page contains information on Juvenile fee schedules and frequently asked questions related to youthful offenses in Florida. The phone number for the Juvenile Department is (904) 630-2072. Branch locations for the clerk can be found:

Downtown Courthouse
330 E. Bay St.
Jacksonville, FL 32202

Ed Hall Building
214 North Hogan St.
Jacksonville, FL 32202

Beaches Branch
1543 Atlantic Blvd, Neptune Beach
Atlantic Beach, FL 32233

Duval County Teen Court Program – Maintained by the Fourth Circuit Court, this innovative program provides alternative sentencing options for teens in the county. This program was founded on the philosophy that creating self-esteem and healthy attitudes towards authority is key in reducing patterns of criminal behavior. The Teen Court is available for youth ages 10 to 17.

Duval County Courthouse
5th Floor, Room 506
Phone: (904) 630-0730

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Roelke Law, P.A. | Youthful Offender Lawyer in Jacksonville, FL

Contact defense attorney Bill Roelke if your child has been detained for a juvenile offense in Jacksonville, Atlantic Beach, Jacksonville Beach, Ponte Vedra, St. Augustine, Orange Park, Fernandina Beach, Green Cove or the surrounding areas. The Florida Justice System for juveniles is not perfect, athough it strives to provide commonsense rehabilitation and education. To ensure that your child is getting a fair chance, it may be in your best interests to review your options with an experienced Juvenile defense lawyer. Contact Roelke Law today to begin protecting your child’s future.

Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney Blog - Juvenile Offenders

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