If Arrested in Florida Under 18 Years Old, Do I Go to Juvenile Hall?

Dealing with the criminal justice system is always nerve-wracking, but it can prove particularly stressful for alleged offenders under the age of 18. Some minors take solace in the assumption that they’ll be treated with kid gloves as they navigate juvenile court. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case.

Florida minors often face harsh sentences, many of which include time in adult prison — not juvenile hall, as they might initially expect. A 2017 report from the State of America’s Children revealed that, as of 2015, a shocking 131 Florida children were based in adult prisons.

When in doubt, it’s best to prepare for the worst-case scenario. Attorneys working with minors should understand the complications of Florida’s juvenile system — but they should also be prepared to fight every step of the way to prevent transfer to the conventional adult criminal justice process.

How Does the Juvenile Court System Work in Florida?

Classification as a juvenile case is always preferable, as this approach strongly emphasizes prevention and rehabilitation over punishment. While outcomes can vary dramatically based on the judge’s discretion, minors who remain exclusively in the juvenile justice system are often able to avoid incarceration.

Often, interactions with the state’s juvenile system initially involve the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), which aims to prevent further involvement with the local juvenile court while also improving public safety.

The DJJ process begins with complaints of minors breaking the law. From there, they are contacted by law enforcement officers, who may issues verbal warnings or civil citations for the least severe cases — or take the minor into custody, if deemed necessary. The detention facilities in which minors are held are commonly referred to as Juvenile Assessment Centers.

If serious cases are not diverted to Florida’s adult criminal system, they are typically handled in juvenile court. In many ways, this process resembles the standard criminal justice system. Involved minors appear at arraignment hearings, where they’re alerted to the formal charges held against them. Adjudicatory hearings often follow, although some cases may be handled in dedicated teen or drug courts. Regardless of the court setting, penalties might include probation, community service, or commitment in residential programs.

When Are Minors Transferred to the Adult Criminal System?

Despite the Florida juvenile justice system’s purported goal of avoiding adult-based court, many minors find themselves dealing with harsher processes and outcomes than anticipated. Typically, transfer to the adult criminal system follows grand jury indictment, discretionary prosecutor decisions, or in rare cases, voluntary waivers requested by juveniles. Sometimes, minors are transferred due to mandatory requirements imposed for specific types of charges.

Once a case lands in the adult system, it is likely that the minor will be sentenced to standard probation or prison. This approach is problematic not only because it places minors in damaging environments, but also because it is more likely to result in an arrest record. This can make it difficult for  alleged offenders to find work and become productive members of society.


John F. Greene Destin Florida Attorney

As a minor facing stressful legal issues, you deserve support from a Destin criminal attorney who understands your situation. Attorney John F. Greene is happy to work with you. With his guidance, you can get through this difficult ordeal and focus on your bright future. Call 850-213-2673 today or contact him online to learn more about your legal options

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