What Happens If Iím Convicted at Trial?

Disposition Hearing (Sentencing)

A disposition hearing in the juvenile system is the same as a sentencing hearing in adult court. However, the judge in juvenile court cannot sentence a child to serve time in jail. In the adult system the focus of sentencing is punishment only. In the juvenile system the judge focuses on the childís needs and strengths and combines treatment with discipline. The judge generally orders the DJJ to prepare a predisposition report (PDR), which includes information about the family, school, education, psychological and delinquent history of the child and recommendations for the judge to consider at disposition. Before the disposition hearing, the child and his family should meet with the defense attorney and the DJJ probation officer to decide on the most appropriate intervention.

The judge has sentencing options. The judge can place the child on probation with many different kinds of conditions and restrictions, such as curfew, repaying the victim for any damages or performing community service hours. The judge can commit the child to the DJJ to be placed in a commitment program. The judge can also send the child to mental health and drug treatment programs. In cases in which the juvenile is accused of serious crimes, the judge can order the child to be held after disposition while awaiting placement in a residential treatment program.


Commitment Programs

Juveniles can be placed in either a non-residential (daytime only) and or residential (overnight programs) commitment program. Florida law provides guidelines for the judge to follow when deciding to place a child in a commitment program. The guidelines are based on risk levels, ranging from low to maximum. The risk levels correspond to the degree of supervision the child requires ó the higher the risk level the more intense the supervision. The five restrictiveness levels of commitment programs range from minimum-risk non-residential (level 2) through maximum-risk residential (level 10). A child can be placed on long-term probation at a state school. The period of time the child remains at any facility depends greatly on both the risk level decided by the judge and upon the childís progress.

Programs in higher restrictiveness levels are characterized by tighter physical security, closer supervision, and a longer length of stay. A juvenile placed in a commitment program is under the legal custody of the DJJ.

After being committed to a particular program level, the DJJ can transfer the child to a different or more restrictive program, if the child is unable or unwilling to successfully complete the program.

Each level provides education and treatment services.



A client has no right to appeal a plea of guilty or no contest, except when the judge allows him to reserve the right to appeal a particular point of law. A client who is convicted at trial and wants to appeal the conviction must file a notice of appeal within 30 days of being sentenced and must advise the appellate court of the exact errors in the trial. The client or the defense attorney must convince the appellate court that the trial judgeís errors affected the outcome of the case. Some common errors are that the judge did not follow the law or that the client was prevented from exercising his constitutional rights. In some cases, the judge may allow the clientís release on bail until a final decision by the appellate court. The judge will set a bond, pending the appeal, only if he believes the client has a good reason for appealing and that the client will re-appear in court. The client does not have an automatic right to bond during the appeal. It is possible that the client may serve the entire sentence during the appellate process.

For an overview of consequences to a minor who is arrested or convicted, click here



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Law Offices of the Public Defender
Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida


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