Stephen G. Cobb - Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer

What Are The Alternative Programs Available To Juvenile Offenders?

Disclaimer: This article is in response to questions frequently asked of Mr. Cobb and is an unedited dictation transcript. Just like talk to text on your smartphone, there may be misspelled words or sentence fragments.

There are different types of alternative sentencing that are available in Florida. I try to avoid diversion programs, if possible. Diversion programs are usually loaded with conditions, and have a lot of things in the area of what the government considers to be personal accountability. In reality, they are so burdensome for young people, it sets large numbers of them up to fail. They get this seemingly really good deal without a lawyer, and it turns out to be a diversion program. The young person is burdened with so many conditions that they are just not able to complete them all, and end up in violation status. In those situations, what the state also does is they frequently make the young person sign a plea agreement. The agreement usually states that if they do not complete the diversion program, they go directly to sentencing, instead of having their case start over at the beginning with the possibility of a trial and the use of defenses.

What I like to do in juvenile cases, when it comes to alternative types of sanctions, is to create our own diversion program, what I call a Negotiated Dismissal. Negotiated Dismissal agreements are normally going to have far fewer conditions than formal diversion, and we try to set them up so that there is no probation like reporting. We also try to eliminate as much of the financial obligation as possible, as well as those things that can interfere with work and school. Since the goal is rehabilitation, loading a juvenile up with the large number of conditions, that either sets them up for failure or destroys their ability to work and go to school, is not a very good outcome for them. Finally, in cases where we see that they might have mental health issues, there have been many cases when I recommend SPECT brain imaging. SPECT stands for Single Emission Photon Computed Tomography.

It’s a form of brain imaging that we use for damage control in adult and juvenile cases. This is because Florida has a provision or criminal law that allows for a departure from normal sentencing, under certain circumstances. This includes if the individual, who is the defendant, has some type of mental health problem. Quite often, counselors or other professionals may not even pick up these mental health problems, yet when we have the individual do a brain imaging diagnostic evaluation, we find abnormal sets of brain images. We use these brain images to justify more favorable sentencing outcomes. We are able to use them in the negotiation process for everything from a reduction in charge to dismissal of certain charges, or even substitution of charges.

I remember one case in particular where we used it, when the individual was charged with a sex offense. By the time the case was done, we were able to set it up so that a charge was substituted. We substituted a charge of aggravated assault instead of a lewd or lascivious molestation charge. Part of what helped this is that the complaining witness did not want to see her boyfriend prosecuted, and we identified the problem person as being her stepfather. At the end of the day, the real reason the stepfather was so angry was that Caucasian stepdaughter had had sex with a black man. However, after much litigation, we were able to get a substitution of charge. A substitution of charge may not technically be an alternative, but when someone’s looking at permanent, life-altering sex offender registration, a substitution of charge is an outstanding outcome if they don’t have a very good case.

In this one case in particular that happened several years ago, the young man involved completed probation successfully, was never a dollar late or a day short when it came to meeting his responsibilities, went on to get a university degree, and has been very successful since. He is not a sex offender, he is not a sexual predator. He was a young guy in high school who had consensual sex with a girl under the age of 16. This is unfortunately a very common prosecution in the state of Florida.

How Will I Find Out If My Child Has Been Arrested?

You find out that your child has been arrested when you get the phone call that every parent dreads. Quite often in juvenile cases, law enforcement will contact the parents directly. Either law enforcement or the juvenile will call the parents. However, that usually doesn’t happen until several hours after the incident and multiple frantic phone calls from worried parents wondering where their child has disappeared. Sometimes, friends of the defendant will notify the parents first. In some cases, the juvenile might be able to get a text off before law enforcement arrests them formally, takes them into custody, and seizes their cellphone.

The number one thing to do is to maintain your calm, because your child needs that. It’s also important to maintain your calm so that you don’t give your child bad advice. One of the biggest pieces of bad advice that parents give is to tell their children to trust and cooperate with law enforcement performing a criminal investigation against their juvenile. Unfortunately, law enforcement is trying to put their child into jail, juvenile jail, or even setting them up for adult sanctions.

Disclaimer: This article is in response to questions frequently asked of Mr. Cobb and is an unedited dictation transcript. Just like talk to text on your smartphone, there may be misspelled words or sentence fragments.

For more information on Alternative Programs For Juvenile Offenders, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (850) 423-0035 today.

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About the Author

Attorney Stephen G. Cobb provides personalized representation for Criminal Defense Cases in FL.