The short answer is yes, a juvenile (anyone under the age of 18) can be charged as an adult in the state of Florida. There are strict guidelines for charging a child as an adult. In some cases, the prosecutor has the choice on whether to charge the child as an adult.
While not all offenses can be kept in the juvenile court system, having an experienced and dedicated juvenile defense attorney can make a huge difference when it comes to keeping the case in juvenile court.
My name is Tim Flaherty. My partner’s name is Brandy Merrifield. We are criminal defense attorneys but we are also parents ourselves. We understand how stressed, frustrated, and worried you are about your child’s future. If your son or daughter has been arrested in Okaloosa County, call us at (850) 243-6097.
How does Florida handle the issue of charging juveniles in adult court?
Florida charges more juveniles as adults than any other state. Having your child’s case transferred to adult court takes the consequences from being rehabilitative in nature to punitive. The goal of the adult system is punishment and not rehabilitation. If your child is charged as an adult you can expect the consequences to be punishing and life altering. In Florida there are certain criteria set by statute that allow for a child to be charged as an adult.
Can prosecutors choose whether to charge in adult or juvenile court?
Yes they can. Prosecutors in Okaloosa County will consider a number of factors before making their decision including the following:
- Prior criminal history of the child;
- The facts of the offense charged;
- Input from the victim of the crime, if there is one;
- Input from your attorney;
- Recommendation from the Dept. of Juvenile Justice;
- Family situation; and
- Any mitigating evidence.
The prosecutor, not a judge, makes the decision on whether your child’s case remains in juvenile court or is transferred to adult court.
The time between an arrest and when the state makes a decision on your child’s case is critical. A seasoned juvenile attorney can work with you and your child to make sure the prosecutor keeps the charge in juvenile court.
At what age can my child be charged in adult court in Okaloosa County?
If your child is 16 or 17 years old
Any child 16 or 17 years old charged with ANY felony or a third time misdemeanor can be charged as an adult. It is the prosecutor’s discretion to transfer the case to adult court at any point.
If your child is 14 or 15 years old
For a child 14 or 15 years old, the State has the discretion to charge as a juvenile or send the case to adult court for the following offenses
- Sexual Battery
- Aggravated abuse
- Armed Burglary
- Lewd or Lascivious offenses
- Grand Theft
- Grand Theft of a Motor Vehicle
Are there charges where it is mandatory that it be filed in adult court?
Yes, in some cases the discretion has been removed from the prosecutor and the child’s case will be transferred per statute and sentenced as an adult offender.
Regardless of age at the time of the offense, transfer to adult court is mandatory for offenses involving:
- Theft of a motor vehicle resulting in serious bodily injury or death
- Offenses involving Firearms
There are several other scenarios where it is mandatory that the case be transferred to adult court if the child is 16 or 17 years old. Mandatory transfer to adult court involves any child 16 or 17 years old and applies to ANY felony where the child has been previously adjudicated delinquent for a felony involving any of following offenses/criteria:
- Attempt, commit or conspiracy to commit murder
- Sexual Battery
- Armed or strong-armed robbery
- Home Invasion
- Aggravated Battery/Aggravated Assault
- Second or subsequent violent crime again a person
- Forcible Felony
- Weapons Offenses
The #1 Goal Is to Keep the Case in Juvenile Court
If the case is decided in juvenile court, the charge doesn’t go on your child’s permanent record.
If the case is decided in adult court, the charge can stay with them for the rest of their life.
If you want your child to have the best future possible, it is vital to keep their case in juvenile court. Our #1 priority is simple: keep the child in juvenile court and out of adult court.
If your child was arrested in Fort Walton Beach or anywhere in Okaloosa County for a juvenile offense, call Flaherty & Merrifield today at (850) 243-6097. We will do everything possible to protect your child.