Juvenile offenders don’t go through the same criminal process as adults do. This is true for Florida and most, if not all, other states. Underage defendants are subject to a different set of guidelines and their penalties may be focused more on rehabilitation than punishment. Here’s the most critical information to know.  

Who Is Considered a Juvenile Offender in Florida? 

In Florida, the juvenile justice system maintains jurisdiction over minors until they turn 19, which is a year more than most other states. Unlike other states, there’s also no minimum age to prosecute a juvenile offender. That said, many judges will prefer to order rehabilitation over punishment for very young defendants. 

Can Juveniles Be Tried As an Adult? 

A juvenile offender may be legally tried as an adult in court if they committed a serious crime. The child’s age is also a factor, and teens are more likely than younger children to face similar criminal penalties as adults if they are found guilty of the crime they’re charged with. 

Other Differences Between Adult vs. Juvenile Criminal Cases 

There are a number of other differences between adult and juvenile criminal cases that you should be aware of. 


  • The name of the charge to be different. A petition is made against a juvenile that committed a crime. For adults, it is called a complaint. 
  • There not to be a jury present. Juvenile defendants have their trial with a judge only. 
  • The courtroom to be closed. Generally, only attorneys are allowed in the courtroom during a juvenile criminal hearing, whereas the public usually has access to adult criminal proceedings. 
  • The name of the outcome to be different. If a juvenile is found guilty during their hearing, they will go through the process of a disposition instead of being sentenced. A juvenile is also adjudicated instead of being convicted.  
  • The primary goal of juvenile court is rehabilitation. For adults, the goal of the prosecution is often to ensure that the defendant is penalized as heavily as possible. 

Was Your Child Arrested and Charged With a Crime? Get Legal Help Now 

The Florida criminal justice system can be challenging for minors and their parents to face. If your child has been accused of committing a serious criminal offense, you need experienced legal help. Call criminal defense and family lawyer T. Martin Knopes today for more information about protecting your child’s rights at (850) 683-0700.