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Do Minors in Juvenile Criminal Cases Have the Same Constitutional Rights?

by | May 23, 2024 | Criminal Law

When it comes to criminal proceedings involving minors, the process and rights afforded can be quite different from those in adult criminal courts. However, juveniles do enjoy many of the same constitutional protections as adults. If your child is facing allegations of delinquency in Tampa, Florida, understanding these rights is crucial. The criminal defense attorneys at Brunvand Wise, P.A. are here to help you navigate this challenging time and ensure your child’s rights are protected from the outset.

Constitutional Rights Juveniles Share With Adult Criminal Defendants

In Florida, a criminal proceeding against a juvenile is known as a delinquency proceeding. Here are some key constitutional protections that apply to juvenile delinquency proceedings:

The Right to Counsel

Juveniles have the right to be represented by an attorney during delinquency proceedings, just like adults in criminal cases. If the juvenile’s family cannot afford an attorney, the court will appoint one. Ensuring your child has legal representation is critical for protecting their rights and mounting an effective defense.

The Right to be Informed of the Charges or Allegations

Under the Sixth Amendment, criminal defendants have the right to be informed of the charges against them, and this extends to juveniles. This typically occurs at an arraignment hearing, where the juvenile will receive a document known as a “petition” detailing the charges. It is advisable for the juvenile to plead not guilty at this stage to allow time for consulting with an attorney, as entering a guilty plea prematurely can forfeit many important rights.

The Right to Freedom from Unreasonable Search and Seizure

Juveniles are protected under the Fourth Amendment from unreasonable searches and seizures, similar to adults. However, certain areas, like schools, have more leeway to conduct searches. If a search is deemed illegal, evidence obtained can be excluded from court, reinforcing the importance of having a skilled attorney to challenge such violations.

The Right to Confront and Question Witnesses

The Sixth Amendment also grants the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses. This right is crucial in juvenile delinquency proceedings, as it allows the defense to challenge the prosecution’s evidence and witness testimonies. This cross-examination is usually performed by the juvenile’s attorney.

The Right to Compulsory Process

Juveniles have the right to compulsory process, meaning they can subpoena witnesses to testify on their behalf. If a subpoenaed witness fails to appear, the court can enforce their attendance, ensuring that the juvenile’s defense is robust and comprehensive.

The Right to Remain Silent

The Fifth Amendment protects against self-incrimination, and this right applies to juveniles as well. A juvenile cannot be compelled to testify against themselves in a delinquency proceeding, providing a crucial layer of protection during the trial process.

Constitutional Rights Exclusive to Adult Criminal Defendants

Despite the similarities, there are two significant constitutional rights that do not extend to juveniles in delinquency proceedings:

The Right to a Public Trial

Unlike adults, juveniles do not have the right to a public trial. Juvenile proceedings are typically confidential, with closed courtrooms to protect the minor’s privacy.

The Right to a Trial by Jury

Juveniles are not entitled to a jury trial. The rationale is that juvenile proceedings are designed to be less adversarial and more rehabilitative. The Supreme Court has argued that introducing a jury trial could undermine the informal nature intended for juvenile proceedings.

What Happens if a Juvenile is Tried as an Adult?

If a juvenile is tried in the adult criminal court system, they are granted all the constitutional rights afforded to adult defendants, including the right to a public trial and a trial by jury. This shift underscores the importance of having a knowledgeable attorney who can navigate both juvenile and adult court systems effectively.

Protecting Your Child in Florida Juvenile Delinquency Proceedings

Understanding and asserting your child’s constitutional rights in a Florida juvenile delinquency proceeding is essential. At Brunvand Wise, P.A., we recognize the stress and uncertainty families face during these times. Our experienced juvenile criminal defense attorneys are dedicated to safeguarding your child’s rights and ensuring the best possible outcome.

Contact Brunvand Wise, P.A. Today

If your child has been accused of a crime in Tampa, Florida, do not delay in seeking legal assistance. Contact Brunvand Wise, P.A. to speak with an experienced juvenile defense lawyer who can guide you through the complexities of the juvenile justice system and protect your child’s future. Early intervention is key to building a strong defense and ensuring your child’s rights are upheld throughout the proceedings.


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