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New Program Keeps First-Time Youth Offenders on the Right Path

Last year in Broward County, there were 2,858 first-time juvenile misdemeanor offenders. Each of these youth came into contact with the criminal juvenile justice system and the end result was a criminal record.

Now, with recent state legislation, these offenders have the opportunity to participate in a new Civil Citation Program for Juveniles, a collaborative partnership between law enforcement officials, community stakeholders and the County’s Human Services Department. Through the program, first-time juvenile offenders can avoid a criminal record that would potentially prevent future employment, military service or scholarship opportunities.

Under the legislation, Florida State Statute 985.12, a law enforcement officer may issue a Civil Citation to a youthful offender suspected of a first-time misdemeanor offense such:

  • Graffiti
  • Shoplifting
  • Trespassing

As a consequence for the offense, and in lieu of an arrest, the youth agrees to perform community service and participate in intervention services, if required. Both the offender and parent(s) or guardian(s) must commit to the program.

The legislation, signed into law by Governor Rick Scott in 2011, provides that a youth can be required to perform up to 50 hours of community service and must participate in intervention services based on an assessment of the youth’s needs. This may include family counseling, drug screening, substance abuse treatment and/or mental health treatment. Additional sanctions or services that can be considered include a letter of apology to the victim(s), restitution, school progress monitoring or prevocational skill services.  Youth who fail to complete Civil Citation requirements are referred to the Department of Juvenile Justice, and the Broward County Office of the State’s Attorney where the case can be filed as a criminal offense and ultimately prosecuted in a court of law.

Program Also Saves Taxypayer Money

Since beginning in October, 2012, 250 civil citations have been issued to youth in Broward County. These youth have met with area providers and receive intervention services which are funded by the Children’s Services Council of Broward County.

Civil Citations can save communities millions of dollars that would otherwise be spent in a juvenile justice system that rarely offers a second chance for a better life. The program reduces traditional court program time from up to eight months down to a program of 45-60 days. Costs are also reduced:

  • $5,000 for an offender who moves through the traditional system
  • $500 for an offender who participates in the Civil Citation program

 


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