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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.

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.

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.

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.

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 three forms of detention might apply while the case is pending. Detention options include home detention, non-secure detention, or secure detention.

At first appearance, a criminal defense attorney can ask the court to release your child to your care while the case is pending so the child is not held in secure detention. After the first appearance, 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.

The goal of the juvenile defense attorney is helping 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, the arraignment on the formal charges, an adjudicatory hearing, disposition hearings or sentencing.

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.


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.


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.


Definitions in the Juvenile Justice Process in Pasco County, FL

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.

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.

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.

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.


This article was last updated on Monday, January 27, 2020.

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