Florida Juveniles Beware: Entering Into A Plea Bargain Can Have Serious Consequences

There can be serious consequences to Florida juveniles charged with crimes who enter into a plea bargain prematurely such as the loss of a license, a job and even the inability to rent an apartment.. Our Florida juvenile justice system expert explains.

Florida Attorney Bill Umansky

Bill Umansky, a Florida attorney who has been helping minors charged with crimes for over a decade, says that if a child enters a plea early on in the system without benefit of legal counsel, they may lose some valuable protections such as:

  • Loss of driver's license. If it’s a drug or theft charge, the child may lose his driver’s license. There's a difference in how a police officer can obtain a confession from a juvenile than he can from an adult. There are issues regarding search and seizure where the law enforcement officer had the right to stop or detain a juvenile or to search a juvenile.
  • Loss of job. Juveniles can also lose is their jobs. For some reason, even though the information about a crime they've committed is not supposed to leave the system, employers do find out about the offense in some cases.
  • Inability to rent an apartment. It can also make it more difficult for a child that goes out on his own once he’s of college years to find an apartment, because apartment complexes somehow find out the juvenile may have a charge and won’t rent to them.

Kids may be easier targets

Law enforcement often looks at kids as easier targets in order to make an arrest because there’s a greater chance that a juvenile is not going to hire an attorney to safeguard their rights or to oversee what that officer did or didn’t do, according to Umansky, who told us:

Let’s face it, a lot of times juveniles are easier targets than adults for several reasons. They’re easier because they’re more compliant with the law enforcement’s directive. They’re more scared of what a law enforcement officer can do to them. There are many juveniles that dress, talk and speak like thugs, when in fact they’re really just kids.

How an attorney can help

A child can be placed on probation until his 19th birthday, and even though 19 is the age of majority, he might get less of a sentence if he uses a qualified lawyer, according to Umansky. He explained how an attorney can help:

The way the Florida juvenile system works is that the Department of Probation has the strongest input as to what sentence the child should receive. If the child pleads out early without the benefit of a lawyer, he may get a harsher sentence. A lawyer can provide additional information that might result in a lesser sanction or sentence. If the Department of Probation doesn’t agree with that assessment, then the lawyer can present that assessment to the court.

In many cases, judges use something called a predisposition report (PDR) – which is created by the Department of Probation. However, what many people don't realize is that a lawyer can create his own PDR on the client's behalf and present it to the court – giving it something else to consider before sentencing occurs.

Contact a Florida juvenile lawyer in your state to find out what programs are available to you or your child. Initial consultations are strictly confidential, without obligation and are generally free of charge.