Do Teens Accused Of Violent Crimes Always Get Charged As Adults?
Getting arrested as a teenager and going to juvenile court is plenty scary. For one thing, if you decide to fight your case, then the decision as to whether you get adjudicated delinquent rests entirely with the judge. There are no jury trials in juvenile court. While juvenile defendants have the right to hire criminal defense lawyers, representation by a lawyer is not a given. Public defenders do not represent young people accused of delinquency in juvenile court. Therefore, teens who cannot afford to hire lawyers because their parents cannot afford it or because their parents refuse to help them are on their own. On the other hand, going through juvenile court is much better than being charged as an adult when you are a minor. An adjudication of delinquency does not stay on your record forever, and while the consequences of an adjudication do not always live up to their promise of providing social support for teens, they are much better than adult probation and adult prison. Therefore, if a teenager in your family is being accused of a crime, the best thing you can do is contact a Tampa criminal defense lawyer.
Florida’s Direct File Problem
The default option after a minor gets arrested is for the case to play out in juvenile court. If a 16-year-old or 17-year-old is accused of committing a felony, the state has the option to charge him or her as an adult. Furthermore, charges for any of 21 violent felony offenses can go to adult criminal court even if the defendant is as young as 14. In some cases, it is the judge in juvenile court who decides to refer the case to criminal court so that the teen defendant can be charged as an adult. Much more often, 49 times more often to be exact, it is the prosecutor who decides to send the case to adult criminal court, without even consulting a juvenile court judge. This is known as direct file.
Florida direct files more juvenile cases than any other state, more than 400 cases per year. Defendants cannot appeal the prosecutors’ decision to direct file the case; only decisions by judges are subject to appeal. Even worse, when teens are charged in adult court, the state can keep them in jail until their trial or set a monetary bail amount, unlike in juvenile cases. In adult prison, teens who have been convicted in adult court can suffer bullying, violence, and abuse by adult inmates and can even spend time in solitary confinement.
Direct file does not mean that adult prison or a permanent criminal record is inevitable, though. Your lawyer can argue that it is in the best interest of justice for the criminal court to transfer your case to juvenile court or to drop the charges against you.
Contact Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney Bryant Scriven
A criminal defense lawyer can help you if you are facing criminal charges and, despite being a minor, are in danger of being charged as an adult. Contact Scriven Law in Tampa, Florida to schedule a consultation.