Florida Juvenile Defense Lawyer: Why you need a lawyer to break through the bureaucracy
UPDATED: March 5, 2020
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Bill Umansky, a Florida attorney who has been helping minors charged with crimes for over a decade, says that Florida's juvenile justice system is broken due to a lack of funding and too much bureaucracy. However, he told us that minors going through the system can break through that bureaucracy – if they have the right representation.
Reasoning behind the lack of funding and bureaucracy
Although Umansky says that an individual judge or someone in the department of probation or an independent drug treatment center may take it upon themselves to initiate some type of program, those are essentially band aids to stop the bleeding and not an overall cure. He told us, “Each year, the legislature addresses the issues with harder and harder sentencing and more public disclosure about violent juveniles. However, there hasn't really been an expansion of services due to the economy and the bureaucracy involved in making change happen. Unfortunately, there has been no real major overhaul of Florida's juvenile justice system in years.”
Kids not getting the rehabilitation they need
The main goal of the Florida's juvenile system’s ability to rehabilitate has gotten lost, according to Umansky, who says that kids in need of rehabilitation often don’t get the proper care because the drug treatment centers, anger management and counseling facilities charged with giving these kids care are understaffed and underpaid. He told us:
There’s a high recidivism rate and the people that are employed to do this kind of work are often disheartened. So, even if they have the right motives in order to rehabilitate the kids, they’re not as interested as they may have once been when juvenile crime was more under control.
The bottom line today is that you’ve got a system where you have violent kids committing bad crimes like aggravated battery, aggravated assault, battery on a law enforcement officers, homicide, murder, sexual abuse and rape – and these kids are not getting the rehabilitation they desperately need.
Differentiating between crimes and “kids stuff”
Although Umansky admits that some of the kids who go through Florida's juvenile justice system can't be saved, he says that the real failing of the juvenile justice system pertains to the kids that just do “kids stuff” such as getting into a fight at a school, being disobedient to a police officer or shoplifting. He explained:
The system is so overwhelmed with the more violent criminals that they’re throwing all the juveniles into one lump. Some of these less hardened offenders are the kids with potential, the kids who may have caring parents and an opportunity for a bright future, but simply are not getting the services they need. Even in situations where they are given those services, they’re still not being placed into positions where they can get the charges dropped for a second or third offense.
Unfortunately, their records follow them. It can affect their ability to get college scholarships or part-time work to fund their schooling in a tough economy. So, these kids with potential are often forgotten and end up getting into more trouble – over and over again.
How Florida juvenile attorney can cut through the bureaucracy
In order to overcome the shortcomings of the system, it's important to have the right counsel behind you – someone who knows that the system is broken and, and more importantly, why it is broken. Umansky, who has been representing minors for over a decade, not only understands these shortcomings, but also knows how to make them work for his clients through diversions programs such as Florida's Teen Court or by communicating his own personal experiences to kids to let them know that they can get on the track.