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Juveniles are frequently charged as adults in Florida through a process called direct filing. Any juvenile who faces charges in adult court runs the risk of receiving adult punishments, and if the case is not handled properly the child could become a convicted felon and ordered to serve a lengthy prison sentence. If your child’s charges have been direct filed to adult court anywhere in Florida it is extremely important to consult with an experienced lawyer. Benjamin Herbst is a South Florida criminal defense lawyer who specializes in direct filed cases in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach County, as well as the Treasure Coast jurisdictions of Martin and St. Lucie County. He has successfully defended numerous juvenile clients facing serious felony charges and is standing by to offer a free consultation about your child’s case. Benjamin can be reached 7 days a week at (954) 543-0305, and has flexible office hours in his Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach locations. He is also willing to travel anywhere from Homestead to Port St. Lucie to meet in a convenient location to discuss the case.
Under Florida law section 985.557 direct filing is discretionary, which means it is up to the State’s Attorney’s Office. If the defendant is 14 or 15 years old the state may only direct file a case to adult court if they believe the public interest requires adult sanctions be considered or imposed, and if the charge is one of several aggravated felony offenses. These offenses include arson, sexual battery, murder and attempted murder, aggravated battery, lewd and lascivious conduct, using or displaying a weapon during a felony, carjacking, home invasion robbery, grand theft of a motor vehicle, kidnapping, aggravated child abuse and aggravated assault. A 14 or 15-year old juvenile may also be charged as an adult for possessing or discharging a firearm on school property. A minor who is 16 or 17 can be charged as an adult in Florida by direct filing in any felony case if it is in the public interest. This includes non-violent drug felonies such as possession with intent to distribute and even simple possession of a controlled substance. Minors who are 16 or 17-years old may also be direct filed on a misdemeanor charge if they have two or more juvenile priors, and one of the priors was a felony. A withhold of adjudication in a delinquent act counts as a prior offense.
Just because a juvenile is charged as an adult does not mean he or she will be sentenced as an adult. Even if a child pleads guilty or is found guilty at trial, a circuit court judge may impose juvenile sanctions unless the child was indicted for an offense that carries a life sentence. The judge is required to consider various factors before making a determination whether adult or juvenile punishment is appropriate. These factors include the seriousness of the offense, the prior criminal history of the minor and the availability of appropriate programs offered by the Department of Juvenile Justice. The judge will also consider a presentence investigation report and recommendation that is prepared by the DJJ, but ultimately the decision is completely up to the judge. It is imperative to be fully prepared for the sentencing hearing, which includes presenting witness testimony and strong arguments why the child should be kept in the juvenile system. Benjamin is committed to doing whatever it takes to make sure your child does not face adult sanctions, and has the skill and experience to conduct the best possible sentencing hearing. He firmly believes that the adult criminal justice system is no place for minor. If your child is facing direct filed charges in any Florida adult court contact juvenile criminal defense lawyer Benjamin Herbst anytime to discuss the case. Benjamin values forming a trusting relationship with his juvenile clients, and always keeps the family informed and updated at all stages of the case. He provides his cell phone number to all clients for access on nights and weekends, and is never too busy to answer questions or to discuss the case.