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.