Judge With a Magnifying Glass Looking at Juvenile FiguresJust like adults, children make mistakes. When a child is arrested for a crime, their cases are usually handled by the state’s juvenile justice system. However, Florida affords prosecutors great discretion in charging minors. If a prosecutor believes your child’s offense was very serious, they may be able to send their case to an adult court. 

When Children are Tried as Adults

Florida, like most states in the country, allows children to be tried as adults. However, other states usually require that prosecutors obtain a judge’s written consent before referring a child’s case to adult court.

Florida, though, has different rules. Here, prosecutors are allowed to file “discretionary direct files,” routing a minor’s case to adult court without a judge’s oversight or authorization. A prosecutor can recommend a case to adult court even if a child is only 14 or 15 years old. A prosecutor may submit a discretionary direct file if a child commits any one of 21 specified felonies. These felonies include but are not limited to:

  • Arson
  • Sexual battery
  • Robbery
  • Kidnapping
  • Armed burglary
  • Using or displaying a firearm in the commission of a felony
  • Grand theft
  • Murder
  • Manslaughter

Before sending a juvenile’s case to adult court, a prosecutor may consider the child’s:

  • Age
  • Arrest records
  • Prior adjudications or convictions
  • Role in an offense, as well as the severity, nature, and circumstances of the crime

If a prosecutor finds a particular offense heinous or believes that prior attempts at rehabilitation have failed, they could “direct file” the case to adult court.

However, prosecutors are afforded substantially more leeway when it comes to minors aged between 16 and 17, whose cases may be sent to adult criminal court if they are charged with any felony.

The Consequences of an Adult Criminal Record

The Florida juvenile justice system recognizes that children sometimes make bad decisions. While a juvenile record can seriously affect a child’s ability to join the military, obtain an education, or find a job, most juvenile offenders can expunge their records once they reach a certain age, either automatically or through a special petition.

However, adult criminal convictions are not automatically expunged. A conviction can:

  • Jeopardize a child’s ability to secure financial aid for college
  • Show up on employment background checks
  • Prevent a child from eventually enjoying certain adult rights, such as voting or owning a firearm

In other words, an adult criminal conviction can hamper a child’s ability to move past their mistakes, adversely affecting them for the rest of their life.

Contact a Crestview Juvenile Defense Attorney

If you or a loved one have been charged with a juvenile offense in Crestview, call Flaherty & Merrifield today at (850) 398-8098 for a free consultation.


Tim Flaherty
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Florida Criminal Defense Attorney