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Youthful offenses, especially those that result in criminal charges, can have a way of coming back to haunt teenagers who make bad decisions later in life. Poor decision-making and teenage life are closely intertwined, and many teens learn to become better adults by making mistakes earlier in life.

In some cases, those mistakes lead to an arrest and sometimes, to a lasting record. Many factors influence how long a record affects a young offender. Teens tried as juveniles for offenses who continue to have interactions with law enforcement in the future may not be eligible for expunging or sealing their record. Other times, a youthful criminal offense will wind up tried in adult court instead of in the Florida juvenile justice system.

When a teenager faces adult criminal charges, they can also face adult consequences, including a lasting criminal record. Understanding when Florida charges minor teens as adults can help you properly respond to criminal charges that your child may soon face.

For teenagers who are 14 or 15, only certain felonies go to adult court

Younger teenagers are often given the benefit of the doubt by the court and can seek rehabilitative services through the juvenile justice program instead of punitive sentences in the adult criminal justice system.

However, certain felonies may compel the Florida courts to try a 14- or 15-year-old teenager as an adult in court. These offenses include murder, sexual battery and grand theft auto. For all other offenses not on this list, teens arrested while 14 or 15 will wind up tried in the juvenile justice system instead of the adult criminal courts.

16- and 17-year-olds are in a more precarious position

Prosecutors have a lot of discretion when it comes to the charges they levy in a Florida case involving a teenage offender. When the offender is 16 or 17, any felony offense could be grounds for the courts to try the teenager involved as an adult.

Avoiding adult court is often one of the more important steps to minimizing the impact of criminal charges on a teenager’s future. A thorough and proactive defense strategy can help you mitigate the lasting consequences of a teenage mistake.