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Juvenile Defense in Pinellas County

What happens when a child or young person who is under 18 years old gets in trouble with the law? For the most serious offenses, the child will be detained on a misdemeanor or felony charge.

After an arrest in Pinellas County, FL, the child might be handcuffed, put in the back of a police cruiser, and be booked and fingerprinted at the juvenile assessment center located at 14500 49th Street North in Clearwater, FL.

From the juvenile assessment center, the child might be released to the parents immediately or held overnight for an advisory hearing the next day in front of the judge.

If the judge decides to hold the child in secure detention for 21 days, then the child will be transported to the juvenile detention center located at 5255 140th Ave. North, in Clearwater, Florida.

The judge might also decide to just release the child to the parents on home detention. Even if the judge decides to detain the child in secure detention for 21 days, a criminal defense attorney might file a motion to change the detention status as new information becomes available.

The child is entitled to hire a private criminal defense attorney to represent them at the first appearance. As a practical matter, this usually involves the parents hiring an attorney on the child’s behalf.

The attorney must explain to the parents and the child that the attorney is being retained to represent only the child and not the parents, even though the parents might be the ones paying for the attorney fees. The child, attorney, and parents then work together to resolve the case in the child’s best interest and according to the child’s wishes.

For cases that are not eligible for diversion, the prosecutor might be seeking probation or other more serious sanctions. The most serious cases are prosecuted in adult court.

Attorney for Juveniles Defense in Pinellas County, FL

If your child was accused of a crime or detained at the juvenile detention facility in Pinellas County, FL, then contact an experienced juvenile defense attorney at Sammis Law Firm about the best way to resolve the case.

We represent young people accused of crimes prosecuted in juvenile court including, but not limited to, allegations of violence, theft, or the use of a weapon. We are familiar with all of the diversion programs in Pinellas County, FL.

The best result is getting the charges dropped by the prosecutor or dismissed by the judge. Then the child might be eligible to seal or expunge any record of the initial detention.

Contact the attorneys at Sammis Law Firm. Our office is located at 14010 Roosevelt Blvd Suite 701, Clearwater, FL 33762-3820.

Call 727-210-7004. 

Juvenile Diversion Programs in Pinellas County, FL

For less serious offenses, the child’s case might be diverted into a pre-arrest diversion program, often using civil citations. The pre-arrest diversion programs leave less of a record.

The most common offenses that enter a pre-arrest diversion program include allegations of shoplifting inexpensive items, possession of marijuana, a fight not resulting in serious injuries, or trespassing.

The diversion programs in Pinellas County require some type of sanctions aimed at improving the child’s behavior which might include:

  • attending a counseling assessment
  • completing educational classes or experiences
  • performing community service
  • writing a letter of apology or an essay assignment
  • attending school without any unexcused absences
  • paying restitution

The case might be referred to one of the following types of juvenile diversion programs in Pinellas County, FL:

  • Juvenile Arrest Avoidance Program
    • In Pinellas County, FL, JAAP helps young people accused of a first-time misdemeanor offense. The case might be “direct” diverted. In a direct diversion, the arrest affidavit is never filed and the child earns a non-arrest record on a potential misdemeanor charge.
  • Juvenile Arbitration in Pinellas County, FL
    • Juvenile Arbitration is for first-time offenders.
    • After being referred to the program, a hearing is held and the following type of sanctions might be imposed:
      • restitution
      • a letter of apology
      • an essay assignment
      • school attendance and behavior improvements
      • counseling assessment
      • community service
      • educational classes
    •  The program offers more than twenty (22) different classes and experiences, such as:
      • Conflict Resolution
      • Drug Awareness
      • D.O.S.E.
      • Alcohol & Tobacco Awareness
      • To Catch A Thief
      • a maximum-security jail tour
      • Judicial Education, Truancy-Related Law
      • Medical Examiner’s class
      • Crime Scene Intervention
      • ACE
      • USF College Tour
      • Career Orientation
      • Removing Intoxicated Drivers
      • Controlling Abuse of Prescriptions
      • the Ambassador program
    • Follow-up hearings are held at the end of six (6) to eight (8) weeks to determine if all requirements were successfully met.
  • Juvenile Drug Court
    • Juvenile Drug Court is offered in Pinellas County.
    • For juveniles accused of any misdemeanor or felony drug charge, the juvenile drug court program in Pinellas County, FL, allows the charges to be dismissed if the child enters and successfully completes the program.
    • Participants are required to submit to drug assessment and random urinalysis.
    • A hearing master conducts the initial hearing, and appropriate sanctions are applied.
    • Hearings are held monthly or more often as needed to monitor the progress of participants.
  • Service & Treatment for Offender Prevention (STOP)
    • For juveniles with repeat misdemeanor or third-degree felony offenses, STOP is a long-term intensive arbitration program that requires juvenile offenders to complete specified sanctions.
    • not all types of charges are eligible for STOP including any offenses involving personal violence, use of a weapon, or grand theft auto.
    • If the child completes the program, the child might avoid prosecution and a juvenile record.
    • Additional sanctions might include fifty (50) community service hours and mandatory weekly phone contact.
    • The program lasts about one hundred and twenty (120) days and involves weekly call-ins and an additional mid-point hearing to assess a juvenile’s progress within the program.

Additional Resources

Juvenile Section of the Clerk’s Office in Pinellas County – Visit the website of the Clerk of Circuit Court in Pinellas County, FL, to find information on the juvenile section. The clerk’s office serves juvenile court in juvenile delinquency cases and the juvenile arbitration program by working with the Unified Family Court to maintain case files, process documents, and schedule court hearings.

Juvenile Arrest Avoidance Program (JAAP) – Visit the website of the Sixth Judicial Circuit in Pinellas County, FL, to find information on JAAP which helps resolve cases for juveniles accused of a first-time misdemeanor offense. Cases in JAAP are “direct” diverted for an opportunity to resolve the case without creating an arrest record.

Pinellas County Regional Juvenile Detention Center – In cooperation with the Department of Juvenile Justice, the Pinellas Regional Juvenile Detention Center provides services to children being detained pending court action in juvenile court in the Sixth Judicial Circuit in Pinellas County, Florida. The phone number to the detention center in Clearwater, FL, is 727-538-7100 ext. 250, located at 5255 140th Ave N, Clearwater, FL 33760.

State Attorney on Juvenile Diversion in Pinellas County – Visit the website of the State Attorney’s Office for the Sixth Judicial Circuit in Pinellas County, FL, to find out more about special juvenile diversion programs including the Adult Division Special Program (Project Safe Neighborhood Anti-Gang Initiative), the Community Prosecuting Attorney Service System COMPASS, and the Retail Theft Diversion and Abatement Program.

Pinellas Regional Juvenile Detention Center in Clearwater, Florida

This article was last updated on Friday, June 17, 2022.

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