Understanding Juvenile Crime
Florida has a high crime rate – mostly adults, but there is a high amount of juvenile crime too. But what is a juvenile crime? Is there a difference between adult crimes and juvenile crimes? In the state of Florida, a juvenile crime is a crime committed by anyone under 18 years of age. Up until 18, they are considered minors, and while the court system believes they should be punished, sentencing is not as severe as it would be for an adult.
In the Florida juvenile justice system, juvenile crimes bail amounts are determined by the judge during the arraignment process, the same process as adult crimes bail. The difference is that since 2013, juveniles can now bond out if they aren’t charged with an adult crime. So, while the bond may be the same and requires the same bail process, younger individuals that are arrested can go home with their parents or guardian until their trial.
At what age can a juvenile be charged with a crime?
Currently, Florida State attorneys can choose to circumvent juvenile courts and “direct file” on 14-year-olds and 15-year-olds in the criminal court for any of the following charges:
- Carrying or displaying a gun while committing a crime
- Aggravated assault
- Aggravated child abuse
- Armed burglary
- Other crimes similar in nature
Those arrested for juvenile crimes at 16 years old or 17 years old can be directly filed with a felony charge or a misdemeanor if the individual has a criminal history of two or more prior criminal offenses in which one is a felony. With these types of arrests, they will not be released with juvenile crimes bail but will await arraignment for adult crimes bail instead.
What are juvenile crimes called?
When a person under the age of 16 commits a crime, the offense is referred to as a “delinquent act” versus a “crime,” as with those 16 and older being tried as adults. Once arraigned by a judge, the juvenile is eligible for juvenile crimes bail through a lawyer or a bail bond agency.
When the minor appears in court for what is traditionally a “trial”, it is referred to as an “adjudication,” where their case is handled as a “disposition” at which point a judge sets the sentencing. The proceedings are different in juvenile court than those held in normal court for adult crimes.
Juvenile crimes bail can be handed down by a judge in these disposition proceedings in two categories of delinquent acts.
The first type of delinquent act would be deemed a crime had an adult committed the act. For especially serious crimes committed by a juvenile, some jurisdictions in Florida will try a child as an adult. If the child is tried as a juvenile, the parents are usually required to pay any court costs.
The second type of delinquent act wouldn’t normally be deemed a crime if an adult were facing the charges, and are characteristically known as a “status” offense because of the arrested person’s age. Common Juvenile crime examples that are referred to as a “status” offense would be:
- Out past curfew
- Possession or consumption of alcohol
Are juvenile crime rates increasing?
Is juvenile crime on the rise? Actually, it’s dropping. According to records released by the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice the fiscal year 2019 to 2020 saw a 17% decline with just over 45,000 juveniles compared to over 54,000 during the fiscal year of 2018 to 2019. The fiscal year of 2018 to 2019 had a 35% drop from the previous fiscal year.
What are the punishments for juvenile crime?
Juvenile courts are handled differently than adult courts in the state of Florida. All cases are handled as a disposition without a jury. The presiding judge will make all decisions on penalties and sentencing.
A juvenile crime case can be sentenced any of the following dependent on the crime after posting juvenile crimes bail:
- Community service for several hours
- 14 days in a non-secure juvenile detention facility
- Years in a secure juvenile detention facility
- Years in federal or state prison after time served in juvenile detention
A juvenile can sometimes be sentenced to twenty or more years in prison without the possibility of early release as ruled by the Florida Supreme Court. Notably, in 2011 the court has banned the death penalty for juveniles under the age of 18 years of age.
Can juveniles be charged as adults?
Florida’s state law allows prosecutors to charge 14-year-old and 15-year old juveniles in adult court for 21 specific felonies where they will have a bond set requiring adult crimes bail instead of juvenile crimes bail. The same law allows any felony charges to be filed on 16-year-old and 17-year-old juveniles. This decision by any state prosecutor is a direct file and not subject to judicial review. This decision cannot be appealed.
When concerned with the juvenile population in Florida, what is the strongest predictor of juvenile crime? Between the ages of 12 and 14 years old, chronic offender’s strongest predictors that will require juvenile crimes bail, are typically one of or combination of the following:
- Antisocial peer involvement
- Lack of social ties
- Nonserious delinquent acts
- Little to low school commitment, attachment, and achievement
- Assorted problems like school drop-out, substance use, and teen pregnancy
However, people should always remember that juvenile crime is declining. This means that while parents and guardians should keep an eye on their children as always, there is less to worry about when it comes to juvenile crime as in years past.