Frequently Asked Questions


Unlike the adult criminal justice system, the purpose of Florida’s juvenile justice system is to rehabilitate children who commit crimes, not punish them. A child or juvenile in Florida is anyone under age 18. Juvenile courts use circuit judges, the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), law enforcement, State Attorneys and defense attorneys, and the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) to develop rehabilitation plans for children in trouble with the law. Since the In re Gault decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1967, children who are referred to the juvenile court have many of the same rights as an adult charged with a crime. You and your family should understand those rights.

After your child is arrested, he or she will be taken to either the Juvenile Assessment Center (JAC) or Juvenile Detention Center (JDC). A Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) staff member will ask questions about your child’s medical condition, school, and his or her parents’ address and phone numbers. Staff will then call his or her parents and tell them about the arrest and the time of your child’s detention hearing.

Yes and no. Whether being questioned at school by the School Resource Officer (SRO), or on the street by an officer, or in a police station by a detective, children should be cooperative, but not answer questions about specific crimes until they talk to an attorney. People are only required to tell an officer their name and date of birth. Anyone taking a child into custody must try to notify the child’s parent or guardian. However, the law says a child can be questioned outside the presence of his or her parents. Just like adults, children do have the right to talk to an attorney before making a statement or answering questions. If he or she is in custody with a police officer, and the officer wants to talk about a crime, the child must have his Miranda rights read to him or her (right to remain silent, have an attorney, etc.). Serious offenses, like property crimes or violent offenses, can have big consequences, including being charged as an adult and facing prison time, so it’s important to get legal advice before talking to police.

The police reports will be sent to Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) and to the State Attorney (prosecutor) for review. The DJJ will likely contact you and your child and arrange a conference to discuss the charge and your child’s background. Your child should not talk about any involvement in the actual crime, because it could be used in court. The DJJ will make a recommendation to the State Attorney about ways to handle the matter, but the State Attorney will make the final determination as to whether or not formal charges (a delinquency petition) will be filed against your child. If it is the child’s first offense, or is a less serious offense, the case may be sent to a pre-trial diversion program (PTD), which allows the child to avoid the formal judicial process by entering into programs designed to provide counseling, community service, and restitution without the need for court action.

If your child is formally charged with an offense and is placed into detention, an adjudicatory hearing (trial) must begin within 21 days. If they are released, then the hearing (trial) must begin within 90 days.

Not usually. In most areas of Florida, children who are arrested will be taken to a Juvenile Detention Center (JDC) or Juvenile Assessment Center (JAC). They will be “booked” and have fingerprints taken, a photograph or mug shot, and a Facesheet and score or a Detention Risk Assessment Instrument (DRAI) will be created. Depending on your child’s score, he or she will be released to a parent or held until a Detention Hearing. They must see a judge within 24 hours. However, if your child has previously been tried and convicted in adult courthe or she can be taken to the adult county jail.

At the first Detention Hearing, the judge will determine if the police had “probable cause” to arrest the child and will review his score. Depending on the DRAI score, your child may be held in “secure detention” at the JDC, placed on “home detention” (house arrest) or released. If your child will be detained, a reasonable effort must be made to notify you. The Detention Center also allows visitation, and provides clothing, meals, medical care and school.

Your child’s detention hearing is the first chance that he or she will have to see a judge. It usually happens the morning or afternoon after your child arrested, but must happen within 24 hours of arrest. The judge will review your child’s case and decide where he or she should stay before thee next court date. Depending on your child’s record and charge(s), the judge can: 1) hold your child for 21 days in secure detention; 2) put him or her on home detention; or, 3) release your child to his or her parents or legal guardians.

Yes. An assistant public defender is appointed by the court to review your child’s paperwork and appear with your child at the detention hearing. The attorney will speak for your child and make legal arguments and objections.

Scoring 12 points or more on the Detention Risk Assessment Instrument (DRAI) allows the judge to detain you for up to 21 days.

The judge will look at the facts of your child’s case as described in the police report, your child’s facesheet, and the number of points your child scored on the Detention Risk Assessment Instrument (DRAI). The facesheet is a report prepared by Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) that includes your child’s prior delinquency history, pending charges or juvenile commitments, and whether or not your child is on juvenile probation.

The prosecutors in the State Attorney’s Office (SAO) review the facts of your child’s case and decide if he or she should actually be charged with a crime. They will also decide whether or not to charge your child as an adult.

An arraignment is a court hearing where the judge advises of the charges that have been filed against your child. Your child will have the option to ask for a public defender at that time. He or she will also be asked to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. Your child’s attorney will make the plea on behalf of your child. If your child pleads not guilty and chooses to go to trial, he or she will be given future court dates, and allowed an opportunity to consult with your child’s lawyer before the trial.


Yes. Florida law provides your child the right to be represented by an attorney at all stages of any juvenile court proceeding. If you are not financially able to hire your own attorney, the court may appoint a public defender to represent your child. If a public defender is appointed, the court can assess a fee for the public defender’s services against you as your child’s parent or guardian. If you can afford an attorney, the court can require the parent to hire one. Any attorney is obligated to represent your child’s best interests and not necessarily the parent’s wishes.

If the case is not going to be sent to diversion, then yes, your child should have an attorney. There are many long-term and serious consequences of juvenile court, such as a denial of federal financial aid, college admission, or military enlistment. Children as young as 14 could be registered sex offenders, and juvenile cases can be used to increase prison time in adult cases later.

The role of the Public Defender’s Office is to provide legal representation to all persons accused of criminal misconduct who cannot afford to hire private defense counsel. The judge appointed a lawyer in the Office of the Public Defender to represent your child in his or her case.

Yes, all Assistant Public Defenders are attorneys who are members of the Florida Bar and are licensed to practice law in the State of Florida.

You received paperwork in court that tells you what office your Public Defender is from, and what his or her phone number is. You can also stop by the PD office in the courthouse  complex and make an appointment. It is very important that you make an appointment to speak with your child’s attorney before the next court date.

Yes. An assistant public defender is appointed by the court to review your child’s paperwork and appear with him or her at the detention hearing. The attorney will speak for your child and make legal arguments and objections.


No. First-time misdemeanor offenses may be given a civil citation, and not brought to court at all. Criminal traffic offenses are usually handled in traffic or county court. Very serious felony offenses, crimes involving a firearm, or a felony offense by a child with a long juvenile history may be “direct filed” or sent to adult Circuit Court.

Yes. If a delinquency petition is filed against your child and he or she pleads not guilty, a bench trial will be held before a juvenile court judge only. If the child is prosecuted as an adult, the trial will be the same as an adult criminal proceeding, with both a judge and jury.

A trial in juvenile court is called an adjudicatory hearing. During the hearing, the judge will listen to testimony from all of the witnesses. The prosecutor’s witnesses testify first. Then your child’s witnesses can testify. After all the witnesses have testified and the judge reviews all the evidence, the prosecutor and your child’s attorney will make arguments to the judge as to your child’s guilt or innocence. The judge will then decide if he or she is not guilty or guilty (delinquent).

If your child pleads guilty or is found guilty after a trial, the judge has several options. They can agree with a “plea deal” that was worked out between the defense attorney and State Attorney. They could also ask for a recommendation by the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), in a document called a Pre-Dispositional Report (PDR). Usually, the judge will schedule a Disposition Hearing to determine what should be done for your child. The court is required to discuss the offense with your child and give everyone present, including the victim, you, your child, your child’s attorney, the prosecutor, the arresting officer, and representatives of the Department of Children and Families (DCF), the DJJ, and your child’s school system an opportunity to comment on the offense and an appropriate disposition. Many times, a child is placed on probation, with specific conditions the child must obey. For children charged with serious offenses or who have a record of serious offenses, commitment to a DJJ residential program may be ordered. A finding of guilt in a juvenile proceeding can later be used by the court in sentencing in adult court for subsequent criminal convictions under certain circumstances.

If your child is found guilty or delinquent, the judge may place him or her on juvenile probation or in a residential commitment program. The court can also suspend your child’s driver’s license, order community service, and impose a curfew, court costs and many other conditions as part of his or her sentence.

A “Withhold” is a special sentence in which the judge orders probation but does not formally convict the defendant of a criminal offense. Florida Statutes § 948.01 vests Florida judges with the authority to withhold adjudication after the judge imposes a probation sentence.


Yes. Juvenile records must be kept separate and apart from other court records. Access is limited to the child, his or her attorney and parents, the Department of Children and Families (DCF), law enforcement, some school personnel, and some correctional staff. They should never be accessible to the general public. It is also possible to have some records “sealed” or “expunged” at a certain time. Victims also have a right to the information and reports.

No, it does not. Florida law allows the police to release the name and address of a child 16 years of age or older who has been arrested for a felony. Additionally, juvenile court hearings are open to the public unless closed by the court. The press is free to publish any information gathered at a public hearing.

Generally, having a juvenile record should not interfere with you attending college. It is important that as soon as you are eligible to apply to have your juvenile record expunged, that you do so immediately so that you are not adversely affected when considering college or post-secondary education.

If interested, the following web-site may be a helpful resource for finding information related to how having a juvenile record may affect financial aid:

Although each branch of the military is different when managing their recruitment standards, all have high moral standards when recruiting and not allowing most felons to serve in the military. However, juveniles with a criminal history have a better chance than adults with a criminal history.  High levels of delinquency, such as felonies and high drug use, are indicative of being disqualified from serving in the military. If a juvenile has had a recorded expunged, they must disclose that there is an expunged record available for review. Not disclosing an expunction to the Federal Government is a felony.

Below are some felonies that may cause an individual to be disqualified from serving in the military:

  • Aggravated assault, assault with dangerous weapon, assault intentionally inflicting great bodily harm, or assault with intent to commit a felony. This also includes child, parental, or spouse abuse.
  • Attempt to commit a felony.
  • Breaking and entering.
  • Burglary, (burglary tools, possession of).
  • Carnal knowledge of a minor
  • Check, worthless, making or uttering, with intent to defraud or deceive ($250.00 or more).
  • Conspiring to commit a felony.
  • Criminal libel.
  • Driving while drugged or intoxicated, or driving while ability impaired (2 or more offenses).
  • Forgery; knowingly uttering or passing forged instrument.
  • Illegal/fraudulent use of a credit card, bank card, or automated (ATM) card (value of $250.00 or more).
  • Indecent acts or liberties with a minor.
  • Indecent assault.
  • Kidnapping or abducting, to include parental kidnapping of a child(ren).
  • Larceny; embezzlement; conversion (value of $250.00 or more).
  • Mail matter; abstracting, destroying, obstructing, opening, secreting, stealing, or taking.
  • Mail: depositing obscene or indecent matter.
  • Narcotics or habit-forming drugs; wrongful possession or use.
  • Negligent/vehicular homicide.
  • Perjury or subornation of perjury.
  • Public record; altering, concealing, destroying, mutilating, obligation, or moving.
  • Rape, sexual abuse, sexual assault, criminal sexual abuse, incest.
  • Stolen property, knowingly received (value $250.00 or more)
  • Solicitation or Prostitution

Some felonies can be considered through a waiver process but is not guaranteed.


Retrieved from

Teachman, J., & Tedrow, L. (2014). Delinquent behavior, the transition to adulthood and the likelihood of military enlistment. Social Science Research, 4546-55. doi:10.1016/j.ssresearch.2013.12.012.

It depends on the type of job(s) you are applying for and exactly what the application asks. A juvenile record is never a “conviction.”

It is illegal to deny to the following agencies that you have a juvenile record:

  • A criminal justice agency;
  • The Florida Bar;
  • The Department of Children and Families;
  • The Department of Juvenile Justice;
  • The Department of Education.

Source: Holt, J.M. (2012). “Know Your Record: What Teens Should Know About Their Delinquency Record.” Public Defender, Thirteenth Judicial Circuit of Florida. Tampa, FL, retrieved from

Your public defender CANNOT help you with expungement. Once a juvenile has completed qualifications pursuant to Florida Statutes § 943.0582 and has completed diversion programs, he or she may be eligible to pursue the judicial expunction set forth in Florida Statutes § 943.0585 by filing a Certificate of Eligibility. You must be 18 years of age or under the age of 21.

Generally, once a juvenile has had his or her record expunged, no one from the public will be able to view the records. There are some individuals or agencies that will still have access to the records; specifically, the criminal justice system. In the events a person fills out an application that requires a background check, criminal records can be accessed. These events include:

  1. Applying for a job that requires a background check;
  2. A permit or license that requires a background check;
  3. If the individual applies to work for any law enforcement agencies (Police Department, Sheriff’s Office, Highway Patrol, the Department of Juvenile Justice, the Department of Corrections, the Department of Children and Families or any department that helps in the operation of the criminal justice system). The individual must disclose to the said agency that there is an expunged record available for review;
  4. If the individual is a defendant in a criminal case;
  5. If the individual applies to work or be licensed to work with children or the elderly at the Department of Children and Family Services or the Department of Juvenile Justice;
  6. If the individual applies to teach for the Department of Education;
  7. If the individual is applying to the Florida Bar to become and attorney, the individual must disclose that there is an expunged record available for review.


You may. You will likely receive a bill from the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) if the child was in detention, a program, or on probation. Additionally, there will be court costs if the child pleads guilty or is found guilty. Florida law also allows the juvenile court to order restitution, which is payment for damages or injuries. The victim may also sue you in civil court for damages by your child. You may wish to consult with an attorney if it appears an effort will be made, either in juvenile court or in a separate lawsuit, to hold you financially liable for damages done by your child.

If you or your parents have questions about the detention process or arraignment process, please call the Public Defender’s Office between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Our telephone number is 407-836-7580.

If so, the Wraparound Mission provides help and the resources to may need. Wraparound Orange facilitates a family-driven, youth-guided and culturally competent system of care for those youth with social, emotional and behavioral health challenges and their families.

Click here to get more information on the Wraparound Mission.

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