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State looking to expand diversion program for juveniles

The Florida state legislature is considering two different ideas that could potentially help keep juveniles who make mistakes from getting into legal trouble. Both of the bills would help minors who commit their first misdemeanor crime by getting them into diversion programs.

One of the bills, which is going through the Senate, would require law enforcement officers to issue citations to youths who are taken into custody after they commit a first misdemeanor crime. The second bill, a House bill, would automatically expunge a minor's record once they complete the diversion program. While it has been agreed upon that expanding the citation programs will help youths in the long run, determining how to change the programs is where the disagreements come into play.

Some noted that the programs were inconstant between counties, meaning that some youths were getting second chances while others were not. Others agree that the civil citation and diversion programs do help, but they disagree with forcing certain mandates on law enforcement officers. As such, one of the bills would allow officers to make decisions on whether or not a civil citation is issued.

Minors who are found guilty on juvenile charges can potentially face consequences that could affect them for the rest of their lives. If the youth was accused of committing a misdemeanor, a criminal law attorney may determine what options the minor has. In some cases, the minor may be eligible to go through teen court or a diversion program. If the defendant is not eligible, the attorney may challenge the charges by arguing that there is no evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that the youth committed the crime.

Source: The Ledger, "Helping kids who make mistakes: Florida considering 2 ideas", Brendan Farrington, The Associated Press, April 3, 2017

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