President Office — Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 23, 2017
Senate Criminal Justice Committee Passes Legislation to Reduce Criminalization of Adolescents
The Florida Senate Committee on Criminal Justice, chaired by Senator Randolph Bracy (D-Ocoee) today passed Senate Bill 196, Juvenile Civil Citation and Similar Diversion Programs, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Anitere Flores (R-Miami, Monroe) and Senator Bracy.
“All too often, youth today are being arrested and charged for criminal acts that were once considered childhood mistakes and lack of judgement and maturity,” said Senate President Joe Negron (R-Stuart), who has made juvenile justice reform a top priority of his two-year term. “Instead of helping our youth to learn positively from their mistakes like we once did, they may be put in the juvenile justice system, which then creates a criminal record that could potentially follow them for their rest of their lives.”
Senate Bill 196 requires a law enforcement officer to issue a civil citation or require the juvenile’s participation in a diversion program when the juvenile admits to committing certain first-time misdemeanor offenses including: possession of alcoholic beverages, criminal mischief, trespass, and disorderly conduct, among others.
“There is a delicate balance here. We should not and will not tolerate serious wrongdoing and violent crimes committed by young people. At the same time, we need workable solutions that move away from the over-criminalization of adolescents. I am grateful to Pro Tempore Flores, Senator Bracy and many other Senators who have taken a leadership role in addressing this important issue.”
Under Senate Bill 196, a law enforcement officer must provide written documentation articulating why an arrest is warranted when he or she has the discretion to issue a civil citation but instead chooses to arrest the juvenile.
The legislation also specifies that the option of the issuance of a civil citation or referral to a similar diversion program does not apply to a juvenile who is alleged to have committed, currently charged with, has plead guilty to, or has been convicted of a felony, or a misdemeanor offense arising out of an episode in which the juvenile is also alleged to have committed a felony.