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.