Florida Juvenile Crimes: How Does The System Work & What Help Is Available?

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Florida youths who get into trouble with the law often don't realize that criminal matters can have serious consequences to their futures and careers. They can affect whether the child gets into the military, into college or is able to get a job. Bill Umansky, a Florida attorney who has been helping minors charged with crimes for over a decade, says that to avoid those consequences, it's important to find out not only how the system works, but also what types of help are available.

Seek advice from someone who knows the system

Umansky told us, “Let’s face it, kids make mistakes. While it's natural for parents to feel angry and possibly turn their backs on their child, doing so is likely to have grave consequences. They should at least talk with an attorney to get some advice as to how the system works. Sometimes parents say, 'My child should own up for the responsibility and pay for what he did; that’s the responsible thing to do.' While that may be true, it's important to also understand that you're making an investment into a child's future by raising them, teaching them values and providing them with every opportunity to have a prosperous life.”

Why experience matters

Does a lawyer's experience really matter when it comes to juvenile matters? Absolutely, according to Umansky, who says that being in the right location, being able to find the right resources and having the right experience can make a world of difference. He explained how his firm operates:

  • Being in the right location. Our office is located right across from the juvenile justice center, which is a separate courthouse from the adults. We placed our office in this location for a reason as our practice has a special emphasis on juvenile matters. We wanted to be in close proximity to our underage clients, to some of the juvenile services in the immediate area, to the Department of Probation, the court itself, the judges and the detention center. That way, we are able to get more done simply because we are near these facilities. However, location is only a part of it.
  • Finding the right resources?. We don’t just treat the kids as a legal client with a criminal charge. We try to work with their parents in finding them the resources they need to help their children. So, if a child has a substance abuse problem, we'll help find governmental or private treatment programs where they can go for help. We also have access to tutors, therapists and other mental health professionals that can deal with a child’s particular issues.

    We’ve worked in the juvenile system dealing with probation officers, drug treatment providers, private schools, teachers and in some cases principals, because those people may have input as to what type of sentence the child would get or whether the child will even get charged with a crime at all.

  • Having the right experience. There’s a certain nomenclature, or terminology, that many lawyers who mainly do criminal work simply don’t get. A criminal lawyer’s approach to the case is different than a juvenile lawyer’s approach. A criminal lawyer is looking at it strictly from the legal aspects of the case and whether or not they can just get the adult out of the situation or reduce the sentence.

The juvenile lawyer first looks at the criminal aspects of the case, but then also looks at the more human elements of a case, which is the child, the dynamics of the family and getting the child the help they need. That’s where experience comes into play and I believe a criminal lawyer that handles a juvenile case will oftentimes only treat half of the problem.

An experienced juvenile lawyer is going to treat the whole problem because he or she will see it from the whole perspective, according to Umansky, who says that, “For a juvenile, it’s not only about legal defenses. It’s not only about a trial. It’s not only about inputting what sentence you get. There really is a whole other side to it.”

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