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 law violation.
After an arrest in Pinellas County, FL, the child might be handcuffed, put in the back of a police cruiser, 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 in juvenile court.
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. Or the judge might release the child to the parents on home detention.
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 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.
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:
- 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
- Alcohol & Tobacco Awareness
- To Catch A Thief
- a maximum-security jail tour
- Judicial Education, Truancy-Related Law
- Medical Examiner’s class
- Crime Scene Intervention
- 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.
The Difference Between Defending Juveniles and Adults
According to the Florida legislature, the main goal of juvenile court is to change the young person’s behavior by directing the child away from destructive, harmful, and illegal acts.
In the adult system, on the other hand, the focus of the prosecution is punishing the offender.
These differences also impact the way a juvenile defense attorney handles cases involving clients under the age of 18.
In Pinellas County, FL, the juvenile courts have jurisdiction over young people who are under the age of eighteen. The Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) is the state agency charged with administering juvenile delinquency programs.
Although an adult can often post a monetary bond after being arrested for a crime, when a juvenile is arrested, the child will be kept behind bars only if the judge finds that the child qualifies for secure detention.
The judge in juvenile court determines points based on the child’s prior record, the type of crime charged, and numerous other factors determined by statute.
Florida law requires that the state and county have a joint obligation to pay for the costs of secure detention care provided for juveniles.
The legislature recently revised the way the costs for care in detention must be paid by each county. In some cases, the court can require the child’s parent or guardian to pay a portion of those costs.
Juvenile Pick-Up Orders in the Sixth Judicial Circuit
Pursuant to Administrative Order Number 2008-031 PI-CIR, signed on June 15, 2008, the order seeks to create a more uniform procedure for how young people who have reached their 19th birthday are processed in Pinellas County by establishing rules for the court’s Juvenile Delinquency sections, the Juvenile Assessment Center, and the Juvenile Detention Center.
The order requires that 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.”
That 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.
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 County Juvenile Justice Council – The PCJJC, along with other County Juvenile Justice Councils throughout the state, is sanctioned by Florida Statute Section 985.664(1) to “provide advice and direction to the department [of juvenile justice (DJJ)] in the development and implementation of juvenile justice lawyer programs and to work collaboratively with the department in seeking program improvements and policy changes to address the emerging and changing needs of Florida’s youth who are at risk of delinquency.” All meetings of PCJJC are open to the public.
This article was last updated on Friday, November 4, 2022.