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President Office — Press Release


April 13, 2017

CONTACT: Katie Betta, (850) 487-5229

Legislation to Reduce Criminalization of Adolescence Passes Final Committee

Tallahassee —

The Florida Senate Committee on Appropriations, chaired by Senator Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater), today passed Senate Bill 196, Juvenile Civil Citation and Similar Diversion Programs, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Anitere Flores (R-Miami, Monroe). The legislation reforms requirements regarding the issuance of civil citations, rather than criminal charges, for certain non-violent youthful offenses. 


“In too many cases, we have become a society where law enforcement officers are brought in to referee the day-to-day challenges that come with raising children. Instead of helping our youth to learn positively from their mistakes like we once did, they could be put in the juvenile justice system, creating a criminal record that could potentially follow them for their rest of their lives,” said Senate President Joe Negron (R-Stuart). “This good bill strikes an appropriate balance between public safety and decriminalizing the youthful mistakes of adolescence.”


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. 


“When young people commit serious, violent crimes, there needs to be an appropriate legal penalty. However, there are many other situations where young people are displaying a lack of judgement and maturity, rather than serious criminal behavior,” continued President Pro Tempore Flores. “This legislation ensures that we utilize other avenues that correct inappropriate behavior without stigmatizing our youth with a criminal record that could impact their future education and career opportunities.”


“Reducing the criminalization of adolescents is not only the right policy for our state, but it ensures that we uphold our commitment to safeguarding limited taxpayer dollars,” said President Pro Tempore Flores, who serves as the vice chair of the Committee on Appropriations. “Over time, the bill may have a positive fiscal impact to state and local governments because an increase in civil citations and similar diversion programs may result in young people being diverted from the Department of Juvenile Justice’s more costly residential program. It also may reduce the cost to state and local governments for housing youth in juvenile detention.”


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, 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.