What poor choices did you make when you were a teenager? What poor choices have your children made? Felony? Misdemeanor? Let us help you put your family back together while helping assure that your child is not forever marked by their mistakes.

Your child's future is important and a Florida juvenile offender record can have unfortunate consequences. It can affect future employment, education, scholarships, and many other opportunities. Mistakes happen and it's critical to address them as soon as possible, with the guidance of an attorney who is compassionate, honest, and who supports your family's best interests. Because not all Jacksonville criminal defense attorneys are equal in this regard, it is in your best interests to ask as many questions of your prospective attorney as possible to see if they are suited to represent your child.

There are a variety of ways in which an individual under the age of 18 can get detained and tried as a youthful offender. These offenses commonly include:

  • Drug Possession
  • Possession of a Fake ID
  • Possession of Alcohol by a Minor
  • Theft Crimes
  • Underage DUI
  • Vandalism

We hope that the following information will help you better understand the Florida Juvenile Justice System and the prospective process that your child faces. You can find information on specific statutes, penalties, defense options, and common procedural errors related to certain crimes. Learning about your child's alleged juvenile offense is ONLY THE FIRST STEP towards combating the charges and is NO SUBSTITUTE for an attorney-client relationship nor should any of this information be considered legal advice. Only an experienced Duval County juvenile defense lawyer can give you official legal advice.


Regardless of the circumstances surrounding your child's alleged offense, it's important to remember that their detainment does not mean they will be adjudicated (convicted) of the crime. As a parent of two young children, Eugene B. Nichols understands your concerns about protecting your child's future from the effects of his or her mistakes. Gene represents young men and women in both minor and serious offenses. His clients come from a variety of backgrounds throughout Clay County, Duval County, Nassau County, and St. Johns County.

Call (904) 353-3300 or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for a free, confidential consultation concerning your child's legal options following an arrest or citation. During your consulation, Gene Nichols will help you understand your child's charges and their potential consequences. Gene will also listen attentively and tactfully gather relevant information to accurately determine available legal options and potential weaknesses in the prosecution's case. Contact Eugene Nichols today to learn more: (904) 353-3300.

Florida Youthful Offender Information Center

  • Potential Sentencing for a Juvenile Offender in Florida
  • Potential Penalties for a Youthful Offender in Florida
  • Juvenile Diversion Programs in Duval County
  • Sealing and Expunging a Juvenile Record in Florida
  • Definitions Related to the Florida Youthful Offender Act
  • Purpose of the Florida Juvenile Justice System
  • Florida Youthful Offender Resources

Potential Sentencing for a Juvenile Offender in Florida

The Florida Youthful Offender act (Fla. Stat. § 958.04) lays out possible sentencing for individuals adjudicated as youthful offenders. A youth may be adjudicated as a youthful offender if he or she:

  • Is at least 18 years old or has been transferred to the criminal division of the circuit court for prosecution;
  • Is found guilty, has given a plea of nolo contendere or guilty, to a crime that is a felony in the state and the person is younger than 21 years old at the time of sentencing; and
  • Has not been previously classified as a youthful offender under the Florida Youthful Offender Act, though a person guilty of a capital or life felony cannot be sentenced as a youthful offender.

Potential Penalties for a Youthful Offender in Florida

Instead of other criminal penalties authorized by law, a youthful offender may be faced with one or more of the following Court ordered penalties:

  • Probation
  • Community Control
  • Incarceration
  • Split Sentence (probation/community control and incarceration)
  • Basic Training

However, the youthful offender will also be faced with mandatory participation in work assignments; careers, academic, counseling and other rehabilitative programs including:

  • Reception and orientation
  • Evaluation, needs assessment, and classification
  • Educational programs
  • Career and job training
  • Life and socialization skills training (including anger/aggression control)
  • Prerelease orientation and planning
  • Transition services

The Department will also provide certain services for youthful offenders. This includes religious services and counseling, social services, substance abuse treatment and counseling, psychological and psychiatric services, library usage, healthcare, visiting and mail privileges, as well as recreational, athletic, and leisure time activities.

Juvenile Diversion Programs in Duval County

A juvenile's probation officer may recommend a juvenile diversion program as an alternative form of sentencing. However, this must be approved by the prosecutor and the juvenile must waive his or her right to a speedy trial. If the minor satisfies the requirements of the program, the charges will be dismissed and no further judicial action will be taken in regards to those specific charges. If the juvenile does not complete the program the prosecutor will file a petition charging the minor with the offense.

The Teen Court was created with the philosophy that youth who violate the law are less likely to offend again in the future if a jury of peers is deciding the punishment. This special diversion program is available to first-time misdemeanor offenders between 10 and 17 years of age. Teenagers trained for the roles of prosecuting attorney, defense attorney, bailiff, and jurors fulfill these parts. The presiding magistrate is an adult attorney or judge. Additionally, the defendant's parent or guardian signs a contract agreeing to carry out the sentence imposed by the Teen Court. Should the defendant successfully complete all of the imposed sanctions, adjudication is withheld and there is no conviction.

Sanctions given by the Teen Court include:

  • Community Service (8-35 hours, mandatory)
  • Jury Duty / Peer Circle (3-4 appearances, mandatory)
  • Open Court apology to parent/guardian
  • Tour of the jail
  • Apology letter to the victim
  • Apology letter to parent / guardian
  • Essay (2-6 pgs)
  • Book Report (2-6 pages)
  • Anger Management Counseling
  • Mental Health Counseling
  • Substance Abuse Counseling
  • No association with victim/co-defendant until completion of Teen Court Program
  • Attendance at Focus on Females (females) or Consequences of Crime (males) class

Sealing and Expunging a Juvenile Record in Florida

Under the Florida Youthful Offender Act (Fla. Stat. § 958.13), any records related to the arrest, indictment, information, trial, and dispositions of alleged offenses of a person adjudicated as a youthful offender shall be subject to the same record sealing and expunction as are the records of adult offenders. However, this does not prohibit a youthful offender or their attorney from discovery of records or information authorized by law or required by the state.

Definitions related to the Florida Youth Offender Act

"Department" refers to the Department of Corrections.

"Community Control Program" refers to an intensive supervised custody in the community. This includes surveillance on designated days such as weekends and holidays, which is maintained by officers with restricted caseloads. It further restricts the youthful offender to the community, home, or other residential placement under specific sanctions.

"Court" refers to the judge who designates the defendant as a youthful offender.

"Probation" refers to a form of community supervision that requires specified contacts with parole or probation officers under certain terms and conditions.

"Youthful Offender" refers to any person who is sentenced by the Court or classified as such by the Department.

Purpose of the Florida Juvenile System

According to Fla. Stat. § 985.02, the general purpose of the state's juvenile justice system is to provide general protection for children. This includes providing:

  • Protection from abuse, neglect, and exploitation
  • A permanent and stable home
  • A safe and nurturing environment in an effort to preserve personal dignity and integrity
  • Adequate nutrition, shelter, and clothing
  • Effective treatment for physical, social, and emotional issues
  • Equal opportunity and access to quality education as well as other community resources to develop individual abilities
  • Access to preventive services
  • When necessary, an independent and trained advocate or a skilled guardian if alternative placement is necessary
  • Gender-specific programming to address needs of a specific gender group

This statute also provides for the creation of substance abuse programs. The Florida Legislature has found that it is in the state's best interests, after reviewing the impact of substance abuse on health, that children who are dependents of the state and in delinquency programs be provided with services to help them become independent of the state. In order for this to happen, the Legislature has given the state's dependency and delinquency programs the ability to identify and provide suitable intervention for children with substance abuse problems (including problems within the family).

In regards to juvenile detention, the Florida Legislature has found that there is a need to find secure placement for youth who have allegedly committed delinquent acts. This detention should only be used, however, when less restrictive placement alternatives are not available or appropriate prior to adjudication and disposition. The decision whether detention is even necessary should be based on an assessment of risk. These risk factors include clear evidence that a child may fail to appear, may inflict bodily harm on others, presents a history of committing serious property offenses prior to adjudication, disposition or placement; has acted in contempt of court; or requests protection from imminent bodily harm.