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First-Time Youth Offenders: Guide to Criminal Process

For first-time youth offenders in Palm Beach County, Florida, the arrest and court process can be intimidating. While juvenile offenses may seem minor, they can have long-lasting consequences for your child, such as the inability to get a job or qualify for financial aid. Jacob Noble, an aggressive defense attorney will be your child's strongest advocate. Jacob Noble can protect your child's rights and fight for rehabilitation rather than incarceration.

Florida's Juvenile Justice System moves quickly. This is what you can expect as you support your child through this process.


If your child has been accused of a crime, law enforcement may arrest him, or an officer may bring him to the station for questioning first. In either circumstance, law enforcement agents must notify the child's parents or legal guardian. This is the best time to contact a criminal defense attorney at Noble Law.

Can Law Enforcement Question My Child if I Am Not Present?

Yes, the police may interview your child if you are not present.

Can My Child Request an Attorney?

At any point during the interview, whether you are present or not, your child may request the presence of an attorney. This is especially important in major property crimes, crimes against a person, or if your child is already under court supervision. Anything he says can be used against him.

Can I Take My Child Home After He is Arrested?

The arresting officer may release your child into your custody or the officer may transport your child to the Juvenile Assessment Center to start the detention process, depending on your child's criminal history and the nature of the crime.


After your child is arrested, law enforcement takes him to the Juvenile Assessment Center for booking. Your child is fingerprinted at this time and intake personnel runs his criminal history.

Where is the Juvenile Assessment Center in Palm Beach County?

In Palm Beach County, the Juvenile Assessment Center is located at 3400 Belvedere Road in West Palm Beach.

What is the Detention Risk Assessment Instrument?

The next step of the booking process is the Detention Risk Assessment Instrument (RAI). This tool determines if your child is released to you or if he is sent to a detention center.

If your child scores 12 points or more on the RAI or if he was arrested for domestic battery, he will usually be sent to a secure detention center.

If your child is allowed to leave with you for home detention, you and your child must both sign a home detention agreement. At this time, you will be given the date and time for the detention hearing.

In some cases, based on the RAI score, your child is released to you without home detention.

Do I Need to Post Bail?

Juvenile offenders do not have to post bail. They are either released to their parents or sent to a detention center. Florida law mandates that a juvenile can only be held in a secure detention facility for 21 days before trial, so the court process moves very quickly.

Where is the Secure Detention Facility in Palm Beach County?

The secure detention facility is located at 1100 45th Street, Building A, in West Palm Beach.


Arraignment, or the detention hearing, is the first time your child sees the judge. Florida state law mandates that this must be within 24 hours of his arrest.

Where is the Arraignment in Palm Beach County?

On weekdays, the hearing occurs at the Palm Beach County Courthouse, 205 North Dixie Highway, Juvenile Wing Courtroom 3A, in West Palm Beach. On weekends and holidays, the hearing occurs at the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office courtrooms, 3228 Gun Club Road, in West Palm Beach.

What Does the Judge Consider During Arraignment?

The judge reviews several factors during this hearing, including:

  • Detention status as determined by the RAI. This ensures that the RAI points were calculated correctly. If another option is more appropriate, the judge makes that decision at this time.
  • Whether your child is charged as a juvenile or an adult.
  • If the case should move forward to an adjudicatory hearing.
  • If your child should go into a diversion program.

As part of this process, the judge reviews the Probable Cause Affidavit (PCA), which is a sworn statement signed by the victim or the arresting law enforcement officer.

If your child is allowed to go home, the judge may order certain conditions as part of his release, such as a curfew or random drug testing.

Charges Filed

The Florida State Attorney's office is responsible for filing charges against your child. This happens within a few days of your child's arrest. The State Attorney's office reviews all information before making the decision for file or drop charges. These may be the same or different than the charge for which your child was arrested.

What is a Delinquency Petition?

The official charging document is called the Delinquency Petition. This is served on you and your child along with a Summons that tells your child when he needs to be in court for arraignment.

Can My Child Be Charged As an Adult?

For very serious crimes, your child may be charged as an adult, especially if he has a substantial criminal history or is considered dangerous. He may also be charged as an adult by a grand jury indictment. In cases where your child is charged as an adult, he is served with an adult arrest warrant and Information and is then transported from the juvenile detention facility to the Palm Beach County Jail. The State Attorney only charges juveniles as adults in cases where he believes the juvenile cannot be rehabilitated.

Your Child's Rights

The State of Florida gives juveniles the following rights:

  • The right to a judge trial
  • The right to an attorney
  • The right to have the state prove it's case against him"beyond a reasonable doubt"
  • The right to hear the case against him
  • The right to question the State's witnesses and to call his own witnesses
  • The right to force witnesses that testify in his defense to come to court, and
  • The right to remain silent -- choosing not to testify will not be held against your child.


Arraignment is when your child enters his plea -- Guilty, Not Guilty, or No Contest. This happens at the same time as the detention hearing if your child is detained or at a separate time if he is home. The Summons served with the Delinquency Petition will have the date and time of the arraignment.

What is Guilty, Not Guilty, or No Contest?

  • If your child admits to the charges, he pleads Guilty.
  • If your child does not admit to the charges, he pleads Not Guilty.
  • If your child believes that the State Attorney can prove the charges against him "beyond a reasonable doubt" but does not admit to the charges, he pleads No Contest.

Guilty and No Contest pleas have the same legal effects. The judge will question your child to make sure he understands his plea and your child will sign forms waiving his rights. As the parent, the judge will ask you if you believe your child understands his plea and his rights.

What Happens if My Child Pleads Guilty or No Contest?

Some cases are disposed of or sentenced at the time of the Guilty or No Contest plea. In other cases, you and your child meet with a Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) representative to discuss potential dispositions and then again in court for the official disposition. This usually happens within 30 days of entering a plea.

What Happens if My Child Pleads Not Guilty?

If your child pleads Not Guilty, the case moves towards a trial.

Through the process of Discovery, your attorney asks the State Attorney to reveal all evidence against your child, and your attorney reveals his evidence as well. This allows your attorney to build the strongest case in your child's defense.

If your child's case is sent to a diversion program rather than an adjudicatory hearing, you will receive notice by mail. This will include information about which diversion program your child will enter and where to register. Participation is voluntary, and if your child successfully completes the program, the State Attorney takes no further action on the case. If your child chooses not to participate or does not complete the program, the State Attorney moves forward with court action.


In Florida, juveniles do not have jury trials. Instead, they have adjudicatory hearings in front of juvenile court judges. The judge makes the final decision.

What is the Dress Code for Court?

Your child must dress appropriately for court. The Bailiff may remove them if he is not dressed correctly. General dress code guidelines are:

  • Tops that cover the shoulders and the abdomen
  • Bottoms that fit at the waist and are at or below the knee
  • Securely fastened footwear
  • Minimal jewelry
  • Tattoos covered
  • No hats or other items worn on the head, such as sunglasses or a comb
  • No obscene, sexually suggestive, or transparent clothing
  • No oversized or trench coats, and
  • No gang-related apparel of any type.

What Happens if the Judge Finds My Child Not Guilty?

If the judge finds your child not guilty, the case ends.

What Happens if the Judge Finds My Child Guilty?

To find your child guilty, the judge must believe that your child committed the crime "beyond a reasonable doubt." The judge has three options if he finds your child guilty:

  • Withhold Adjudication: The judge finds that your child committed a delinquent act, but withholds adjudication of delinquency. Your child is placed on probation. Once he completes probation, he is no longer adjudicated, as if he did not commit the crime in the first place. Your child may be on probation until his 19th birthday, but the court may terminate probation early.
  • Adjudicate delinquent and place your child on probation. This remains on your child's criminal record after he completes probation. The length of probation is for the statutory maximum for the charge.
  • Adjudicate delinquent and place your child in the custody of DJJ.


If your child is found guilty, the judge will sentence him. Because the State of Florida's goal is to rehabilitate rather than punish juvenile offenders, most are sentenced to probation. The judge will set conditions for probation based on the details of the crime. Some options include:

  • Attending school full-time
  • Avoiding specific people who are a "bad influence" as determined by the judge
  • Following a curfew with hours set by the judge
  • Participating in random drug testing
  • Actively participating in counseling
  • Partaking in community service, and/or
  • Paying restitution.

What is the Pre-Disposition Report?

The DJJ uses a Pre-Disposition Report (PDR) -- also commonly referred to as "PDR to Staffing" -- to find the treatment plan that best meets your child's needs. This considers your child's criminal history, family history, and community activities. The goal is to create the least-restrictive treatment plan that both meets your child's rehabilitation needs and protects the public's safety.

Will My Child Have to Pay Restitution?

If your child is ordered to pay restitution and an amount and payment schedule are not agreed upon, the court will hold a Restitution Hearing. The only issues discussed at this hearing are the amount and the payment schedule because the judge has already determined your child's duty to pay.

Aggressive Legal Representation

Jacob Noble provides his clients with aggressive representation to protect their rights and their freedom. He will guide you and your child through the juvenile legal process, building the strongest defense on your child's behalf. If your child has been charged with a crime in Palm Beach County, Florida, contact Noble Law today at (561) 847-7095.

Aggressive. Prepared. Tenacious.

These invaluable qualities are what distinguishes Jacob Noble from his peers, and what leaves many of his clients feeling satisfied with their case results. For more information about how he can help you, don't hesitate to contact Noble Law today at (561) 847-7095.