A jury trial is not available to a child placed in the juvenile court system. Originally, juvenile sanctions were intended not to punish a child but to rehabilitate them and so a jury trial was not found to be necessary. However, while Florida courts have been moving toward a more punitive position regarding juveniles, there still is still no right to a jury trial in juvenile cases.
A juvenile trial is one wherein the Judge hears all of the evidence, listens to the arguments of the State and Defense attorneys and then makes the determination as to guilt or innocence. In other words, the Judge acts as both the judge and jury. There is nothing inherently wrong with this system, but there may be a time when it may be in your child’s best interest to seek a jury trial in adult court.
Under rare circumstances a child may want to be tried as an adult. Due to the nature of the offense charged or other circumstances, such as the child’s past record, he or she may fare better seeking a jury trial as an adult. The decision to do so is very serious and requires consultation with an attorney who is knowledgeable in this area of the law. What makes a decision to proceed to jury trial so serious, is that a youngster convicted in adult court stands convicted as an adult with a criminal history while in the juvenile system they would only be regarded as a delinquent and no criminal record would exist.
As a parent you should take the juvenile system quite seriously because there are many ways in which an adjudication of guilt can come back to haunt your child after he or she turns the age of majority. Since juvenile courts are dealing with young people who have their whole lives ahead of them, it is foolish not to treat a juvenile court matter with the same seriousness you would an adult felony charge.
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