If your child has been arrested for a juvenile offense in Destin, you are probably scared and confused about what happens next. You might be wondering what you should do in order to make sure that this arrest doesn’t follow your child and permanently affect his or her future.

You are right to be scared and concerned. A juvenile arrest has the potential to impact a promising future. Protecting and defending your greatest asset, your child, is our number one priority.

My name is Tim Flaherty. I have been defending juveniles in Destin since 2001. My partner is Brandy Merrifield. We are not just criminal defense lawyers; we are also parents of teenagers ourselves. We will not judge you or your child. Instead, our Destin juvenile defense lawyers will fight to make sure that your child’s mistake does not result in life long consequences.

Can My Child Be Charged as an Adult?

Yes. Although a juvenile is defined as a person under the age of 18, in some cases they can be transferred to adult court. For most offenses all persons under the age of 18 will remain in juvenile court. There are, however, a few exceptions where the State can send the child to adult court despite their age.

Crimes that involve extreme acts of violence or abuse are permitted for transfer to adult court. The juvenile prosecutor will review the charges, consult with the juvenile justice department and speak with witnesses or victims before making this determination. A seasoned juvenile attorney can work to make sure the case stays in juvenile court where it belongs.

What is the Juvenile Justice system in Florida?

The juvenile justice system in Florida is regulated by Florida Statute §985.00. The goal of the juvenile system is to be rehabilitative rather than punitive. What this means is that the Court wants to ensure that a juvenile offender does not become an adult offender. This means that with the right advocacy and guidance I have more flexibility in the outcome of juvenile cases over adult cases. The juvenile system in Destin and throughout Florida is geared toward putting in place the proper guidance and consequences so the juvenile does not make the same mistake again.

Common Juvenile Offenses in Destin

While juveniles can be arrested for any offense in Florida, the most common juvenile arrests in Destin are:

  • Minor in Possession of Alcohol
  • Burglary of A Conveyance
  • Drug Offenses
  • Sex Offenses
  • Domestic Violence
  • Grand Theft

Evaluation for Okaloosa County Juvenile Detention Center Placement

Once a juvenile has been arrested for an offense in Destin, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice begins their intake process. The first step is completion of the DRAI, Detention Risk Assessment Instrument. This assessment will be completed immediately upon arrival. This assessment is completed at the Okaloosa County Juvenile Detention Center. The main goal in the DRAI is to assess whether or not the juvenile is a risk to themselves or society. The DRAI is based on a point system. If the juvenile reaches a certain number of points they can be required to be confined at home with a parent or guardian or detained with the Department of Juvenile Justice.

Juvenile Jail/Detention

If your child has completed the DRAI and their points require detention they will be placed in the Okaloosa County Juvenile Detention Center which is essentially jail for juveniles. The standard jail sentence for juvenile offenses in Destin can range from 21 days (most offenses) to 30 days (serious violent crimes). This is referred to as secure detention. Additional time can be placed on any juvenile for failure to follow rules or behavioral issues.

What is a Juvenile Adjudication of Delinquency and Will it Follow Me?

You have likely read that a juvenile arrest will be closed and not seen after the case is resolved. You are correct; the case will be closed and will not be viewable by the general public. However, if your child is adjudicated delinquent of the crime charged it will follow them in the future.

Having an experienced juvenile offense attorney in Destin is vital to ensuring your future rights are protected. A juvenile conviction is called an adjudication of delinquency. It is not a conviction like adult charges but it has similar effects for future opportunities. The only way to completely remove a juvenile record from existence is to have it expunged. The expungement process is only reserved for certain charges and based on the outcome of the case.

How can a juvenile conviction follow you?

  • Potential job loss/non-hire
  • Disclosure on Government Applications or Forms
  • Security Clearance Issues
  • Disclosure on Education Forms
  • Enlistment in the Military
  • Complicate matters if you are ever arrested in the future

What are the potential outcomes for a Juvenile case in Destin?

Although the outcome will be determined by the offense charged, there are several options available in the juvenile system. As discussed earlier, the juvenile system’s main goal is to rehabilitate, not punish. Potential outcomes could include fines, court costs, community service, loss of driving privilege, life skill classes, home confinement, detention in the juvenile jail and an adjudication.

In many cases we have successfully resolved juvenile charges through diversion programs. A case resolved through diversion means the case will be dismissed and eligible to be expunged from the juvenile’s record.

What is Juvenile Diversion in Destin?

In some cases, your child may be allowed to enter into a diversion program. Diversion programs include Parentally Applied Discipline, Deferred Prosecution Agreements, and Teen Court. In order to qualify for one of these programs, the juvenile probation officer assigned to your child’s case will make this recommendation to the prosecutor. That decision is made at a meeting between you, your child, and the probation officer called an Intake Assessment.

The Intake Assessment is crucial in dictating what direction the case ends up going. The probation officer will be asking your child a lot of questions and trying to assess whether your son or daughter is likely to reoffend or pose a danger to the community.

Very few attorneys do this, but we attend Intake Assessments with our clients. Brandy and I will be there with you every step of the way. We will also talk to the probation officer before the meeting and send over any mitigating evidence that we have, including report cards, awards, etc. We do this in every case because if the probation officer makes the right recommendation to the prosecutor, it just about guarantees that the prosecutor will go along with it and recommend a diversion program.

If the juvenile successfully completes diversion, the case will be dismissed and then can be expunged. If the juvenile does not successfully perform the case will go back to the juvenile probation officer for reevaluation.

Contact a Destin Juvenile Offense Attorney

If you or a loved one have been charged with a juvenile offense in Destin, Florida, call Flaherty & Merrifield today at (850) 243-6097 for a free consultation.