You don’t need a seasoned criminal defense attorney to tell you that it’s not uncommon for youth to make mistakes. Historically, preteens and teens (especially teens) have been known for buckling under peer pressure, and for making bad choices due to a lack of life experience. After all, you can probably recall a few bad choices you made when you were young.
In Miami-Dade County and throughout the state, we have what are called “civil citations,” which separate common mistakes made by youngsters from serious offenses, such as crimes involving physical violence (e.g. aggravated assault).
According to the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, today, common offenses committed by America’s youth result in “dramatically harsher consequences than in previous generations experienced.”
For example, in the 1970s, getting into a fight where no one was injured would result in a trip to the principal’s office and perhaps detention for a week. In the 21st Century, a student gets into the same type of fight and they can end up with a criminal record for the rest of their life.
Civil Citations Offer a Second Chance
With a Florida civil citation, the youth who made a common mistake doesn’t necessarily have to suffer the stigma of an arrest and criminal record. Instead, the youth can take responsibility for their actions and in exchange, their juvenile record would not be accessible to the public.
In order for the youth to take advantage of this, he or she would have to accept responsibility and admit that they were wrong. The youth would be required to take further steps to show accountability, for example, they may be required to:
- Complete community service
- Write a letter of apology
- Receive counseling
- Make restitution to the victim
Civil citations offer youth early interventions by means of education, counseling, as well as other “community interventions.” With a civil citation, youth are not subject to an arrest, nor do they deal with the harsh consequences associated with a criminal record.
Instead of focusing on punishment, the Civil Citation Initiative aims to identify the root causes of misconduct to help youth take responsibility for their mistakes, and to discourage them from engaging in further criminal behavior.
Are you eligible for a civil citation?
In Florida, each jurisdiction decides on the eligibility requirements for civil citations, so they vary between the counties. Generally, youth who’ve committed a serious misdemeanor or felony, or who have a prior offense are not entitled to a civil citation. Common offenses eligible for juvenile offenders, include:
- Affray (a public fight that disturbs the peace)
- Simple assault
- Disrupting a school event
- Disorderly conduct
- Theft crimes under $300
- Possession of a small amount of marijuana
- Minor in possession of alcohol, but not intoxicated
- Violating a city or county ordinance
Note: In order for a juvenile offender to be eligible for a civil citation, the youth’s parent or guardian must provide their consent. In many parts of Florida, the law enforcement officers have the power to issue a civil citation instead of arresting a young offender.
Let’s say that a young person receives a civil citation in lieu of being arrested. If the youth fails to successfully complete their sanctions, he or she will be processed through the traditional juvenile system. If the youth fails to participate in the program, he or she can be arrested and prosecuted.
If your son or daughter is in trouble with the law, I urge you to contact my Miami criminal defense firm. As a former prosecutor with over 30 years of experience, I can help. Call today for a free case evaluation!