This post will examine in general terms how under Florida law a juvenile charged with the commission of a crime can be tried as an adult. You may be aware of the recent news story about a 16-year-old criminal suspect who might ordinarily be subject to the system of juvenile justice but whom prosecutors are considering trying as an adult.
There are multiple ways in which a juvenile can have his criminal case transferred out of the juvenile court system. These methodologies vary from state to state, and include the three basic categories that can be found in all states: judicial waiver, prosecutorial discretion and statutory exclusion.
Judicial waiver: Judicial waiver allows, on a case-by-case basis, a judge in a juvenile court case to transfer that case into the adult system. Before such a transfer can take place at a formal hearing must be held. The decision to waive juvenile court jurisdiction is ordinarily left to the discretion of the judge.
Prosecutorial discretion: Certain types of criminal cases may be tried in either juvenile court or in the adult system, based upon the decision of the prosecutor. Prosecutorial discretion cases do not usually require a hearing before the decision is made. In Florida, prosecutorial discretion is available for defendants aged 14 and older.
Statutory exclusion: Certain types of crimes are considered to be so serious that they are not subject to juvenile court jurisdiction. In Florida these include murder as well as select offenses against persons and property for individuals aged 16 and older.
Additional considerations for transfer to or from juvenile court: In addition to the three general categories above, Florida is one of a number of states that has a policy of “Once an adult, always an adult”: if a juvenile has been convicted for one crime as an adult, and subsequently is accused of committing another crime later on that might otherwise be tried in juvenile court, the earlier adult prosecution will preclude juvenile jurisdiction over any subsequent criminal trial.
If you or a loved one has been accused of a crime that raises questions of juvenile versus criminal court jurisdiction, you should seek the assistance of a criminal defense attorney who is experienced with adult criminal defense cases.