| Read Time: 2 minutes | Criminal Defense

Is America’s Juvenile Criminal System Broken and Outdated?

Each year, thousands of teens move through Florida’s juvenile criminal justice system. However, questions continue to mount about whether the justice system is failing Florida’s young people. A recent story from ABC News has highlighted many of the problems with juvenile systems around the country, including in Florida. Basics of Juvenile Justice At the center of the juvenile criminal justice system is the belief that minors are capable of rehabilitation. Although the adult justice system is oriented around punishment, the juvenile system focuses on reforming delinquent behaviors. As part of this system, juveniles are kept separate from the adult criminal population, and many offenders enter diversion programs that keep them out of jail. While on probation, the child and his or her family work on action plans for the child. Juvenile records are also sealed so that offenders will not have their youthful errors following them around for years later. As a result, juvenile offenders don’t need to disclose their criminal history when applying for a job or an apartment. However, Florida constantly undermines this juvenile justice system. Trying Juveniles as Adults As part of the “tough on crime” rhetoric that has been ascendant for the past 40 years, Florida passed a law that allows juveniles to be tried as adults in certain situations. The theory underpinning this law is that juveniles should “serve adult time for adult crimes” like homicide. Lionel Tate is one juvenile charged under this law. Tate was 14 when he wrestled a six-year-old, killing him. The prosecutor chose to prosecute Tate as an adult for the crime. Supporters of trying juveniles as adults argue that it is necessary, particularly in Florida. The state’s violent crime rate among juveniles is among the highest in the nation, almost 50% higher than the national average. Supporters also believe treating juveniles as adults will act as a deterrent to other juveniles, persuading them not to commit violent crimes. Counterproductive Response to Violent Crime Critics of the prosecution of Lionel Tate point out that charging juveniles as adults strikes at the very heart of juvenile justice. They also argue that sending juveniles to prisons increases the likelihood that they will reoffend—up to 33% more likely, based on one study. Instead, critics believe that even violent offenders should go through the juvenile system, like all other minors suspected of committing crimes. As critics point out, juveniles are not treated as adults because they have not fully developed emotionally or mentally. Treating them like rational adults is the wrong approach and will not yield the benefits that “tough on crime” advocates pretend. Speak with an Orlando Criminal Defense Attorney How Florida should treat juveniles will continue to be a source of controversy, with each side expressing valid concerns. Parents whose children are charged with crimes must realize that the state could potentially lock their child up for a very long time and must act accordingly. The best thing you can do right now is to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney. At Moses & Rooth, our Orlando defense attorneys we represent juveniles accused of crimes. To speak with one of our criminal defense lawyers, please schedule a free initial consultation by calling 407-377-0150.

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Criminal Defense

A Look at the Extreme Consequences of Teenage Sexting in Florida

Many parents are in denial when it comes to sexting. They think their children would never do such a thing, but sexting is more common than they think. Approximately 40 percent of teens have sexted at some point. While boys do it more often than girls, girls are more likely to send nude photos. Seventy percent of these teens send the texts to their boyfriend or girlfriend. The majority of girls, however, do it as a joke. Sexting is no laughing matter in Florida, though. While the first offense is a non-criminal violation, a subsequent offense could result in misdemeanor and even felony charges. A teen could spend many years in prison and be forced to register as a sex offender. While it’s important to protect one’s privacy, the laws may be too strict in this case. Sexting is being equated to child porn, when it is often simply two peers acting like teens. A teen sending and receiving sexually suggestive texts and photos should not be treated as a hardened criminal. If you’re a parent of a teen, read on to learn more about the laws regarding sexting in Florida so you can educate your child about the consequences and prevent them from getting in trouble with the law. What the Law Says Under Florida Statutes 847.0141, sexting between minors is prohibited. A minor can be charged with sexting if he or she uses a cell phone, tablet, computer or other electronic device to send nude images or photos to another minor. A person in possession of these images can also be charged with sexting, so both the sender and recipient could face charges. However, there are some instances when a recipient may not face charges. If a minor is in receipt of a nude photo, but did not solicit it or forward it to a third party, and took steps to report it to a parent, the school or law enforcement, then he or she is not in violation of the law. A first offense is considered a violation punishable by eight hours of community service, a $60 fine and/or educational classes on the dangers of sexting. If the person is charged with a second offense, the charge is a first degree misdemeanor, punishable by one year in jail and a fine of $1,000. A third offense is charged as a third degree felony. The punishment becomes hefty, with five years of prison and five years of probation. There is also a $5,000 fine and the person could be forced to register as a sex offender. Images sent within a 24-hour period are treated as a single offense. The law does not apply when two consenting adults are sexting. However, it can become child porn if one person is an adult and the other is a minor. Contact an Orlando Criminal Defense Attorney Teens will be teens, but when it comes to sending sexually explicit photos, it’s best to avoid this practice if you are under 18. Florida has some of the strictest laws in this regard, and you could end up with a felony charge and forced registry as a sex offender if you’re not careful. If your teen is facing texting charges, seek legal help right away. The aggressive Orlando criminal defense attorneys at Moses & Rooth Attorneys at Law will work to protect your rights. Contact our offices today at (407) 377-0150 to see how we can help you with your case.

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Juvenile Offenses

Special Needs Individuals and the Law

The media and the Internet recently exploded over a video showing a police officer arresting a 10-year-old special needs child in Okeechobee County, Florida, on an outstanding felony warrant. The child was seen screaming, “I don’t want to be touched” as a sheriff’s deputy handcuffed the child and took him to a juvenile detention facility, where he spent the night behind bars. His mother, who recorded the video of the arrest, was seen asking the officer, “Does he have the same rights as an adult?” Autistic Boy Faces Third-Degree Felony Charge The child has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, a range of metal conditions that make it difficult for individuals to communicate and form relationships with other people. Children with autism often exhibit behavioral problems. In this case, the child “allegedly threatened to kill” one of his teachers last year, according to the Washington Post, and at one point was removed from a classroom for being “disruptive” and “hitting other students.” During this removal, the child allegedly “started kicking and scratching and punching” his teacher. The teacher then filed a criminal complaint. This led to a third-degree felony charge against the child for “battery on a school employee.” The child’s mother said she was never told of this outstanding warrant until her son was arrested some time later. Are Special Needs Children at Greater Risk of Legal Problems? While this particular case made news, there are many others that do not. One Florida disability rights lawyer told CNN that “disabled students being arrested for disciplinary offenses [is] all too common” in Florida. This attorney said that he represented a six-year old child who was forcibly held in seclusion under a 72-hour psychiatric hold. CNN noted that special needs children are statistically more likely to be arrested in Florida: According to one study, while only 14 percent of students in the state “have disabilities, they make up 19 percent of all arrests.” The Daily Beast–citing the recent Florida arrest as well as the handcuffing of an 8-year-old Texas student with attention deficit disorder–added that police officers are also more prevalent in schools today, putting special needs kids at further risk of early exposure to abusive law enforcement. Protecting Your Child From the Florida Juvenile Justice System Florida gives prosecutors a great deal of discretion in prosecuting children. In many cases, a teenager can be sent directly to adult court without a hearing before a judge. On the other hand, many prosecutors are willing to keep children with special needs out of the juvenile justice system through referral to a “diversion program.” But even that may not be fair or just in many cases. The mother of the 10-year-old autistic child told the Washington Post she refused an offer of diversion “because he didn’t do anything wrong.” She said prosecutors know her son has a disability yet still insist on treating him as a criminal. Unfortunately, the reality is that when an adult files a criminal complaint against a special needs child, the judicial system has to take it seriously. As a parent, you need to understand this and act accordingly. An experienced Orlando juvenile crimes defense attorney can guide you and your child through the legal process and work to reach a favorable outcome. Call the offices of Moses & Rooth, Attorneys at Law, today at 407-377-0160 if your child has been charged with a crime and you need to speak with a lawyer right away.

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Criminal Defense

Understanding Expungements and Sealed Records

When we are young, we tend to be wild and free. Most youth do not question nor consider the impact of that their actions presently will have on their future. However, youthful bliss and its carefree nature can leave you with life altering consequences. For instance when you are arrested and/or charged with a crime you will have a criminal record. Criminal records follow you a lifetime, and often times are the reason you are turned down from job opportunities, housing, as well as professional licensing. Though you may be frustrated or even feeling like you cannot progress in life because of your criminal record, there may still be hope. If you or a loved one have been unable to progress in life because of your criminal record contact an experienced Florida expungement attorney today to consult about your record. Expungements vs. Sealed Records in Florida Those who have a criminal record know how hard it is to get jobs and even housing and though this can be frustrating, options do exist. In Florida, you have the right to have your criminal record expunged or sealed. Expungements are governed by Florida Statute Section 943.0585 , while sealed records are governed by Florida Statute Section 943.059. Though you may think differently, expungements and sealed records are not the same thing and depending on which one you receive determines who can see your criminal record and who cannot. If your criminal record has been dismissed, if the charges were dropped or if there was no information filed then you may be eligible to get your record expunged, meaning the court will order the clerk, the arresting agency and FDLE to destroy the arrest records. This can be extremely beneficial to you because it should appear that your past actions never happened at all. When your record is sealed, the public, such as landlords and employers, do not have access to your record but governmental agencies will have access to it. It is important to note, that if you have previously had your record expunged or sealed, whether in Florida or another state, you will not be eligible for another expungement or seal. Though expungement and seal laws may seem straightforward, it can become quite complicated; therefore, it is in your best interest to seek legal advice. Need Legal Advice? Having a criminal record could make your life more difficult when you are maturing and progressing in life. Criminal records can keep you from getting a job, obtaining housing, as well as keep you from your inherent rights such as voting or owning a firearm. Frustrating as it may be, you have options. If you or a loved one would like your criminal record expunged or sealed, it is best to speak with an attorney about your case. Contact Moses & Rooth Attorneys at Law at (407) 377-0150 for an initial consultation.  

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Juvenile Offenses

Juvenile Law Enforcement Decreases Throughout Florida

Fewer teens are getting pulled into and lost in Florida’s juvenile criminal justice system. Law enforcement officials at the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice believe that appropriate and frequent use of pretrial diversion programs helped create this decrease in juvenile criminal arrests. Diversion Programs Result in Fewer Arrests Data provided by the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice shows that teen arrests in Florida have hit their lowest levels since 1982. In Monroe County, arrests have decreased more than three percent. There were 219 arrests between 2015 and 2014 – this is lower than 226 arrests between 2013 and 2014. These numbers include both felony and misdemeanor arrests. Department of Juvenile Justice officials attribute the program’s success to proper funding levels. The DJJ allocated nearly $544 million to the programs resulting in significant impact on juvenile arrests in Florida. Civil Citation Program Instead of Arrest Starting in 2010, the Department of Juvenile Justice worked with the county sheriff’s offices to develop diversion programs. These juvenile diversion programs are developed to give law enforcement officers different options when addressing juveniles. The program allows officers to issue teens civil citations instead of arresting teens. The Civil Citation Initiative program works on a case-by-case basis. Factors taken into consideration include whether the teen’s parents can pay restitution for damage or stolen goods and whether a teen will commit to serving up to 50 hours of community service. Teens are Responsible for Their Actions Teens do not simply receive a get out of jail free pass with a civil citation. The initiative requires juveniles to admit guilt and participate in a diversion program. Teens are also sanctioned. These sanctions include strict adherence to curfew, writing apologies letters to victims, and writing an essay that explains why it was wrong for them to break the law. Once a teen successfully completes a program, the teen will not have a juvenile record. The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office issued 52 citations in 2015. Juvenile Crime is Decreasing in Florida Throughout Florida, juvenile arrests have decreased significantly. Between 2014 and 2015, there were 75,066 juvenile arrests; this is approximately 4% fewer than the 78,330 arrest between 2013 and 2014. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement reports that crime in the Florida Keys decreased by nearly 7% in 2014, according to the report for the seven major crimes that include murder, forcible rape, larceny, vehicle theft, and aggravated assault. The biggest decreases in arrests came from Florida’s largest counties: Broward, Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach. Broward County saw the largest decrease in juvenile arrests with a fourteen percent drop. Hillsborough County dropped 11% and Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties both saw 10% decrease. Attorneys Can Help Teens Teen crime is decreasing but many teens still find themselves getting into trouble with the law. If your teen needs guidance through a criminal charge, contact Moses & Rooth, we can advocate for a diversion program and advise you on the best strategy to present to the court and law enforcement officials. Please contact us today at (407) 377-0150 to discuss your case.  

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Juvenile Offenses

Facing Felony Charges as a Minor: Can I Be Tried as an Adult?

In most instances, an individual over the age of fourteen at the time of the alleged crime can be tried as an adult in the State of Florida. To be “tried as an adult”, rather than a juvenile, has serious implications regarding the charges that can be filed, the associated punishments, and the effect on the defendant’s future. Hiring an experienced juvenile criminal defense attorney is the only way for minors to try to avoid prosecution as an adult and to have an opportunity for a clean slate going forward. Juvenile Rights in Florida Most individuals under the age of 18 at the time of the alleged crime will be tried as juveniles. Juvenile court differs from “regular” court in numerous ways. A juvenile may be permitted to be placed in a diversion program where they have an opportunity to have their charges dismissed after complete compliance with the terms and conditions set forth for them through the program. Through these programs, young offenders may be able to participate in community service or probationary periods to make amends and take responsibility for their negative actions. Considerations for Juveniles to be Tried as Adults The most critical part of defending a juvenile is for the defense attorney to advocate to keep the defendant in juvenile court. When an offender is under the age of 18, the prosecutor has the option to try an individual over the age of 14 as an adult. The prosecution may push for this in particularly violent criminal offenses. The defendant then has an opportunity to express why he or she should not be tried as an adult. The court considers the following: The seriousness of the offense and effect on the community; The interests of the community of trying a child as an adult; The level of violence or aggression involved in the underlying crime; Whether personal injury resulted; Whether personal property was damaged; The maturity of the offender; Prior offenses, prior probationary periods, previous interactions with police personnel or government agencies; and Prospects of rehabilitation. During this determination, most juveniles in custody will be housed in separate juvenile detention centers, away from the adult offenders being housed in local jails and prisons. However, according to Florida law, “[o]nce a child has been transferred for criminal prosecution pursuant to an involuntary waiver hearing and has been found to have committed the presenting offense or a lesser included offense, the child shall thereafter be handled in every respect as an adult for any subsequent violation of state law.” Once it is decided that a juvenile will be tried as an adult, the options for the child will drastically change and the possible punishments are increased exponentially. Orlando, Florida Juvenile Criminal Defense Attorneys Committing a crime as a minor is viewed by our attorneys at Moses & Rooth as a mistake and misstep in the early years of one’s life. We believe that everyone should be given second chances and believe that only adults should be held responsible for adult decisions. We understand how life-changing adult charges can be for a minor, even if there is not ultimately a conviction. Our knowledgeable juvenile criminal defense attorneys are former prosecutors who know how the system works and can advocate for keeping minors out of the adult justice system when possible. Contact our Orlando office to learn more about juvenile defendants’ rights today

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Assault

Top 10 Most Common Juvenile Crimes in Florida

Kids will be kids, however, when your child’s actions end in an arrest, things can get serious quickly. A fight in school can lead to an arrest for assault and battery, a simple prank can end in a charge of vandalism, and experimentation or giving into peer pressure can bring drug charges that could affect your child’s future. If your child has been charged with a crime, an experienced juvenile criminal defense attorney at Moses and Rooth can help your child put the mistake behind them, so your family can move past this difficult time. Florida’s 10 Most Common Juvenile Crimes The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice found from 2013-2014 the 10 most common juvenile offenses were: Assault and Battery: Assault and battery are two separate crimes that are often charged together. Florida statute 784.011 defines assault as the intentional, unlawful threat by word or acts to do violence to another person, coupled with an apparent ability to do so, and doing some act, which creates a well-founded fear in the other person that such violence is imminent. Contact does not have to occur in order to be charged with assault, however, to be charged with battery contact must be made. Florida statute 784.03 defines a battery as the actual and intentional touching or striking of another person against the will of the other person or intentionally causing bodily harm to another person. Burglary: Burglary is when a person enters or remains in a building with the intent to commit a crime. Petit Larceny: A juvenile can be charged with petit larceny if the property taken was between $100 and $300. Misdemeanor Violations of Drug Laws. Aggravated Assault/Battery: If a deadly weapon is used during an assault, but there was no intent to kill or to commit a felony, then aggravated assault exists. Aggravated battery occurs when a deadly weapon is used, causes great bodily harm, permanent disability, permanent disfigurement, or the victim was pregnant during the offense and the offender knew or should have known the victim was pregnant. Grand Larceny (excluding auto theft): A juvenile can be charged with grand larceny if the property is valued over $300. Disorderly Conduct: Florida statute 877.03 defines disorderly conduct as acts that by nature corrupts the public morals, or outrage the sense of public decency, or affect the peace and quiet of persons who may witness them, or engages in brawling or fighting. A number of common activities done by teens such as fighting, loitering in certain areas, or creating too much noise could fall under Florida’s definition of disorderly conduct. Misdemeanor Obstruction of Justice. Trespassing: Your child can be charged with a misdemeanor for trespassing on another’s property. Felony Drug Violations. Fighting, drug use, stealing, even creating too much noise can result in legal trouble for your child. If your child has been arrested for any of the above crimes or any other crime, contact the experienced juvenile criminal defense attorneys at Moses and Rooth to represent your child and to minimize the effects on your child’s future.

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Juvenile Offenses

My Child Was Arrested For Vandalism; Now What Do I Do?

Everyday children and teenagers commit acts of vandalism that they many times see merely as goofing around or as a prank. However, if caught, these acts can cost the child and parents. Vandalism is largely a juvenile offense. The juvenile crime defense attorneys at Moses and Rooth can help your child and family put these mistakes in the past. Criminal Mischief In Florida vandalism is characterized as criminal mischief. Under Florida Statute, a person commits criminal mischief by willfully or maliciously injuring or damaging any real property or personal property of another. This includes graffiti and other acts of vandalism. The severity of the charge and punishment depends on the amount of damage caused to the property. If the property damage is $200 or less it is a second degree misdemeanor. Under Florida Statute, a second degree misdemeanor is punishable by up to 60 days in jail and up to $500 in fines. If the damage is between $200 but less than $1,000, then it is a first degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and up to $1,000 in fines. If the property damage is $1,000 or more it is a third degree felony punishable by up to five years in jail and up to $5,000 in fines. Graffiti In Florida, the penalties for graffiting property carry additional fines and punishment especially for minors and their parents. There are additional fines for graffiting something on top of the other fines for criminal mischief. For a first conviction the fine will be a minimum of $250. For a second conviction the fine will not be less than $500 and for a third or subsequent conviction the fine will be no less than $1,000. If a minor is convicted of graffiting, the minor’s parents or guardian are liable for the fine. Also, if a minor is eligible for a driver’s license and is caught graffiting, the minor may have their driver’s license suspended or withheld for up to a year. If the minor’s driver’s license is already suspended then the suspension can be increased by up to a year. If the minor is not eligible then once they are eligible for a driver’s license the license can then be withheld for up to a year. Along with extra fines and driver’s license suspension, your teen may have to perform community service if convicted of graffiting. Kids seldom understand the consequences of their actions. Unfortunately, some of their actions can come with serious consequences that can cost the parent as well as the child. To a teenager, what seems to be just a fun night out with friends sometimes can lead to serious trouble if it involves damage to other people’s property. If your child has been arrested for vandalism, contact an experienced juvenile defense attorney at Moses and Rooth in Florida to represent them and your family.

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| Read Time: < 1 minute | Juvenile Offenses

Bill seeks to address solitary confinement of minors in Florida

Much research has been done in recent years on the effects that solitary confinement has on inmates. Studies suggest that improper and over-zealous use of solitary confinement can severely harm inmates both mentally and physically. Florida is in a unique position to rectify some of these preventable wrongs. As the state which incarcerates more juvenile offenses than any other, it can set an example for limiting the use of solitary confinement and regulating what use continues to occur. A state senator recently introduced the “Youth in Solitary Confinement Reduction Act” into the legislative agenda. The bill seeks to both limit the use of solitary confinement for juvenile offenders and to minimize the catastrophic physical and mental impacts that continued use would have on Florida youths. Specifically, the bill would prohibit use of solitary confinement for minors except in very specific situations. When minors are placed in solitary, they will not be held there for more than 72 hours, will be given time away from their cell, will be subject to mental health evaluations and will be treated in the least restrictive manner necessary to maintain the safety of the juvenile and those around him or her. Should Florida pass this bill, the state could serve as a model to others. The way that the criminal justice system treats juvenile offenders greatly influences how these individuals will live the rest of their lives. By mitigating the destructive impact that solitary confinement has on these individuals, the state could certainly inspire these youths to live healthier and more adjusted lives in the future. Source: ACLU, “Legislation Filed Responding to Crisis of Florida Minors Subjected to Harmful, Counterproductive Solitary Confinement,” Feb. 20, 2013

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| Read Time: < 1 minute | Juvenile Offenses

Orange County Juveniles get a free pass

The Orange County State Attorneys office has finally implemented a juvenile program run by the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) allowing first time misdemeanor offenders an opportunity to avoid a criminal record.  Since July of 2011, over 5000 juveniles have entered into the DJJ civil citation program across the state of Florida.  This new civil citation program is intended for first time offenders charged with select non-violent offenses to avoid criminal prosecution.  The type of offenses that are automatically not eligible for this program are firearm offenses, exposure or any sex charge, prostitution, and any gang related offense. Law enforcement will have the discretion to either issue a civil citation or make a criminal complaint and arrest.  If a civil citation is issued, the information is forwarded to the state attorneys office for review and if appropriate, the case will proceed through the DJJ civil proceedings.  The Orange County State Attorneys office is trying to maintain a more active role in the program, but the sanctions are truly monitored by DJJ.  Sanctions for a civil citation may include up to 50 hours of community service, youth and family counseling, drug screening, substance abuse treatment, mental health treatment, letter of apology, restitution, academic progress monitoring, and pre-vocational monitoring.  Upon successful completion of the sanctions, the youth will avoid having an arrest record. The Orange County State Attorneys Office will not change an officer’s decision to charge a criminal citation to a civil citation. However, alternative programs also exist in the juvenile system such as diversion which would have the criminal charges dismissed.

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