Delinquency Overview

The Office of Court Improvement Delinquency program is aimed at providing stakeholders with relevant, current information about the delinquency process. The program is dedicated to supporting Juvenile Justice in Florida by enhancing court services and raising awareness and understanding in the juvenile participants.

For more information on Office of Court Improvement Delinquency publications, please visit the Delinquency Publications page.

The Juvenile Justice Process

The Offense

The youth is charged with a violation of the law. Depending on the circumstances, the youth may be released to a probation office, released to an alternative diversion program, or taken to a Juvenile Assessment Center for further evaluation.

The Juvenile Assessment Center

At the Juvenile Assessment Center, the youth is evaluated by a Juvenile Probation Officer (“JPO”). The JPO will gather information regarding the youth, the youth’s family, the nature and seriousness of the violation, and other relevant information. After the evaluation, the JPO will recommend to the State’s Attorney how to proceed. The JPO may recommend the youth to a diversion program or to the court for further evaluation.

The Detention Hearing

If the youth is detained after evaluation by the JPO, the court will hold a detention hearing, where the judge will determine whether there is reason to detain the youth. The judge may order the youth to a diversionary program, may order the youth be detained for further juvenile court processing, or may allow the State’s Attorney to petition for the youth to be tried in adult court.

The Arraignment Hearing

If the youth is detained and remains in the juvenile court system, the next hearing is the arraignment hearing. The arraignment hearing is held for the youth to submit a plea to the court. If the youth pleads guilty, the court may move directly to a disposition hearing. If the youth pleads not guilty or is nonresponsive, the court will continue to detain the youth pending an adjudicatory hearing.

The Adjudicatory Hearing

If the youth pleads not guilty or remains nonresponsive at the arraignment hearing, the court will hold an adjudicatory hearing to determine whether the youth is guilty of the violation charged. The State’s Attorney will present evidence and call witnesses if available; the youth is also allowed to present evidence and call witnesses if available, or may do nothing. Inactivity cannot be taken as a sign of guilt or innocence. After the judge has heard from both sides, she or he will rule as to whether the youth is guilty of the violation charged or not. If the youth is found to be not guilty, he or she will be released. If the court finds the youth guilty, the next step is the disposition hearing.

The Disposition Hearing

At the disposition hearing, the judge will inform the youth of the sentence to be imposed. Sentences can include things such as community service, home detention, restitution (paying for anything damaged during the course of the violation), or commitment with the Department of Juvenile Justice.

For more information on Delinquency Court, and for a link to the Juvenile Justice Frequently Asked Questions, please visit the Delinquency Court Additional Links page.