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When can a juvenile be tried as an adult in Florida?

On Behalf of | Aug 11, 2023 | Criminal Defense

As a parent, you naturally want to protect your child from all the danger out there in the world, but that gets harder and harder as they age and start developing a sense of independence. Once that starts, the best thing you can do is educate them so that they understand fact from fiction.

One of the biggest fictions that young people hear is that – if they’re caught breaking the law – they won’t have to worry about being tried as an adult as long as they’re under 18 years of age. That’s absolutely untrue, so make sure that your teens know the reality of the situation.

It’s frighteningly easy for a child to end up prosecuted as an adult

In most states, a prosecutor has to seek a judge’s consent before they can hand a defendant in a juvenile delinquency case over to the rigors of the adult criminal justice system – but not in Florida.

Here, the prosecutors have tremendous power to decide if and when juveniles are brought into adult court for prosecution through a process known as a “direct file.” They may do so whenever their “judgment and discretion” leads them to believe that doing so serves the public good – so long as the juvenile in question is at least 14 years of age.

In other situations, the law actually requires the prosecutor to file charges against a child directly in adult court. For example, if a teen is at least 16 years of age and they already have a previous conviction for an act of violence against another person, the case automatically goes to adult court if they’re charged with a second offense.

Ultimately, what this means is that any child 14 years of age or older can end up being charged as an adult. If convicted of certain serious offenses, like murder, they can even be sentenced to life in prison.

If your child has made a mistake and gotten caught up in the criminal justice system, don’t expect the prosecutor or the court to go easy on them just because they’re young and immature. It takes experienced legal guidance to help navigate this kind of situation.