OFFICE OF THE PUBLIC DEFENDER 12th JUDICIAL CIRCUIT of FLORIDA LARRY L. EGER, Public Defender Serving, DeSoto, Manatee, & Sarasota Counties

What to expect when your child has been arrested or accused of a crime

Juvenile delinquency cases are quasi-criminal cases. Delinquency cases are when a child is accused of committing an act that would be considered criminal if they were an adult. Juvenile cases can be felonies or misdemeanors. Criminal traffic cases are the exception to the rule. If a juvenile commits a criminal traffic offense, that case is handled in County Court no matter the age of the driver.

Juvenile cases are handled in the Circuit Court by a Circuit judge. Juvenile cases are confidential and are handled differently than the cases in the adult system. Juveniles are not sent to jail or prison for their offenses as long as they are handled in juvenile court. The goal of the juvenile system is to rehabilitate the child as opposed to the criminal system where the goal is punishment.

The juvenile proceedings make up their own division within the Circuit Court system. This division is separate from the Circuit Criminal system. Because all matters pertaining to the juvenile are held in the same court, the Judge has a better idea of the child’s needs and the family situation. This allows for better resolutions in the child’s interest.

A child may be accused of committing a crime even if they are not arrested. In a non-arrest, law enforcement will receive a complaint, prepare a report called a Probable Cause Affidavit (PCA), and forward the PCA to the State Attorney’s Office to review. Once the State Attorney’s Office receives the PCA, their office will complete an investigation to determine whether charges will be filed. This process takes time. Depending on the nature of the charge, the State has a minimum of one year to make a filing decision. With more serious charges, the State has a longer period of time to make a filing decision.

If the State Attorney decides to file charges, a Petition (charging document) will be prepared and filed. The child and the parent/guardian will be served with a Summons, along with a copy of the Petition to appear for an Arraignment. DO NOT call the Office of the State Attorney to discuss the child’s case.

Championing the accused with the utmost professionalism and humanity