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Understanding the Juvenile Court Process in Okaloosa County

Understanding the Juvenile Court Process in Okaloosa County is complicated and daunting. As a parent of 3 kids myself, I cannot even imagine the stress and fear you are feeling after your child has been arrested. If your family has been affected by a juvenile arrest in Fort Walton Beach, call Flaherty Defense Firm today. Our goal is to help you understand what is going to happen to your child, and explain what we can do to help. Hopefully it will help decrease some of your fear and anxiety so that you can make sensible and informed decisions for your family.

The seriousness of the crime along with your child’s background will dictate whether or not your child will be held at the Okaloosa County Juvenile Detention Facility. During the initial assessment after arrest, you will be notified of your child’s detention or release to you pending their scheduled court appearance.

Common Questions Regarding the Okaloosa County Juvenile Process

  • What Is Secure Detention?
  • What Happens After The Detention Hearing?
  • What Is Judicial Court Intervention?
  • What is Diversion?
  • What Are The Different Ways The Case Can Be Resolved In Court?
  • A conviction could cost your child’s driver’s license?
  • How Long Will My Child Be Subject to the Court’s Control?

What Is Secure Detention in Okaloosa County?

Similar to an adult arrest, a child must be brought before a Judge within 24 hours of arrest for a Detention Hearing. This hearing is to determine whether or not to release the child to their parents or hold them in Secure Detention until the case is resolved. Secure detention means your child will be housed at the Okaloosa County Juvenile Detention Center in Crestview.

The Judge uses a Detention Risk Assessment which is performed immediately upon your child’s arrival after arrest. Factors that are critical to the assessment include prior criminal history, parent activity and attention, friend associations, seriousness or dangerousness of the crime, and substance abuse history. The Detention Risk Assessment acts like a score sheet and assigns a point value to your child’s offense, with more serious charges carrying more points. The Detention Risk Assessment also takes into account certain mitigating factors (which subtract points) and certain aggravating factors (which add points) to arrive at a final “score.”

Once this “score” is computed, the Judge will do 1 of 3 things:

0-6 Points: Release the child to parent or guardian.
7-11 Points: Release the child but place him/her on home detention (house arrest).
12 or more Points: Child held in Secure Detention
If the child scores 12 or more points, he/she can legally be held in Secure Detention for up to 21 days, at which time a final adjudicatory hearing must be held.

What Happens After The Detention Hearing?

In a juvenile case your child will be assigned to a probation officer soon after arrest. A Juvenile Probation Officer (JPO) will contact the child and family to schedule an interview to gather information about the child, the family, the offense, etc. This interview is called an Intake Assessment.

The information gathered at the Intake Assessment assists the JPO in making an assessment and coming up with a plan to address the offense. Some of the factors the JPO will consider are: The nature of the offense, the risk the youth presents to the community, other needs the youth may have, and damages suffered by the victim as a result of the youth’s actions.

The JPO presents the results of the jail assessment and their intake assessment to the State Attorney’s Office with a recommendation to them. The State Attorney is not required to accept the recommendation of the JPO. I always stress to my clients and their families that it is VERY important to take the Intake Assessment seriously and to make a very good impression. This is a critical step to securing a favorable outcome in your child’s case. I always attend the Intake Assessments with my clients to ensure that all mitigating factors are considered.

What Is Judicial Court Intervention?

In some cases the probation officer feels that the only remedy is to file a petition immediately after arrest. This means that the probation officer has handed the case to the state attorney for prosecution without input and further assessment.

What are the different ways a juvenile case in Okaloosa County can be resolved?

  1. Diversion
    Even at the court stage, a child’s case can still be sent to diversion. If the diversion program is successfully completed, the charge will be dismissed. This means a clean record for your child and the guarantee that this blemish on their record will not harm their future potential.
  2. Probation
    When a child is put on probation, it is NOT for a set period of time like it is for adults. Probation can be open ended for a juvenile offender. The time frame is structured as an appropriate period of time to ensure that the offense has been addressed and the youth’s plan to avoid re-offending has been approved and accepted.

Several conditions will be put on a child sentenced to probation. This list is definitely not a comprehensive list, but here are some of the more common conditions:

  • School Attendance Required
  • Obeying Parents Required
  • Curfew Required
  • Strict prohibition on associations
  • No contact with other juvenile probationers
  • No contact with victims or co-defendants
  • Must not leave the State
  • Consent to search at any time Required
  1. Commitment
    If the offense is serious enough, the Judge may order a period of Commitment. There are several levels of Commitment:
  1. Minimum-Risk-The child remains at home and participates at least 5 days per week in a day treatment program. Disqualifying offenses for minimum risk include sexual offenses, matters involving a firearm, or any felony that would classified as a first degree or life felony if committed by an adult.
  2. Low-Risk Residential-Children at this level have been assessed as low risks to public safety, but require 24 hour supervision. Again, offenses that are sexual, involve firearms, life felony or first degree felony if committed by an adult, do not qualify for this level of commitment.
  3. Moderate-Risk Residential-Moderate risk to public safety and require 24 hour supervision. Examples of this type of commitment include halfway houses, wilderness camps, and youth academies.
  4. High-Risk Residential-For youth assessed as a high risk to public safety that require close supervision in a structured residential setting that provides 24 hour secure custody. Examples of this type of commitment include intensive halfway houses, sex offender programs, and youth development centers.
  5. Maximum-Risk Residential-Youth in this level of commitment have been assessed a serious risk to public safety. They are housed with 24 hour close supervision in a max security setting. Placement in such a program requires a minimum length of stay of 18 months. This setting is a long-term maximum security program.
  1. Trial
    A child, as any adult, has a right to take their case to trial. The major difference between child and adult is the right to a jury trial. A juvenile does NOT have the right to a Jury Trial. The trial is a bench trial or Court trial, which means that the Judge acts as the fact finder and renders a verdict of guilty or not guilty.

Did you know a conviction could cost your child their driver’s license?

If your child is convicted they can lose the privilege to drive for up to 1 year for a first offense and up to 2 years for additional offenses.

How Long Will My Child Be Subject to the Court’s Control?

The Court has jurisdiction until your child is 19. In some cases, the Court can hold jurisdiction until the age of 21.

If your child has been arrested in Fort Walton Beach, or anywhere in Okaloosa County, call me at (850) 243-6097 for a free consultation. We are available 24/7 so call anytime, day or night. I will help you get your family back on track.

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