The Public Defender represents indigent juveniles who are in jeopardy of
losing their liberty and cannot afford to hire a private attorney. As in the
adult system, only a judge can appoint the Public Defender to represent the
child in juvenile court after determining that the child is indigent. However,
if the child is in the custody of the police or the Florida Department of
Juvenile Justice (DJJ) and the child or his parents wish to speak with an
attorney, the Public Defender is available 24 hours a day at beeper number 305.287.6007.
The Public Defender has a constitutional and ethical duty to provide zealous
legal representation to every juvenile client while maintaining client
Children under the age of 18 who have been arrested or charged with a crime are
first sent to juvenile court. The Public Defender’s primary responsibility is to
safeguard a youth’s rights and liberties and to ensure that any intervention in
the child’s life is meaningful, productive and appropriate. The juvenile
delinquency court was created to attend to children accused of committing
crimes. The juvenile justice system is based on the premise that although
children may violate the same laws as adults, due to their lack of maturity,
children need a different and separate response. The normal teenage years are
years of trial and error, short-term judgment and peer pressure. Home life and
neighborhood situations seriously influence developing children. Most youths who
are arrested do not re-offend as adults. Intelligent intervention, supervision,
detention and treatment usually can correct delinquent behavior.
The following sections offer a description of the process of a typical juvenile
delinquency case through the justice system, including how a case is handled by
the Office of the Public Defender. Some differences may exist in different
judicial circuits and even in different courtrooms. Attorneys have an ethical
duty to handle each case individually. Clients should listen to the advice of
their attorneys when it differs from the information below. Although each case is
unique, there are legal rules of procedure that apply to all juvenile cases. A person who is arrested
and becomes involved in the juvenile justice system can expect to follow the
process described below. In criminal cases, the plaintiff is the State of
Florida and the defendant is the person accused of committing a crime. In this
description, we use the word “client(s)” to describe the defendants we have been
appointed to represent and the generic “he” to refer to both male and female
clients. Also, in many instances the word "State" is used instead of the State
Attorney's Office or the prosecution.
What Happens if I’m Arrested?
I’ve Never Been in Trouble Before
Juvenile Detention Center
When Will I Get out of the Detention Center?
Can I be Charged as an Adult?
Can the Public Defender Represent Me?
Filing of Formal Charges
How Does the Public Defender Prepare My Case?
I Want to Get this Case over With, What Can I Do?
What Happens at the Trial?
What Happens If I’m Convicted at Trial?
Can I Get this Case off My Record?