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Juvenile Court in Pinellas County, FL

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 arrested on the 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 over night 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 become 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 the attorney on the child’s behalf. Then the child and attorney talk in private so that the attorney can determine whether the child is comfortable with the arrangement.

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 through 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 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 including allegations of shoplifting an inexpensive items, possession of marijuana, a fight not resulting in serious injuries, or trespassing.

The sanctions that come with direct diversion or civil citation might include counseling, law-related educational classes, community service, a letter of apology or essay, and school progress reports. Even a juvenile’s second or third misdemeanor might be diverted away from the formal court proceedings in the criminal justice system.

Attorney for Juveniles in Pinellas County

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 are serious offenses prosecuted in juvenile court including, but not limited to, allegations of violence, theft, or the use of a weapon.

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.

Call 813-250-0500.


Juvenile Diversion Programs in Pinellas County, FL

If the child has never been in trouble before, the case might be referred to to a juvenile diversion program including:

  • 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 – After the referral to the Juvenile Arbitration program, the court holds a hearing and assigns sanctions which the juvenile must complete.
  • Juvenile Drug Court – For juveniles accused of misdemeanor or felony drug charges, the juvenile drug court program in Pinellas County, FL, allows the charges to be dismissed if the child enters and successfully completes the program.
  • 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. If the child completes the program, the child might avoid prosecution and a juvenile record.

All of these diversion programs require some type of sanctions aimed at improving the child’s behavior that 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

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.


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, processing documents, and scheduling 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.

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.


This article was last updated on Friday, May 1, 2020.

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