Can Minors Be Prosecuted as Adults in Florida?

Can Minors Be Prosecuted as Adults in Florida?

Everyone makes mistakes, and minors are no exception. In Florida, a minor who commits a crime is prosecuted in juvenile court, where education and rehabilitation generally take precedence over punishment and sentencing. However, there are circumstances when a minor may be prosecuted as an adult.

If you or a loved one were charged with a juvenile offense, understanding how and why a minor may be tried as an adult is essential to avoid life-altering criminal penalties, including life in prison. When can minors be tried in adult criminal court? Keep reading to learn more about prosecuting minors as adult offenders under Florida law.

Legal Grounds to Prosecute a Minor in Adult Court

In Florida, a minor is any person under the age of 18. Depending on the defendant’s age and the crime committed, juvenile offenders may be tried as adults through a process called “direct file.” This process is initiated by the prosecutor.

It’s important to understand that the prosecutor’s decision isn’t subject to judicial review and cannot be appealed. Unlike other states that require prosecutors to obtain written consent from a judge, Florida law gives prosecutors broad discretion when it comes to charging minors as adults.

However, certain legal grounds still apply when it comes to trying juveniles in adult court. Under Florida Statutes § 985.556, there are three primary reasons why a juvenile may be tried as an adult offender. These include:

  1. Voluntary Waiver: If desired, the minor may request to be tried as an adult instead of a juvenile offender.
  2. Involuntary Discretionary Waiver: The prosecutor can move juvenile cases to adult court at their discretion by filing a direct file. However, these requests are only granted if the minor was at least 14 years old at the time of the crime.
  3. Involuntary Mandatory Waiver: In certain cases, neither the minor nor the prosecutor have a say in transferring the juvenile case to adult court, as the prosecutor is required by law to do so.

A child as young as 14 years old may be tried as an adult offender, making it crucial to secure a robust defense from an experienced attorney as soon as possible.

Qualifying Crimes for Adult Prosecution

The prosecutor’s ability to try a juvenile defendant as an adult depends on the type of crime and any prior adjudications of delinquency. Generally, a minor who is at least 14 years old and commits a qualifying crime can be prosecuted in adult court. These offenses may include (but aren’t limited to):

Additionally, if the minor is at least 16 years old, they may be prosecuted in adult court for any felony. If the juvenile defendant commits a misdemeanor, they can still be tried as an adult if they have two or more juvenile delinquent adjudications and at least one felony adjudication. This applies regardless of whether the adjudication was withheld.

Consequences of an Adult Criminal Record

Being prosecuted in adult court can result in a wide range of adverse consequences for minors, each with the potential to derail their lives and futures. While the legal repercussions of a juvenile conviction can greatly affect a minor’s life and future, the consequences of an adult criminal record are far more worrisome.

While many juvenile defendants can expunge their records when they reach a certain age, this isn’t the case for minors prosecuted as adults. Other potential impacts include:

  • A permanent criminal record
  • Inability to apply for financial aid in higher education
  • Difficulties finding and retaining housing and employment
  • Loss of civil liberties, such as the right to vote and own a firearm

Aggressively Defending the Accused in Miami-Dade County

If you or your child is facing adult prosecution in Florida, securing skilled representation is a must to avoid the life-changing consequences of a conviction. At Hubbs Law, P.A., we’ve defended the accused in Miami-Dade County since 2014. Our trial lawyers are well-versed in the legal nuances of criminal law to aggressively defend your freedom and protect your hard-earned reputation. From drug crimes to DUI defense, our seasoned attorneys can fight tirelessly to reduce or dismiss the charges against you.

Arrested? Turn to a criminal defense firm you can trust to safeguard your freedom. Call (305) 570-4802 to schedule a free consultation.

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