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Juvenile Criminal Law



Warning to all parents and children and accused of a crime in Florida, your juvenile record will be used against you. Gone are the days when police pick us a child for engaging in delinquent behavior and drop them at home to be dealt with by parents. Today even a light contact with law enforcement at school can result in a juvenile criminal record.

Technically speaking, the juvenile court process is very different from that of the adult system. Under Chapter 985 of the Florida Statutes, children are not “convicted” but are “adjudicated delinquent.” Similarly, children are not “arrested” but are “taken into custody” or “detained” pursuant to Section 985.101(4). However prospective employers may not understand the difference and assume that the child has lied on an application asking if there has been an arrest or conviction.

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If the child was fingerprinted, then Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) has a record of the child and because FDLE criminal history records are public, they may be released to requesting individuals including prospective employer under certain circumstances.

Also, Section 943.053(3) “(a) Criminal history information, including information relating to minors, … shall be available on a priority basis to criminal justice agencies for criminal justice purpose free of charge.  After proving the [CJIP] with all known information, persons in the private sector and noncriminal justice agencies may be provided criminal history information upon tender of fess…”  Also, a law enforcement officer is permitted to release a copy of the juvenile offense report to the alleged victim of the offense.  §985.04(3), Fla. Stat.  More crucially, if a child is taken into custody for any felony offense or a crime identified as a crime of violence (DV battery), the arresting law enforcement agency must notify the superintendent of the child’s school.    §985.04(4), Fla. Stat.  Once the arrest is reported to the school, it is likely part of the child’s permanent academic record.  The arrest for the offense, even off school property and unrelated to academics, could result in a change of placement for the child into an alternative school.

Just like adult records, some juvenile records are eligible to be sealed or expunged.  Consulting with a criminal law attorney will assist in determining if a judicial or administrative seal or expunge will help your child move past the juvenile court process.  If your child’s juvenile record is expunged, he/she will be permitted to lawfully deny the arrest/detention unless the child:

  • Is applying for employment with a criminal justice agency.
  • Is the defendant in a criminal proceeding.
  • Currently or subsequently petitions for expunction/sealing.
  • Applies for admission to The Florida Bar.
  • Applies for employment/licensure with DJJ or DCF in a direct care position.
  • Applies for employment/licensure with DOE, a district school board, or any local government entity that license child care facilities; OR in the case of sealing.
  • Attempts to purchase a firearm that is subject to a criminal history background check under state or federal law.

If not sealed or expunged, the criminal history record of juveniles, so long a not classified as a “habitual offender” or committed to a DJJ program, will naturally be expunged after the child reaches the age of 24; otherwise at 26 unless convicted of a forcible felony after becoming an adult.  In short, if you are fingerprinted, FDLE will have a record of your contact with law enforcement likely until at least age 24.  Secondly, law enforcement will likely contact your school if you are arrested for a felony or crime of violence.  This does not require an adjudication or conviction, but a mere criminal arrest or detention.  Once the arrest becomes part of the academic record, it may be seen by future colleges or scholarship programs, not to mention the fact that the school may do a change of placement based upon your arrest.  Contact attorney Jenny Thomas as soon as law enforcement makes contact with you or your child.  Never allow law enforcement to speak with your child without you and your attorney being present.

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