Introduction

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 confidences.

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.

 

Introduction
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
Arraignment
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?

 

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Law Offices of the Public Defender
Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida

 

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