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Delinquency Overview

The Office of Court Improvement's Delinquency Division provides juvenile justice stakeholders with relevant, current information about the delinquency process. The program is dedicated to supporting Juvenile Justice in Florida by enhancing court services, training judges and court staff on the latest issues and practices, and clarifying the juvenile justice process for system-involved youth and their families.

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

Overview of the Juvenile Justice Process

The Offense

When a youth is taken into custody for committing a delinquent act or is charged with a violation of law, the youth may be given a civil citation for a first-time misdemeanor offense, released to a probation office, released to an alternative diversion program, or taken to a Juvenile Assessment Center (JAC) for further evaluation.

Juvenile Assessment Center

At the Juvenile Assessment Center, a Juvenile Probation Officer (JPO) will complete a Detention Risk Assessment Instrument (DRAI) on the youth. The JPO will gather information regarding the youth, the youth’s family, the nature and seriousness of the violation, and other relevant information to determine if the youth meets criteria to be held in a secure, non-secure, or home detention setting while awaiting his or her next hearing. After the evaluation, the JPO will make recommendations to the State Attorney on how to proceed.

Detention Hearing

If the youth is held in detention care after evaluation by the JPO, the court must hold a detention hearing within 24 hours. At the hearing, a judge will determine whether there is reason to detain the youth and for how long. The judge may order the youth to a diversion program, may order the youth be detained for further juvenile court proceedings, or may allow time for the State Attorney to petition for the youth to be tried in adult court. Generally, with a few exceptions, a youth may be held in detention care for no more than 21 days unless an adjudicatory hearing for the case has been commenced.

Arraignment Hearing

If the youth is detained and a petition for delinquency is filed, an arraignment hearing must be held within 48 hours after the filing of the petition for delinquency. The arraignment hearing is held for the youth to respond to the allegations in the petition for delinquency. If the youth admits to the allegations in the petition, the court may move directly to a disposition hearing, or the court may order a predisposition report and schedule a disposition hearing for the earliest practicable time. If the youth denies the allegations in the petition or is nonresponsive, the court will schedule an adjudicatory hearing.

Adjudicatory Hearing

Adjudicatory hearings are conducted by a judge without a jury. The State has the burden of proof and must prove the allegations in the petition for delinquency beyond a reasonable doubt. The youth is entitled to the opportunity to introduce evidence, to testify in her or his own behalf, and to cross-examine witnesses. The youth is also afforded all rights against self-incrimination. If the court finds that the youth has not committed a delinquent act or violation of law, it shall enter an order so finding and dismiss the case. If the court finds that the youth has committed a delinquent act or violation of law, the court may adjudicate the youth delinquent or withhold adjudication. A disposition hearing will then be scheduled for the imposition of sanctions.

Disposition Hearing

At the disposition hearing, the judge will determine what type of sanctions should be imposed on the youth. The judge must consider recommendations from the Department of Juvenile Justice which may include a thorough predisposition report. Dispositions may include things such as probation, community service, home detention, restitution, or commitment to the Department.

For more information on Delinquency Court, Juvenile Justice initiatives, and the Department of Juvenile Justice’s Frequently Asked Questions, please visit the Delinquency Court Additional Links page.