Answering Your Questions About Juvenile Charges
As a parent of a child facing juvenile charges, you may have a lot of questions about what happens next. At the Finkelstein Firm, P.A., I want to give you the information you need before you meet with me at my Clearwater office. I am Florida attorney Jenna Finkelstein, and below, I have taken the liberty of answering some of the more common questions I’ve heard.
Should I hire an attorney for my child?
If your child has been arrested or is under investigation, then it is imperative that they have an attorney. If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, then your child will have the opportunity to apply for a public defender. I strongly recommend consulting an attorney before allowing law enforcement to question you or your child about pending charges or investigations.
How long can they hold my child in custody?
A juvenile may be held in a detention facility for up to 21 days. However, if the child has violated sanctions the court previously imposed, they may be held longer. If your child has been taken into custody, they will see a judge within 24 hours of their arrest. At that time, the judge will determine whether it is necessary to hold the child.
The police questioned my child without me knowing – what now?
If police questioned your child without your permission and/or without following proper protocol, there may be legal issues regarding incriminating statements that were made. An experienced juvenile defense lawyer can evaluate your child’s case to determine whether the actions of law enforcement were inappropriate and whether those actions may affect the case.
Does my child have the right to a trial?
Yes. Your child has a right to a bench trial. A bench trial is a trial by the presiding judge. The standard of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt. Your child’s attorney may call witnesses and cross-examine the state’s witnesses. Your child also has the right to have any and all pretrial motions that can be filed and argued in good faith heard.
Will my child have a jury trial or a bench trial?
Generally, juveniles will have a bench trial. However, if the juvenile has been charged as an adult, then adult rules apply, and they will have the right to a trial by jury.
Can my child go to prison?
Juveniles who are charged and convicted of a crime in juvenile court may be ordered to a program. There are several different programs for a child, based on their level of risk. Some children may be ordered to complete other conditions in lieu of a program, such as home detention or community service. Children who are charged as adults may face significant prison time regardless of their ages. The factors that determine whether a child is charged as an adult may include their age, their prior criminal record and/or the nature of the crime charged.
What types of programs are available?
There are many programs available for children who are in juvenile court. The types of programs vary from county to county. There are in-patient drug treatment programs, outpatient drug treatment programs and psychological services available for troubled children who have been caught up in the criminal justice system. The idea is to rehabilitate the youth while protecting the community at the same time.
Additionally, there are punitive aspects to sentences, such as curfews, community service and fines. The type and duration of the program depend on the child’s prior record, the nature of the current juvenile offense, and the level of risk that the child poses to themselves and/ or the community.
Can I be held responsible for the actions of a child?
Yes. You could be held responsible for your child’s actions, both criminally and civilly. If you or your child are under investigation, seek the advice of an attorney to assist you with the process so that you can protect yourself, your child and your family’s future.
How is my child going to pay restitution?
Courts will allow payment plans. Additionally, parents may be ordered to pay restitution for the criminal acts of their children. The law is specific with regard to how the state can force parents to pay restitution. Certain procedural requirements must be met prior to a legal order being enforced. It is important to note that there are also very specific laws regarding proof of restitution amounts in criminal cases. The rules of evidence are relaxed but still exist.
Always be prepared and know your rights and the rights of your child. It is crucial to exercise extreme caution through the resolution of a juvenile’s criminal case because of the impact that the disposition (sentence) may have on their future.
Have More Questions?
If you need guidance and information through your child’s juvenile defense case, get it from a trustworthy lawyer. Call me at 727-202-4418 or email me here to schedule your initial consultation today. I serve clients throughout Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough counties and the surrounding areas, and I am ready to help you.