When it comes to charging youth offenders as adults, Florida ranks at the top in the nation. From 2003-2008, Florida transferred juveniles into the adult system two times the amount that the state with the second highest amount of youths charged as adults transferred them into the adult courts. From 2008-2012, over 12,000 Florida children were transferred into the adult criminal justice system. Some may argue that this is because the punishments in the juvenile system for youth offenders are not nearly tough enough, and many offenders under the age of 18 who commit violent crimes deserve a harsher sentence through the adult courts. Others argue that you cannot charge juveniles as adults due to differences in brain development, and the stark reality that many youth offenders who go into the adult system are more often abused and have higher recidivism rates.
In 2012, the Supreme Court did ban mandatory life sentences without parole for children convicted of murder, but Florida still hands out extremely harsh sentences for young criminals. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that often when these youths are released from prison after serving their time, they face a tough road ahead for finding decent employment and housing, especially if they carry a felony conviction. A high percentage of the cases that are transferred (98%) are done so without a consultation with a judge or jury, and youths as young as 14 can be moved into the adult system. Here are the ways that cases can be transferred from juvenile to adult court in the state of Florida.
Three Ways that Juveniles are transferred to Adult Court
Grand Jury Indictment
A child of any age who is charged with a crime that is punishable by death or life in prison will be charged in juvenile court unless there is a grand jury indictment to move that child to the adult court.
A judicial waiver may be voluntary, involuntary discretionary, or involuntary mandatory. With a voluntary waiver, the child requests to move his trial to adult court. An involuntary discretionary waiver means that the state attorney may file a motion requesting the court to transfer any case where the child is over 14 years old. In the case of an involuntary mandatory waiver, the state attorney must request a transfer to adult court if the child is older than 14 and is charged with a second or subsequent violent crime and was previously adjudicated delinquent for a felony.
The most common way of transfer is by direct file, which accounts for 98% of juvenile cases in Florida that end up in the adult system. A direct file is done at the discretion of the state attorney, without any input from a judge or jury. The state attorney may direct file if he or she believes that the offense requires adult sanctions. There is a list of felonies that are eligible for direct file for 14 and 15 year olds, and 16 or 17 year olds may be direct filed for any felony charge, or a misdemeanor with two previous adjudications including at least one felony.
The state of Florida is notoriously tough on crime, especially for juvenile offenders. If you know a youth who has been charged with a crime, it’s vitally important that they contact an experienced defense attorney. An attorney will be able to explain the system, and work with the offender and family to understand the way that the charges are filed. A seasoned criminal defense attorney may also be able to get charges or sentencing reduced, depending on the crime.
26, 2. A., 28, 2. M., 26, 2. M., & 13, 2. M. (2014, November 24). Florida’s Direct File Law: How State Attorneys Hold Too Much Power. Retrieved June 21, 2017, from http://lawreview.law.miami.edu/floridas-direct-file-law-state-attorneys-hold-power/
Branded for Life. (2015, June 16). Retrieved June 21, 2017, from https://www.hrw.org/report/2014/04/10/branded-life/floridas-prosecution-children-adults-under-its-direct-file-statute
Marvin, A. (n.d.). Florida leads the country on charging kids as adults. Retrieved June 21, 2017, from http://cbs12.com/news/local/florida-leads-the-country-on-charging-kids-as-adults
Clark, M. (2014, April 11). Report: Florida leads the nation on charging kids as adults. Retrieved June 21, 2017, from http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/florida-charging-kids-adults