Juvenile Misdemeanor Drug Possession
The Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey from 2019 revealed that approximately 20 percent of the surveyed middle and high school students have used marijuana at some point in their lifetimes. A total of roughly 29 percent of the surveyed students reported using at least some kind of illicit drug in their lifetime. Unfortunately, it stands to reason that some of these young people will fall foul of the law in their usage. If this has happened to you or to your child, it may feel inconsequential, especially if the alleged offense is a misdemeanor, but it can have very serious consequences for the future.
Juvenile Court Consequences
Most of the time, a juvenile who is caught possessing or using illegal drugs will have their case handled in juvenile court, especially for a first offense. This may feel like the proverbial ‘get out of jail free’ card, given that juvenile sentences almost never carry jail time, but the consequences for a drug misdemeanor are still significant. The consequences suggested by Florida law if a juvenile is judged to be a delinquent will generally include a loss of their driver’s license or learner’s permit, community service requirements, and significant fines.
However, what may be the most serious consequence is the fact that the proceedings will show up on their criminal record. Contrary to popular belief, the only juvenile convictions that are immediately erased upon a young person’s turning 21 years old are those that were dismissed or had adjudication withheld. Having a drug charge on your record can cause issues in several areas – employment and housing are the two most commonly seen. This is why attorneys are so desperate to seek alternative consequences for their young clients.
Often, a juvenile charged with drug possession will have the opportunity to go through a drug program, designed as an alternative to jail sentences. Examples include Teen Court or Florida’s Drug Courts, which were the first in the nation, coming into existence in 1989. These programs are designed to be non-adversarial, and to help teach first offenders good habits and ensure that they are ready for a second chance, as opposed to a prison sentence, which is solely designed to punish. Countless studies have shown that rehabilitative efforts do make a serious difference in recidivism (reoffending) rates, and the state of Florida tries to pursue this with many nonviolent offenders.
If a juvenile completes a pretrial diversion program like Teen Court or Juvenile Drug Court, their charges are generally dropped unless they reoffend within a probationary period (usually 1 year). However, there is no leniency if someone does reoffend while on probation – if they are not fulfilling their obligations or if the state believes it is “within the public interest,” it is legally permitted to take up the charges that were continued or paused while the offender was in the program, and will show no mercy in its prosecution.
Contact A West Palm Beach Juvenile Drug Charge Attorney
If you or your child has been arrested on drug charges, it can be utterly overwhelming to try and think of how to combat them. Having a dedicated West Palm Beach juvenile crimes attorney from the firm of Perlet, Shiner, Melchiorre & Walsh, P.A. on your side can help to ease your mind, as having an experienced lawyer to help you move through the legal process means that no details will be lost. Contact our office today to speak to an attorney.