What Happens To Florida Juveniles Who Commit Crimes?

Florida's juvenile justice system can be harsh for minors who commit crimes – especially when they enter into a plea bargain prematurely. Bill Umansky, a Florida attorney who has been helping minors charged with crimes for over a decade, explained what happens to Florida juveniles who commit crimes.

Consequences of pleading out to charges prematurely

Florida juvenile attorneys, such as Umansky, say that kids who plead out to charges prematurely can be placed under the direction of the Department of Probation, committed to a facility or sent to a halfway house. He provided the following information about each:

  • Placed under the direction of the Department of Probation. A child may get placed within the confines of the Department of Probation for supervision when the parents of that child know what’s best for him. In some cases, the parents can actually deal out the punishment and supervision that the child may need, as opposed to allowing it to be managed by the Department of Probation or the juvenile justice system. In other cases, parents relinquish control to an outside government agency that’s not going to care or be as responsible – for no other reason than budget cuts, bureaucracy and too much volume.
  • Committed to a facility. In cases involving more serious crimes, the child may end up in what's called a commitment facility or a commitment program. In some cases, the child is under continual supervision and basically behind bars – although they don't refer to them as jails or detention centers. Some maximum commitment facilities operate exactly like a jail or a prison, and without using an experienced attorney, the child could be placed in a higher level commitment program – meaning it's a more restrictive program that also houses rapists, drug dealers and similar convicts.
  • Sent to a halfway house. There are other programs where a child is sent to a halfway house. There are different program levels – some in which the child can't leave and others that may allow the child's parents to visit.

Lesser punishments may be available

In some cases, if a child pleads out right away, he may have missed an opportunity to get a judicial warning by the judge, which is basically a judge telling the child not to do it again, according to Umansky, who says that may occur in exchange for a simple letter of apology or community service.

In the end, he says that pleading out to a charge without using an experienced juvenile justice attorney has serious consequences and could cost a child his college scholarship, any potential grant money that’s out there and any access to financial aid. In some cases, if a child is getting U.S. federal disability benefits, it could be affected if the child becomes an adjudicated delinquent.