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Can Juveniles Be Arrested for Domestic Violence in Florida?

Domestic violence discussions often center around the abusive dynamics between adults - spouses, exes, boyfriends/girlfriends, co-parents, and sometimes parents against adult children or visa versa. But juveniles can also face consequences when accused of domestic violence in Florida.

As our Broward domestic violence defense attorneys can explain, the process for adjudicating juvenile offenders is different than it is for adults (assuming they aren’t charged as adults), with penalties being less serious, diversion programs and social safety net more accessible, and privacy protections broader.

Teenagers can also be respondents in petitions for civil restraining orders for domestic violence, dating violence, and sexual violence.

If your teenager is facing domestic violence allegations in South Florida, it is important to seek the counsel and advocacy of an experienced juvenile defense lawyer. We do understand some parents’ inclination toward the notion that “he/she/they should learn a lesson.” However, there are ways to do that without risking the possibility of permanent record or other major consequences that could cast a pall on their future for years to come. This is a scenario in which having strong legal advocacy is in their best long-term interests.

Juvenile Offender Domestic Violence Statistics

Domestic assaults committed by and against teenagers are a lot more common than most would care to admit. The U.S. Office of Justice Programs reports that 1 in every 4 assaults committed by a youth involve a victim with whom the offender has a domestic relationship (i.e., a family member, intimate partner, etc.).

Zooming out to the total number of domestic assaults, juvenile offenders were responsible for 1 in every 12 cases that came to the attention of law enforcement.

Targets of juvenile domestic assault were:

  • Parents - 51%
  • Sibling - 24%
  • Boyfriend/girlfriend - 10%
  • Other family member - 13%

While younger juvenile offenders were more likely to attack a parent or sibling, older teens and young adults were far more likely to be involved in alleged assaults against a boyfriend or girlfriend.

Domestic Violence Cases in Florida’s Juvenile Justice System

Adolescent domestic battery is when a youth commits an act of violence against a parent, sibling, or family member living at home. These incidents often involve defensive responses, patterns of family chaos, or escalated behavior designed to intimidate, coerce, or control the parent/sibling to give into certain demands.

Cases involving minors accused of domestic violence in Florida can go a few different ways.

In Broward County’s 17th Judicial Circuit of Florida, the Juvenile Delinquency Division has four judges who oversee cases involving minors under 18 accused of violating state criminal statutes. They’re brought into custody by police and then transported to the Juvenile Assessment Center. Staff at that facility conduct a risk assessment (which involves a point system) to figure out whether the legal criteria applies to detain the minor at the Florida Juvenile Detention Center or if they must be released prior to their first hearing.

If the teen is detained, they’ll be scheduled for a Detention Hearing within 24 hours, appointed an attorney if they can’t afford one. The judge will go over the probable cause affidavit and risk assessment before determining the degree of supervision the child needs while the case is pending (secure facility, non-secure facility, or return home).

From there, it’s up to the state attorney’s office to decide whether to file formal charges, which they typically do within a few days. The charge they’re arrested for isn’t necessarily the one they’ll ultimately face. Formal charges filed within the juvenile justice system are referred to as a Delinquency Petition.

(Prosecutors may also choose to direct file the case to adult court, wherein penalties are going to be much more significant. This is usually done in cases involving older teens 16-17 who are accused of causing serious injury to the alleged victim - particularly if they have a prior record.)

Youth accused of non-violent offenses may be offered a chance to complete a pre-trial diversion program in exchange for dropping the delinquency petition.

Those facing charges for domestic violence may not be eligible for these. However, they may still qualify to have their case proceed through Juvenile Court. This is a far more desirable option compared to the adult criminal justice system.

Most teens who go through juvenile court will be placed on Juvenile Probation, which typically carries numerous sanctions and requirements. For example, they may have to perform community service work, complete an anger management program, adhere to a curfew, submit to random drug testing, participate in counseling, avoid contact with certain individuals, and pay restitution. If they do well, they might qualify for early termination of probation. If not, they may be subject to monitoring for longer, or they could be taken back to court and sent to juvenile detention or a residential facility.

Any additional criminal offenses while on juvenile probation could result in stricter penalties, including a possible decision by prosecutors to direct file the case to adult court - wherein much more serious penalties will await.

In cases where the alleged victim is an intimate partner/peer, the charges filed likely won’t be specified as “domestic violence.” That’s because the state’s domestic violence law, F.S. 741.28, strictly defines victims as “family or household members,” which requires that they be either married, divorced, co-parents, or currently/previously living together as a family. That doesn’t apply in most teen dating relationships. However, teens in these situations can still be charged with assault and battery or aggravated assault and battery. They could also face school expulsion per F.S. 10006.148 and be subject to a civil protection order.

Juvenile Domestic Violence Respite

When a juvenile is arrested for domestic violence against a household member, they may be referred by the Juvenile Assessment Center for respite services through the Florida Network. The organization provides short-term residential placement for kids 10-17 who don’t meet the criteria to be detained in juvenile detention but who don’t have anywhere else to go but back into the home where they resided with the alleged victim in the pending domestic violence case.

There are several dozen shelters around the state, and the youth have access to counseling, transportation, education, etc. with the ultimate goal of reunification.

What About My Permanent Record?

Florida law allows criminal record sealing and expunction for many first-time offenders accused of non-violent crimes. However, explicitly included from this privilege are those accused of domestic violence.

But the juvenile justice system works a bit differently.

The contents of one’s juvenile criminal record is referred to as their “criminal history information.” It has all the information collected by various criminal justice agencies about the offender's alleged crimes. Juvenile records typically aren’t open for public inspection, except by certain authorities, such as the courts, law enforcement, school superintendent, the child’s parent, guardian, or attorney, and “anyone with a proper interest in inspecting the records… who is authorized to do so.”

The exception to the general rule on confidentiality is if the offense committed would have been a felony if carried out by an adult. Same goes for juvenile defendants who have committed three or more violations that would - if committed by an adult - be misdemeanors.

Most juvenile records are automatically destroyed after a period of time - usually by the ages of 24 or 26, depending on the severity of the offense. There are exceptions when someone is adjudicated as an adult for a forcible felony and/or adjudicated delinquent for certain sexual crimes. Those offenses stay on your record forever.

It may be possible for one to petition the court to destroy their juvenile record sooner.

If you are a juvenile or parent of a juvenile arrested for domestic violence in South Florida, contact The Ansara Law Firm today for your free initial consultation at (954) 761-4011.

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