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President Office — Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 8, 2017

CONTACT: Katie Betta, (850) 487-5229


Legislation to Reduce Criminalization of Adolescents Advances

Tallahassee —

The Florida Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Civil and Criminal Justice today passed Senate Bill 196, Juvenile Civil Citation and Similar Diversion Programs, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Anitere Flores (R-Miami, Monroe).

“In too many cases, we have become a society where law enforcement officers are brought in to referee the day-to-day challenges of raising children,” said Senate President Joe Negron (R-Stuart), who has made juvenile justice reform a top priority of his two-year term. “This legislation strikes an appropriate balance between public safety and decriminalizing the mistakes of adolescents.”

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 crimes, there needs to be an appropriate legal penalty. However, there are many situations where youth are displaying lack of judgment and maturity, rather than serious criminal behavior,” said 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.”

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.