Florida Looks to Remove Involuntary Mandatory Waiver as a Required Practice When Determining Whether a Child Should be Adjudicated as an Adult

Juvenile justice can be a heartbreaking mechanism by which to try juveniles for the crimes that they commit. There is a tendency as adults, to review the actions of juveniles through the lens of an adult, rather than through the lens of a juvenile. What may be appear to be a malicious act when seen through the adult lens might be an immature response of a juvenile who does not know the correct response to the given situation. An adult may think to resolve his or her issues and feelings through non-violence and open communication, whereas a juvenile may be unable to verbalize to the same extent, and with that frustration may act out in a way that is criminal and illegal.

If your child has been arrested for committing a felony, it is important to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can protect your child from being adjudicated as an adult and subject to harsher punishments. Please contact West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney William Wallshein for a confidential consultation.

Direct File and Waivers of Juvenile Status in the Florida Criminal Justice System

In Florida, the determination as to whether a juvenile is considered an adult for the determination of the his or her criminal proceedings and the type of punishments that may apply in the event that the juvenile is convicted, may depend on a variety of factors:

  • The crime,
  • The age of the juvenile,
  • The age of the victim(s), and
  • The discretion of the prosecution.

The discretion of the State’s attorney as to whether a juvenile should be charged as an adult is known as direct file or involuntary discretionary waiver . Many feel that the “direct file” is unfair, as the discretion and judgment of the prosecutor is generally the only determiner of whether a juvenile will be treated as an adult or will be charged through the juvenile system where the sentences are lessened based on the age, crime, and maturity of the defendant. A juvenile may also, with consultation of his or her lawyer and guardians, demand in writing to be tried as an adult, rather than a child, and be transferred for criminal prosecution in adult court. This is known as voluntary waiver. The child will then be treated as an adult for subsequent charges in future proceedings.

Florida Bill to Remove Involuntary Mandatory Waiver and What That Means for Juvenile Justice

In Florida, a bill was recently introduced to tackle the extent by which children will be convicted as adults. According to the bill , the State is considering the removal of involuntary mandatory waiver, which provides that when a child is 14 years of age or older and has been previously convicted as a juvenile for an enumerated felony, or is a child that is 14 years of age or older and has committed his or her fourth or subsequent felony offense and was previously adjudicated as a juvenile, but the felonies would be found to be felonies if committed by an adult, then the state attorney must request that the child be transferred to adult court and prosecuted as an adult.

Because these circumstances would trigger the mandatory removal of the child , the state attorney would have to file express reasons why the child should not be tried as an adult in the subsequent criminal proceedings. The enumerated felonies where the involuntary mandatory waiver procedure is triggered are the following:

  • Murder
  • Armed or strong armed robbery
  • Sexual battery
  • Carjacking
  • Home invasion robbery
  • Aggravated assault or aggravated battery,
  • Burglary with assault or battery, or
  • Has been convicted previously for a violent crime.

The passage of this bill will significantly alter the way in which children are tried as adults and attempt to give back the life of juveniles who commit crimes, but should not receive similar punishments as adults for the same crime.

Please contact West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney William Wallshein for a confidential consultation.