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Broward County aims to reduce teenager arrests

For too many kids, a juvenile arrest is the first step toward becoming a repeat offender and eventually encountering the adult criminal justice system. Now Broward County law enforcement agencies are taking concrete steps to reverse that trend. The County has initiated a civil citation system for juveniles that will eliminate arrests for a number of nonviolent misdemeanors.

The policy change was initially led by the Broward Sheriff's Office. Sheriff Scott Israel made the change a part of his campaign for election last year. The Sheriff's Office instituted the program in January, and all police departments in Broward County have adopted the program in their communities. The Broward State's Attorney is working with the law enforcement agencies to institute uniform procedures.

Under the program, a juvenile who commits certain misdemeanors-things like petty theft, curfew violations, underage drinking or simple possession of marijuana-will be issued a citation instead of being arrested. The youth will be put in a diversionary program and perform community service. Parents will go through counseling to get them involved in putting the young offender back on the right track. Because no arrest takes place, the juvenile can truthfully answer "no" when asked on a future college or job application if they have ever been arrested.

But not all juvenile crimes will fall under the new system. Violent crimes and felonies will still result in an arrest. In some cases, authorities will seek to have the case prosecuted in the adult system. For those youths, the first priority of defense counsel will be to keep the case in the juvenile law system, which is focused on rehabilitation, and out of adult court.

Source: Sun Sentinel, "Deputies cut back on teen arrests," Brittany Wallman, Sept. 22, 2013

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