Your age plays a significant role in what happens after your arrest. If you are in your late teens, you may face charges in juvenile or adult court, depending on the charges. These two court systems are very different, and understanding them can help you as you navigate your case in Florida.
PBS explains that juvenile court is for those under the age of 18, who are generally not adults under the law, and the adult court is for those over the age of 18. The two systems both use the same laws, but the way cases proceed through the court and the punishments for crimes are quite different.
Juvenile court system
The juvenile court system focuses on finding out the reason behind behavior and rehabilitation. You may not face harsh sentences with time behind bars. Instead, you may go through programs and probation to help you learn how to prevent criminal behavior in the future.
As for the court process, you will have a hearing, not a trial where you will not have the option of a jury. When the judge sentences you, he or she will customize it to your situation instead of following preset guidelines or mandatory regulations. Also, your records are private and not accessible by the public.
Adult court system
The adult system focuses more on punishment. While a court may look into your history, it will usually be only your criminal past. The goal is to protect society from you and to keep you from committing a criminal act again. Your records are open to the public.
You do have the right to a jury, and your court proceedings are a trial. The focus at a trial is on the legal facts, for the most part. Sentences usually follow guidelines. If your history plays into sentencing, it is usually only if you have prior charges.
These two systems do not create the same experience. One is about helping you to do better while the other is preventing you from doing wrong again.