Delinquency Spotlight

September 2019: Register Now for Judicial Regional Training!

2019-2020 Delinquency Regional Training Programs


January 16-17, 2020

Dec. 2 - 3, 2019

April 2-3, 2020

May 4-5, 2020

Course level/City:


 West Palm Beach






Ft. Lauderdale

Circuits invited:






Palm Beach County Courthouse


Orange County Courthouse

Broward County Courthouse

The Delinquency Regional Trainings offer small-group training environments for judges to expand their expertise on delinquency and juvenile justice issues. OSCA has applied for CJE credits. Judges who handle unified family court, delinquency, or crossover dockets in Florida’s judicial circuits should make plans to attend. Senior judges are also invited. Judge Dan Michael (NCJFCJ President-elect) will be the featured presenter for the advanced sessions in both January and April 2020. To register, contact Kathleen Tailer at

August 2019:National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) Judicial Response to Animal Cruelty Cases Project

July 2019 Release of Technical Bulletin: Towards A Uniform Bench Book

The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) partnered with the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) in an ongoing project to help inform and guide judicial responses in juvenile and family court cases involving animal cruelty. NCJFCJ President, Judge John Romero Jr., has noted that “there is an undeniable link between animal cruelty and family violence” and the partnership with ALDF will be “an opportunity to educate juvenile and family court judges on recognizing and addressing animal cruelty in order to help children, families and pets who have experienced violence.”

The Issue: According to LINK (The National Resource Center on The Link Between Animal Abuse and Human Violence), “over the past 35 years, researchers and professionals in a variety of human services and animal welfare disciplines have established significant correlations between animal abuse, child abuse and neglect, domestic violence, elder abuse, and other forms of violence” ( Research indicates that animal cruelty is a concurrent behavior that often uncovers other crimes such as family violence, juvenile delinquency, drugs, and human trafficking. Children who abuse animals have been found to be “…two to three times more likely to have been abused themselves” (Richard Lee-Kelland, M.D., and Fiona Finlay, M.D. Children Who Abuse Animals: When Should You Be Concerned About Child Abuse? A Review of the Literature, Archives of Disease in Childhood-British Medical Journals, Volume 103, pages 801-805; July 2018). Children with histories of animal cruelty have also been found to be more likely to have perpetrated bullying, experienced sexual abuse, and have histories of problems with peers.

Project Purpose: In the Judicial Response to Animal Cruelty Cases Project, the NCJFCJ and the ALDF are developing a bench book to aid judges and other court personnel with juvenile and family court cases involving animal cruelty. This comprehensive animal cruelty case bench book will focus on assisting judicial officers to better understand the link between acts of violence and animal cruelty in juvenile and family law cases. The bench book will include an overview of key legislation, key issues that judicial officers and court personnel should be aware of relating to animal cruelty, and the judicial officer’s role in intervening when animal cruelty is a factor in a case before the court.

Online Release: The NCJFCJ and ALDF debuted the precursor to the bench book at the NCJFCJ 2019 Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida, in the technical assistance bulletin, Animal Cruelty Issues: What Juvenile and Family Court Judges Need to Know. When the full bench book is completed it will be made available in both electronic and hard copy versions to judicial officers, court personnel, and other related professionals.

NCJFCJ Contacts: Martha-Elin Blomquist, Ph.D., Site Manager, at Cheri Ely, Program Director, at Stephine Bowman, Program Attorney, at Connie Hickman Tanner, Chief Program Officer, Child Welfare and Juvenile Law, at

July 2019:Teen Court

Global Youth Justice, Inc. champions over 1800 volunteer-driven youth justice and juvenile justice diversion programs called Teen Court, Youth Court, Student Court, Peer Court and Peer Jury on five continents, making it the most replicated juvenile justice and youth justice program around the globe. The programs are volunteer-driven, inexpensive, adaptable, practical, scaleable, and are replicated widely in urban, rural, suburban and tribal settings.

Historic numbers of justice volunteers, including both youth and adults — make it possible to give youth a second and even third chance for minor crimes, offenses and/or violations. Adults and youth from hundreds of additional communities around the globe are in various stages of implementing one of these rapidly expanding, affordable, and youth-led diversion programs.

Florida currently hosts active Teen Court Programs in all of its judicial circuits, which operate in 53 of the state’s 67 counties.

What is Teen Court? The Teen Court concept is based on the philosophy that youthful offenders will not continue to offend when a jury of their peers punishes them. The program is open to juvenile first-time, misdemeanor offenders. This program allows them to emerge with a clean record, presuming all conditions of their sentence have been completed within the guidelines provided. The jury, which is comprised of teens, does not decide the guilt or innocence of the offender but assesses constructive sentencing for the offender who has pleaded guilty.

How does Teen Court work? Teen Court is made up of volunteers from local middle and high schools. These volunteers serve as jurors, clerks, and attorneys; the only adults in the program are the Coordinator and Judges. Defendants are required to serve as jurors in subsequent proceedings. The program is sponsored by the local county circuit judiciary. The defendant must be accompanied by his parent or legal guardian at the sanctioning hearing. The clerk swears in the defendant and administers the oath to the jurors to render a fair sentence based on the evidence presented. The defendant and the parents are the only witnesses. There is direct and cross examination of the defendant by both prosecuting and defense counsel. After closing arguments, the jury deliberates and agrees on sanctions for the defendant. Court is then reconvened and the sanctions are read.

Teen Court Sentencing
Each defendant receives from 40-75 hours of community service per charge, which must be performed at a non-profit organization. The defendant also must serve 4-8 jury duties in subsequent Teen Court proceedings. Restitution is required where applicable.
Each defendant receives 75-150 community service hours per charge. The defendant must serve between 10-12 jury duties. Beyond these sanctions, the jury is free to impose additional sanctions that range from a tour of the County Jail to apology letters to the victims, to writing special essays, to the imposition of a curfew. The youth may be referred to other agencies for other sanctions, such as anger management or counseling. These sanctions are limited only by the imagination of the jurors and the concept of fairness and reason.
The defendant has 90 days to complete all required sanctions for misdemeanors and 120 days for felony cases.

June 2019:Juvenile Drug Court Highlights

The Fifteenth Judicial Circuit's Delinquency Drug Court (DDC) is a 6 month program which targets youth who have a history of substance abuse. The DDC is committed to the goal of reducing juvenile crime and drug use. Success requires both the youth and family's participation throughout the program. Delinquency Drug Court is a three-phase program lasting a minimum of six months. Participants will work with treatment providers to develop treatment plans and will receive individual, group and family counseling. Other program components include: regular court appearances, frequent and random urinalysis, incentives and sanctions as well as educational support and monitoring. Progress in the program is reviewed regularly by the Drug Court Team. The program eligibility requirements are maintained by the court. A succinct summary is also the court website.

There is also a pilot project collaborative NCJFCJ JDC project in the 18th Circuit/Brevard delinquency court in Melbourne, which has established criteria and requirements. It functions as a felony level drug court diversion option. That program’s application form is attached as an FYI. Info is:

Recognizing the need for an alternative to prosecution and incarceration for drug offenders, Brevard County implemented the PTI Drug Court Program in 1994. Modeled after nationally recognized drug courts, it offers a continuum of drug education and treatment alternatives for felony drug offenders. The court proceedings are unique in that they are non-adversarial in nature with a dedicated Drug Court Judge who oversees each participant’s progress. The Drug Court Judge places the defendants in the program, monitors their progress and orders dismissal of the charge (or charges) when all program objectives have been satisfied. The Judge’s actions in Drug Court are not strictly to punish, but to hold the defendants accountable for their actions while receiving substance abuse treatment.  Drug Court in Brevard County is part of a Program known as Pretrial Intervention (PTI). PTI Drug Court is a program of intensive supervision and treatment which is considered necessary for the rehabilitation of participants and the safety of the general public. Drug Court clients are supervised by the Department of Corrections until they graduate. Failure to comply will result in the criminal case being sent back to criminal court docket. Each phase is designed to become easier as the participant progresses.


  1. Phase 1 will be very intensive drug treatment. As they progress and show compliance, they will become eligible for Phase 2.
  2. Phase 2, which will include a step down in treatment. When they have shown they are on a solid path to success, they will be eligible for Phase 3 and enter Aftercare.
  3. Upon completion of Phase 3 (aftercare) they will be eligible for graduation. Everyone in the program is required to perform 50 hours of community service because everyone in the program must give something back to the community.

A summary of the court program can be found on the 18th circuit website.

Within the next year, OCI and the FCC/PSC judicial committees will be exploring and looking towards formulation of statewide standards for such courts statewide.

May 2019:Legislation

This year’s legislative session ended on May 4, 2019. The following bill passed and has been sent to the governor:

CS/HB 7125: The repeal of mandatory direct file is now part of this larger omnibus criminal justice bill (CS/HB 7125), which passed both chambers, and was enrolled/sent to the Governor. Repeal of mandatory direct file is included within the last few sections of the bill at section 75-section 76 (pgs. 289-292). CS/HB 7125 repeals all mandatory direct file provisions. Under the bill, a state attorney may direct file an information against a child who qualifies for discretionary direct file by:

  • Committing an enumerated offense as a 14 or 15 year old; 
  • Committing a felony as a 16 or 17 year old; or
  • Committing a misdemeanor with certain prior offenses. The bill does not change the judicial waiver or grand jury indictment transfer of juvenile as adult methods.

Other major provisions of the omnibus criminal justice reform bill are:

  • Creates & revises numerous provisions relating to public safety including increases in threshold amounts for certain theft offenses; elimination or reduction of length of driver license revocation for certain offenses;
  • Creates & revises provisions relating to expungement & sealing of records; revises provisions relating to inmate transitional assistance; revises provisions relating to probation violations; revises provisions relating to crime victim assistance;
  • Revises provisions requiring mandatory direct file of juvenile offenders as adults for specified offenses.
  • Revises youthful offender sentencing eligibility. 

Additional Trauma resources for judges.

To better understand trauma and how to successfully address issues related to trauma in the courtroom, the following resources are essential reading:

Family Court Tool Kit: Trauma and Child Development - developed by the Florida Supreme Court Steering Committee on Families and Children in the Court (Link is to the Court Implications section of the tool kit.)

Bench Card for the Trauma-Informed JudgePDF Download - developed by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges)

10 Things Every Juvenile Court Judge Should Know about Trauma and DelinquencyPDF Download - developed by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges

Essential Elements of a Trauma-Informed Juvenile Justice SystemPDF Download - developed by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network