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Juvenile Defense Attorneys in Pasco County

When a young person under the age of eighteen (18) years old is accused of a crime, the case goes through the juvenile justice system. Like adults, juveniles have a constitutional right to remain silent and to have an attorney assist them at every stage of a criminal investigation.

With probable cause that the child committed a delinquent act, the child might be released to the parents with a notice of referral for a suspected law violation to the Youth Diversion Program (YDP) of the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.

In more serious cases, the child might be taken to the Juvenile Assessment Center (JAC) at the Pasco Sheriff’s Office in Land O’Lakes, FL. After arriving at the JAC, the child might then be released back to the parent or held over for the first appearance at the “intake” process begins.

Even if the child is released from JAC to the parent, the child and the parent might be required to attend a first appearance hearing in front of the judge the next morning at the courthouse in New Port Richey or Dade City, FL.

At first appearance, the court will decide whether the child will remain with the parent should be held in secure detention for 21 days at the Pasco Regional Juvenile Detention Center at 28534 State Road 52 in San Antonio, FL. The judge will decide which one of the following three forms of detention might apply while the case is pending:

  • home detention
  • non-secure detention
  • secure detention

At first appearance, a criminal defense attorney can ask the court to release your child to your care so the child is not held in secure detention. After that hearing, the prosecutor at the State Attorney’s Office will take 21 days to decide whether to file a petition.

The petition in juvenile court is a document that contains the formal charges. In the most serious cases, the State Attorney’s Office might decide to prosecute the case in adult court during those 21 days after the initial detention.

The goal in these cases is convincing the prosecutor not to file any charges. If a petition for a felony is filed by the prosecutor in juvenile court, it can trigger the child’s school to take action to change the child’s placement to an alternative school. For all of these reasons, it is important to retain a private attorney as early in the process as possible.

An attorney can help the child resolve the case under the best possible terms for any juvenile delinquency proceedings in the Sixth Judicial Circuit in Pasco County.

Attorneys Defending Juveniles in New Port Richey, FL

With offices in New Port Richey, FL, our juvenile defense attorneys represent young people during all stages of the juvenile justice process including the initial intake or any arraignment on the formal charges, adjudicatory hearing, disposition hearings, or sentencing.

Along with the other attorneys in the firm, Attorney Leslie M. Sammis represents juveniles in New Port Richey and Pasco County, FL, after a criminal accusation to be prosecuted in juvenile court.

Our criminal defense attorneys can attend this first appearance hearing to explain all of the reasons that the child should be released to the parents instead of being held for 21 days.

We can help the child understand the charges pending against them and the best way to fight the charges. Contact a criminal defense attorney in New Port Richey, FL, for more information regarding the stages of the criminal and juvenile justice process.

Our offices are conveniently located at 7509 Little Road, New Port Richey, FL 35654, right across from the juvenile court located at the West Pasco Judicial Center.

Call (813) 250-0500.


Judges for Juvenile Court in Pasco County

The judge assigned to juvenile delinquency cases in West Pasco at the courthouse in New Port Richey, FL, is the Honorable Philippe Matthey.

At the courthouse in Dade City, Judge Linda H. Babb presides over all juvenile delinquency cases. Read more about the judicial assignments for the Sixth Judicial Circuit in Pasco County, FL.


What Happens at Arraignment in Juvenile Court in Pasco?

If you receive a notice for arraignment in the juvenile court in Pasco County before The Honorable Philippe Matthey in New Port Richey or Judge Linda H. Babb in New Port Richey, then contact our office. We can attend the arraignment with you.

At the arraignment, the court will read the charges in the petition and ask the child to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. If the child’s parents have not retained a private attorney, then the judge will consider appointing an attorney with the public defender’s office. At the arraignment, the case might be set for trial or for another status conference date.


Juvenile Diversion Programs in Pasco County

In some cases, the charges might be dropped if the child agrees to voluntarily enter a diversion program. The diversion programs for juvenile cases in Pasco County, FL, provide a path to getting the charges dismissed while decreasing the number of cases resolved in formal court proceedings in juvenile court.

A diversion program provides an alternative to an adjudicatory hearing by placing the child in a community-based program such as:

The State Attorney’s Office in Pasco County offers several different types of diversion programs for young people in juvenile court. The pros and cons of entering a diversion program must be considered carefully.

An experienced juvenile justice defense attorney can help you decide whether entering the program is appropriate and negotiate the best possible terms.

If the diversion program is completed successfully, then the case might be eligible for a special type of expunction called the “Juvenile Diversion Expunction” under Section 943.0582, F.S.


Pasco County’s Youth Diversion Program (YDP)

If there is probable cause that the child committed a delinquent act, the child might be released to the parents with a notice that the child has been referred for a suspected law violation to the Youth Diversion Program (YDP) of the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.

The parents are then instructed to contact the YDP within seven (7) days for further instruction. An individual determination will be made as to whether the child is eligible to participate int he program. Criminal charges may or may not be filed depending on eligibility.

If the child is not eligible, then a few weeks later the Youth Services Supervisor at the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office might send a letter that the YDP provided the referral, but the child does not meet the qualification for diversion. Several reasons exist for a case not qualifying for the PCSO’s Youth Diversion Program.

The most common reason is because of the nature of the charges. For example, first and second-degree felony cases are not eligible. Any objection by the alleged victim might also mean that the case doesn’t qualify. Cases that don’t qualify for diversion are referred to the State Attorney’s Office to determine if a petition will be filed in juvenile court.

If the petition is filed in juvenile court, then the parents will be sent a copy of the petition and a notice to appear for arraignment at the courthouse in New Port Richey or Dade City.


Definitions in the Juvenile Justice Process in Pasco County, FL

Parents know that juveniles make bad decisions because of immaturity, irresponsibility, impetuousness, or recklessness. Young people are often susceptible to the influence of others. As a result, the focus in juvenile court is to rehabilitate the child instead of just imposing punishment.

Different terms are used in juvenile court when compared to the terms used in adult court. The following definitions are used in the juvenile justice system in Pasco County, FL:

  • Juvenile Intake – The process of determining where a child under the age of 18 will be placed until the juvenile delinquency case is resolved. In Florida, the three forms of detention status include:
    • home detention;
    • non-secure detention; or
    • secure detention.
  • Diversion Program – In Pasco County, FL, juvenile diversion programs are an alternative to trial. If the juvenile successfully completes the diversion program, then the charges are generally dismissed. Those community-based diversion programs include:
    • juvenile arbitration
    • juvenile alternative services program (JASP)
    • a treatment plan (Walker plan).
  • Formal charges – The filing of a petition in court by the State Attorney’s Office. The charge may be filed in either juvenile court or adult court, depending upon the crime and age of the offender.
  • Arraignment – The accused is formally charged and enters a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest.
  • Adjudicatory Hearing – The trial of the juvenile, conducted in front of a judge. The judge will decide whether the juvenile committed the charged offense(s).
  • Dispositional Hearing or Sentencing – When a juvenile is found to have committed a delinquent act the court will hold a dispositional hearing to determine which sanctions to impose on the juvenile. The sanctions could range from community-based sanctions like probation and community services up to residential commitment.

Juvenile Pick Up Orders in Pasco County, FL

According to Administrative Order No. 2008-031 PI-CIR, the court’s Juvenile Delinquency sections, along with the Juvenile Assessment Center (JAC) and the Juvenile Detention Center (JDC), have established these uniform procedure for how juveniles who have reached their 19th birthday are to be processed in Pasco County, FL.

Unless a judge specifically provides otherwise in the order, the Juvenile Assessment Center and the Juvenile Detention Center shall treat all “pick up orders” involving a juvenile who has reached his or her 19th birthday as a “screening only order.”

This means the juvenile shall be processed and released so long as there is no outstanding adult “pick up order” and so long as that juvenile is not in a Maximum Risk or post Level 10 status.


DJJ’s Intake Process for Juvenile Cases in Pasco County, FL

For some types of cases, the parent’s first indication that the case will be prosecuted is a phone call from a Juvenile Justice Probation Officer in Pasco County, FL, about an “intake.”

The Juvenile Probation Officer (JPO) might email the parents asking them to fill out the intake packet and have the youth fill out the MAYSI.

The intake packet includes forms for authorization for release off client records including medical, psychiatric, psychological, substance abuse treatment and educational information. The packet includes a form for authority for evaluation and treatment (AET) by the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice.

The Intake Packet includes a questionnaire for Client Assessment (Background Information) with a section for Youth/Family Information, Cost of Care Information, Household Composition, School Information, Youth Employment, Family Relationship Questions, Community Relationship, Substance Abuse Information, Mental Health Information, and Attitudes/Behaviors.

The form even asks the parents questions about the offense such as:

  • Was youth advised of his right to an attorney or counsel?
  • Does youth admit the charge?
  • What is the youth’s attitude about the offense?
  • What is the parent’s attitude about the offense?
  • What is the youth’s relationship to the co-defendant?
  • What is the youth’s relationship too the victim?

The form asks the parent to contact any program circled on a list within 7 days and follow up with your JPO within 30 days. The parents might be asked to cooperate with a referral for services by the JPO.

The intake packet includes a “Statement of Authorization and Use of Social Security Account Numbers of Parents and Guardians of Youth being served by the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ).

The form provides that the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) is authorized under Section 985.101(3), Florida Statutes, to obtain and use your Social Security Account Number (SSAN) solely for the purpose of positive identification of parents and guardians of youth under the jurisdiction of DJJ. Positive identification is imperative for the performance of the agency’s duties and responsibilities, such as is necessary for the determination of Medicaid eligibility.

In cases involving an accusation of drug use or possession, the intake packet might also contain a referral for Department of Juvenile Justice, JDAP, Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, and Juvenile Arbitration that provides:

Per the Department of Juvenile Justice, Operation PAR (PAIC) will need the following information emailed as a referral for your youth: Name, DOB, DJJ#, DJJ Facesheet, PACT or PAC, Release of Information (ROI). You might then be asked to email information to Operation PAR, Inc.

You might also be asked to provide Operation PAR, Inc., Health Information Management Department, 6720 54th Avenue North, St. Petersburg, FL 33709, with an “authorization for disclosure of confidential information” 2101B-DJJ form that authorized Operation PAR, Inc., to disclose and exchange information with the following individuals within the Department of Juvenile Justice including: the public defender, the state attorney, a private attorney, drug court, truancy officer, or judge.

The intake packet from the Juvenile Justice Probation Officer (JPO) in New Port Richey, FL, might also include a reduction therapeutic services service acknowledgment form” that indicates: “Your family has been selected to participate in the Redirection Therapeutic Services because of a refusal from the youth’s JPO.”

The intake packet might also include an authorization to use or disclose protected health information from BayCare Behavioral Health and an Office of Health Services Medical Considerations Checklist.

Before you decide whether to complete and return these forms to the JPO, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who represents juveniles accused of crimes in the juvenile justice system in Pasco County, FL, at the courthouse in New Port Richey or Dade City, FL.


Additional Resources

Clerk of Juvenile Court in Pasco County, FL – Visit the clerk’s office in Pasco County, to learn more about the juvenile department of the clerk’s office that handles accusation against young people under the age of 18 years old who are accused of a delinquent act that would be a crime if committed by an adult.

Juvenile Justice Process in Pasco County – Visit the website of the State Attorney’s Office for the Sixth Judicial Circuit in Pasco County to learn more about the juvenile justice process including the initial intake, the arraignment on the formal charges, an adjudicatory hearing, disposition hearings, or sentencing.

Juvenile Choice Program in Pasco County – Visit the website of the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office to learn more about the Juvenile Choice Program, an hour-long PowerPoint presentation that shows stories of inmates explaining how bad choices resulted in being locked up behind bars. The program is shown to juveniles in the court-mandated monthly Juvenile Arbitration program at Pasco Safety Town.

Pasco Juvenile Detention Center – Visit the website of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice to learn more about the Pasco Juvenile Detention Center in San Antonio, FL. This 36-bed secure facility serves young people detained in the various circuit courts pending adjudication, disposition or placement in commitment facility. The facility allows visitation options for parents, grandparents, legal guardians, as well as legal counsel and other professionals.


This article was last updated by on Wednesday, July 22, 2020.

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