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Florida May Soon See Changes to its Juvenile Justice System

Florida’s legislature is expected to adopt some significant changes during its 2014 session, particularly relating to its juvenile justice system.

The session is expected to focus on rehabilitation and prevention for underage offenders. After struggling to pass meaningful legislation on juvenile sentencing guidelines in recent years, the legislature is also expected to address the question of aligning the state’s practices with U.S. Supreme Court rulings.  

The Department of Juvenile Justice has reported that juvenile delinquency in Florida has decreased since 2011, providing evidence that the recently-implemented prevention-and-diversion strategy is working. In addition, the state’s use of civil citations — which allow nonviolent first-time juvenile offenders to try early intervention services before resorting to detention — has produced an impressive success rate.

Now, Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Wansley Walters is pushing to pass prevention services into state law. In particular, Walters has announced her support for Senate Bill 700 and House Bill 7055, which is designed to revise laws governing the Department of Juvenile Justice to emphasize keeping young offenders out of the juvenile justice system. The rewritten laws also criminalize the abuse and neglect of juveniles in Department of Juvenile Justice custody, while allowing the department to provide effective transitioning services for those leaving its facilities.

Although these potential changes are encouraging, the current state of the juvenile justice system can make it difficult for young offenders to avoid unnecessary consequences. If your child has recently been convicted of a juvenile crime, contact an experienced Florida defense attorney for counsel and advice. 

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