The Move Toward Civil Citations and Diversion Programs for Minors Committing Misdemeanor Offenses

Teenagers are known for their temperamental dispositions, their desire to fit in and conform to peer pressure, and their penchant to make decisions without fully thinking through the consequences. For many teenagers, these moments of indecision and poor-decision making are good stories to tell their friends and families when they have grown out of this awkward phase. There are some bad decisions, however, that may affect a teenager’s life indefinitely.

There are many reputable studies that show that teenagers’ brains are still in the development process during puberty. As such, they are more likely to knee-jerk react to external influences and not really think through all of their actions. If they do something illegal, to prove to themselves or their peers that they conform to what is cool and trendy in that moment, they could find themselves with a criminal record that can affect their future.

If your teenager has committed a criminal offense, it is important to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Please contact West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney William Wallshein for a confidential consultation.

The Civil Citation and Diversion Program Bill

Florida legislature has recently submitted a new legislative bill that would mandate police officers to give civil citations to teenagers who have been caught committing a misdemeanor offense. The juvenile would receive a civil citation for the following misdemeanors:

  • A minor in possession of alcoholic beverages;
  • Misconduct relating to battery;
  • Misconduct relating to criminal mischief;
  • Trespass;
  • Theft, including retail and farm theft;
  • Misconduct relating to riots
  • Disorderly conduct;
  • Possession of controlled substances and cannabis;
  • Possession, use, delivery, transportation, or sale of drug paraphernalia; and
  • Resisting an officer in a non-violent way.

Depending on the specifics of the case at the time an officer might consider an arrest, the officer may determine to provide a juvenile civil citation or require that the juvenile go through a diversion program.

If an officer does proceed to make an arrest of a juvenile, he or she must include written documentation describing the reasons why the arrest was needed.

What Happens Once a Juvenile Has Been Given a Civil Citation

If the juvenile refuses the civil citation or refuses to enter into the diversion program, he or she may be offered the option to be referred to the department. If a juvenile accepts the civil citation and/or participation in the diversion program, he or she must participate up to 50 hours of community service, as well as any intervention program services that would include the juvenile’s family involvement and if necessary, substance abuse and health treatment services. The juvenile must report to the department 10 business days after receiving the citation and perform at minimum five community service hours per week. If the juvenile fails to complete the hours or does not perform the tasks of the diversion program, he or she may be referred to the department and the associated consequences.

Juveniles Who May Be Ineligible for the Civil Citation Program

Finally, there may be juveniles who are not eligible for the civil citation program and/or the diversion program. The following may be reasons to make a juvenile ineligible for the program outlined in the bill:

  • The juvenile was charged with a crime that would otherwise be considered a felony if it were to be committed by an adult;
  • The juvenile has already pled nolo contendere or guilty to an offense that if committed by an adult would be considered a felony; and
  • The misdemeanor occurred in conjunction with and during the same situation as another offense that would be considered a felony if committed by an adult.

If the bill is signed into law it will take effect July 1, 2017.

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