defense attorney for a childKnowing that your minor child is charged with a crime or is under suspicion can be a nightmare. You are probably angry, scared, and disappointed. Before you make any rash decisions about your child’s future, call me at (850) 243-6097.

My name is Tim Flaherty. I’ve been an Okaloosa county juvenile defense attorney since 2001. My partner’s name is Brandy Merrifield. We are also parents of teenagers. We know how stressful and terrifying raising a teenager can be in this day and age. We would like to help you and your family through this ordeal with the right combination of legal expertise, tough love, and compassion.

We will do everything possible to make sure your child’s arrest doesn’t ruin their chance at a successful future.

Information about Juvenile Cases in Okaloosa County

Below, you will see links to additional pages that have more information about some of the most common questions that parents ask after their child is arrested in Okaloosa County:

Can a juvenile be charged as an adult?

A juvenile in Florida is a person under the age of 18. The prosecutor has the discretion to send the case to adult court. The time between arrest and the first hearing will dictate if your child is sent to adult court. It is during that crucial time period that we will do everything possible to keep the case in juvenile court.

What is juvenile diversion in Okaloosa County?

Juvenile diversion is a program that may be available for first time offenders. Juvenile diversion is a resolution that will result in a dismissal. Having the charge dismissed provides the juvenile a chance to expunge the record which means the record truly is erased. While not every situation will qualify for juvenile expungement, the help of an experienced juvenile defense attorney can mean the difference between dismissal and an adjudication.

Common juvenile diversion programs in Okaloosa County include Teen Court, Parentally Applied Discipline, Deferred Prosecution Agreement, and Juvenile Diversion Alternative Program.

What is the juvenile court process in Okaloosa County?

The juvenile court process is designed to rehabilitate rather than punish. With that in mind, each juvenile case will have a level of punishment but usually, the penalty will be less severe, and less permanent, than it would be in adult court.

Each step in the juvenile process requires knowledge and finesse to resolve favorably. Having experienced attorneys on your side will not only alleviate your anxiety but also protect your child from unforeseen consequences.

Will my child be released from DJJ custody after an arrest in Okaloosa County?

After is child is arrested and taken into DJJ custody, the officers at DJJ begin an evaluation process that is supposed to determine the level of risk that the child poses to the community. This evaluation is called a Juvenile Risk Assessment.

The day after a child is arrested, they will see a Judge for a court hearing called a Detention Review or Detention Hearing. At that hearing, an officer from DJJ will present their Risk Assessment to the Judge. The Risk Assessment is based on a points system. If the child has a low number of points, he will be released to his or her parents. If their points are high enough, the Judge will order that the child be held in secure detention (jail) for 21 days. At the end of the 21 days, most kids are released from secure detention. However, in some situations involving crimes of violence or sexual misconduct, the court can hold the child for an additional 9 days in secure detention.

Juvenile Charges that Flaherty & Merrifield Defends

This is not an exclusive list, but the following lists some of the more common charges that we see on a regular basis in juvenile court:

What are some common myths about juvenile cases in Okaloosa County?

Myth #1: A juvenile case is not as serious as a case in adult court.

Yes, it is true that the main purpose of the juvenile court system is to rehabilitate the child, while the main purpose of the adult system is to punish the offender. However, juvenile cases can result in incarceration, just like adult court cases.

Myth #2: Juveniles don’t go to jail.

In most juvenile cases, the child does not go to trial. However, with more serious charges, incarceration is a real possibility. In the juvenile system, it is called commitment to a program, but make no mistake, it’s jail. A program commitment is supervised by the Dept. of Juvenile Justice. The location and type of program is based on the severity and nature of the charge, the child’s danger to the community, as well as a number of other factors.

There are several different levels of DJJ commitment programs:


This is a non-residential classification. The child is allowed to remain in the home under the supervision of their parents. Certain charges, such as sexual offenses, firearm charges, and 1st degree felonies, are not eligible for minimum-risk commitment.

Non-Secure Residential:

This is a lock-down, residential facility. Normally, there are fences, guards, and locking doors. This level of commitment is normally assigned to children who have been deemed a low or moderate risk to themselves or others in the community. Under this classification, the child is allowed some supervised interaction with the community.

High-Risk Residential:

Under this classification, there is limited to no access to the community.

Maximum-Risk Residential:

This classification does not allow for any access with the community at all. These programs are normally reserved for youth who were convicted of very serious, violent offenses.

Myth # 3: As long as my child is under the age of 18, the child will stay in Juvenile Court for sure.

Most cases stay in juvenile court, but in certain circumstances, the State Attorney can send kids as young as 14 or 15 to adult court. If a case is sent to adult court, they face adult sanctions, a permanent conviction on their record, and incarceration in an adult prison or jail.

It is vital that you contact us right away if you think there is a chance the case could go to adult court. If we are brought onto the case in the very beginning, we can immediately contact the State Attorney and work on convincing them to keep the case in adult court.

Once a case is sent to adult court, it is too late. Cases do not go back to juvenile court once they have been sent up to adult court.

Call the defense attorneys at Flaherty & Merrifield and get the help your family needs.

Brandy and I, and the rest of the team at Flaherty & Merrifield, understand that you are terrified about your child’s future. You want them to learn their lesson, but you also want to make sure that their plans, dreams, and hopes for the future are not at risk.

If you or a loved one have been accused of a crime in Fort Walton Beach, call Flaherty & Merrifield at (850) 243-6097 for a free, confidential case review.

Brandy Merrifield
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Florida Criminal Defense Attorney