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 for arbitration or a Walker Plan.

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 be returned to the parent or held over for the first appearance as 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 or be held in secure detention for 21 days at the Pasco Regional Juvenile Detention Center at 28534 State Road 52 in San Antonio, FL.

After the first appearance, the prosecutor at the State Attorney’s Office will take 21 days to decide whether to file a petition. In juvenile court, the petition 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. Some charges trigger a six-month driver’s license suspension. A lifetime of consequences can occur if the child enters a guilty plea.

For these reasons, it is important to retain a private attorney as early as possible. An attorney can help the child resolve the case under the best terms for any juvenile delinquency proceedings in the Sixth Judicial Circuit in Pasco County.

At arraignment for misdemeanor charges, the court pressures juveniles to resolve their case with a guilty plea without ever appointing a public defender. Juveniles often make decisions without understanding the consequences.

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 accusation. 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, across from the juvenile court at the West Pasco Judicial Center.

Call (813) 250-0500.

Judges for Juvenile Court in Pasco County

The Honorable Philippe Matthey is the judge assigned to juvenile delinquency cases in West Pasco at the courthouse in New Port Richey, FL. Judge Linda H. Babb presides over all juvenile delinquency cases at the courthouse in Dade City.

Read more about the judicial assignments for the Sixth Judicial Circuit in Pasco County, FL.

What Happens at Arraignment in Juvenile Court in Pasco?

Contact our office 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. We can attend the arraignment with you.

At the arraignment, the court will read the charges in the petition and ask the child to plead guilty or not guilty. If the child’s parents have not retained a private attorney, the judge will consider appointing an attorney with the public defender’s office.

At the courthouse, pressure on the child and parents to resolve the case with a plea, withhold of adjudication and require completion of the juvenile diversion alternative program. Entering that program might not be the best way to resolve the case.

If the child does not enter a plea, the case might be set for trial or for another status conference date. The juvenile defense attorney will be able to obtain all of the “discovery” in the case including police reports, body-worn camera footage, and witness statements.

Your attorney can help the juvenile present defenses that might result in the dismissal of the charges.

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 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, 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 in the 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 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, 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 juveniles make bad decisions because of immaturity, irresponsibility, impetuousness, or recklessness. Young people are often susceptible to the influence of others. As a result, juvenile court focuses on rehabilitating the child instead of just imposing punishment.

Different terms are used in juvenile court compared to those 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, 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.xxx<
  • 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 the 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 the authorization for the release of 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 the youth advised of his right to an attorney or counsel?
  • Does the 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 to 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 the 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 with an “authorization for disclosure of confidential information” 2101B-DJJ form.

The form authorizes Operation PAR, Inc. to disclose and exchange information with the following individuals within the Department of Juvenile Justice: 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 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 representing juveniles accused of crimes in the juvenile justice system in Pasco County, FL, at the courthouse in New Port Richey or Dade City, FL.

How Are Juvenile Delinquency Cases Assigned in Pasco County, FL?

Under Administrative Order Number 2015-039 PA-CIR, the clerk will designate a juvenile dependency case that arises from a complaint by the Pasco County Sheriff or other law enforcement (law enforcement) under Chapter 39, Florida Statutes, as an East Pasco County case or as a West Pasco County case according to the area described in the Administrative Order.

Law enforcement must identify in the “Notice to Parents/Guardians/Legal Custodians” on the Affidavit and Petition for Placement in Shelter (Fla. R. Juv. P. Form 8.960), the name of the courthouse to which any dependency case should be assigned.

Law enforcement must also indicate next to “Juvenile Division” in the header of an Affidavit and Petition for Placement in Shelter, or of a Petition for Dependency (Fla. R. Juv. P. Form 8.964), whether the case should be assigned to East Pasco or West Pasco under the administrative order.

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 accusations against young people under the age of 18 years old who are accused of delinquent acts 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.

Youth Diversion Program at the Pasco Sheriff’s Office – PSO’s Youth Diversion Program provides support to parents and alternatives to the formal court process to deter further criminal behavior while avoiding the juvenile delinquency court system. Visit the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office website 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 Florida Department of Juvenile Justice website 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 a 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 on Wednesday, February 14, 2024.