Juvenile Drug Charges In Florida
The National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics (NCDAS) reports that minors in Florida are actually somewhat less likely to have used drugs than the average U.S. teenager, but that drug use is still more common than the average parent might like, not least of all because of the potential legal consequences. If a minor child is caught with drugs, they will face similar charges to an adult, and the consequences, while different, still can be extremely serious.
Sentences Can Still Be Serious
Many believe that just because the defendant is a minor, the charges for possession of drugs will automatically be downgraded somehow. If a defendant is charged as a juvenile, it is true that the short-term consequences may seem less severe – the most common outcome if a minor is judged delinquent (the juvenile court equivalent of being convicted) is long-term probation for first offenders.
However, if your child has been in trouble with the law multiple times, they can be charged as an adult, or as a youthful offender, which is a special status not granted to every juvenile. Youthful offender status can be conferred on a juvenile who (a) is between age 18 and 21; (b) has either been found guilty of or pled ‘nolo contendere’ to a felony offense; and (c) has not been classified as a youthful offender before. The sentences for youthful offenders are often somewhere between those for juveniles and for adult defendants, and may or may not require time in a detention center.
Juvenile Court vs Adult Court
If your child has been charged with possession of drugs or drug paraphernalia, and it is their first time in trouble with the law, it is likely that the case will wind up in juvenile court. While the consequences of being judged delinquent can be serious, juvenile court is aimed more at rehabilitating wayward youth than punishing hardened criminals. Young defendants tend to be given sentences of probation, or time in a juvenile detention center, and in many cases, a juvenile record can be sealed or expunged in Florida, unlike an adult criminal record.
If your child’s case is moved to adult court – and Florida has a reputation for charging ‘too many’ children as adults – they can face all the potential consequences of any other adult defendant. Penalties for possession of most illegal substances in Florida will be serious, carrying fines and jail sentences lasting anywhere from 3 years to 30. It is also important to be aware that if your child was stopped with drugs over a certain weight – for example, with more than 28 grams of cocaine, or more than 7 grams of oxycodone (Oxycontin or Percocet) – they can be charged with trafficking, whether they had the intent to do so or not.
Contact A West Palm Beach Juvenile Drug Crimes Attorney
If your child has been charged with a drug crime in Florida, it is crucial to enlist a knowledgeable attorney to fight for their rights and make sure they get their day in court. The West Palm Beach drug crimes attorneys from the firm of Perlet, Shiner, Melchiorre & Walsh, P.A. can offer compassionate and knowledgeable representation at what can be a scary time for your family. Call our office today to speak to an attorney.