When delivering his inaugural speech as President of the Florida Senate, Joe Negron described a childhood run-in with the law, and the leniency of police officers who had him and a friend clean up their mess rather than arrest them. While he stated that wrongdoing by youth should not be tolerated, he also stressed the importance of not criminalizing adolescence.
This sentiment has been supported widely throughout Florida, beginning with Governor Rick Scot signing a civil citation program into law in 2011. Years later, law enforcement agencies across the state have been issuing more civil citations in applicable cases instead of arresting juveniles and saddling them with criminal records.
Under the program, law enforcement officers have the discretion to use civil citations as alternatives to criminal arrests when it is a first offense and a non-violent misdemeanor. Common offenses eligible for a civil citation in place of an arrest include:
- Fights without injury
- Underage drinking
Support for this program has been positive and growing in counties all over Florida, including Miami-Dade, where law enforcement issued citations in 94% of cases. There are several reasons for greater use of citations:
- Juveniles who are arrested can be significantly impacted by criminal records when applying for jobs, applying for school, and trying to obtain loans, among other things. A record can create barriers for youth as they move into adulthood as productive citizens.
- Data from law enforcement agencies indicate that juveniles who get citations are half as likely to re-offend as juveniles who are arrested. This is a benefit to both youth and the public at large.
- Civil citations can save considerable amounts of money for communities, as moving juveniles through the criminal justice system after an arrest is costly. In one study, it was discovered that had Orange County law enforcement used citations in all eligible juvenile cases instead of less than 40% of them, they could have saved roughly $1.3 million in the past year alone.
Civil citations still result in consequences – juveniles may be required to pay restitution, participate in community service, write apology letters, or take courses in anger management. Of course, not all juvenile crimes are eligible for civil citations, and law enforcement officers will make arrests based on discretion or when crimes are serious.
If your child has been arrested and charged with a crime, our criminal defense lawyers at Hager & Schwartz, P.A. are available days, nights, and weekends to discuss the case and how we can help. Contact us today to speak personally with an attorney.