Shannon Linn Abbott, a guard at the Milton Girls Juvenile Residential Facility, a juvenile prison in Northwest Florida, was charged by the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office with battery causing great bodily harm after she was caught on tape battering a teenage detainee. The tape shows the guard slamming a 15-year-old face-first against a concrete wall, then throwing her on the floor, face down, and sitting on top of her for several minutes. Although the encounter got Abbott arrested, she was not fired. The incident marks the third time in recent years that workers at a Florida juvenile justice lockup have been videotaped while abusing or neglecting a child in state custody.
When a law enforcement officer or guard uses excessive force or engages in police misconduct to make an arrest or control prisoners, those facts need to be investigated to properly defend the criminal case. Civil rights violations such as police misconduct, police brutality, excessive force, or wrongful arrest can force the prosecutor to drop the criminal charges against the accused who was the victim of police misconduct. This can be particularly important in Jacksonville juvenile cases. One will need to quickly obtain an attorney to preserve evidence of the police misconduct, including obtaining surveillance tapes and other physical evidence before it is lost or destroyed.
Juvenile cases can be complicated, especially when one’s child has been charged with a serious crime. At the point of arrest, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) will immediately evaluate the juvenile through a screening process. The screening process is performed to determine whether or not the minor is a potential risk to the public. If the Juvenile Assessment Center (JAC) determines that the juvenile is not a risk to the public’s safety, the juvenile will be released into the custody of their parent or guardian.
Many times, juveniles coming before the court will be placed on probation. Being put on probation in this particular situation means the child will be assigned a Juvenile Probation Officer (JPO) and required to fulfill a number of requirements. There are many types of requirements that a juvenile must successfully complete to finish probation, including:
– not changing residences without permission of the probation officer
– obeying a curfew, the hours of which will be set by the court
– performing community service work
– attending school full time with no unexcused absences or suspensions
– making restitution to victims for any property damage or personal injury
– The State suspending the child’s driver’s license privilege if the charge was a drug related charge
– obeying the lawful demands of the parent or guardian
– avoiding contact with certain people, including friends who may be considered bad influences
– participating in individual or family counseling
– submitting to random urinalysis to check for illegal drug or alcohol use
Probation is designed to allow children an opportunity to prove they are trustworthy again. If the juvenile does well, follow the rules, and stay out of trouble, they may qualify for early termination of their supervision. Children who have more law violations or who are unwilling to complete their probation sanctions may be subject to a Violation of Probation (VOP). This can result in additional sanctions or to commitment to a more intensive residential program supervised by DJJ.
When a juvenile fails to perform one or more conditions of probation, instead of filing a VOP, the probation officer may ask the court to issue an Order to Show Cause, seeking to find the juvenile in contempt of court. If found guilty of contempt of court, on a first offense the court may sentence the juvenile to a maximum of five days in secure detention; fifteen days for the second and any subsequent offenses. For any contempt, the court also has the option of commitment to a residential facility for up to six months. Secure detention is to be used only when there are no other reasonable alternative sanctions available that will be effective to correct the child’s behavior.
In cases like this involving law enforcement misconduct, law enforcement officers may attempt to cover up their crime by trumping up criminal charges against the victim of their abuse. Many times after a civil rights violation, the law enforcement officers will charge the victim of the police misconduct with obstructing justice or resisting arrest with or without violence.
When it comes to one’s child’s future, one needs an experienced Jacksonville juvenile crimes defense attorney who has represented children accused of a variety of crimes and is knowledgeable in juvenile delinquency laws. In these cases, parents of the child often shoulder the blame. As parents, the best thing one can do is hire an experienced attorney who can guide and support one through this difficult time. One’s child’s future is the highest priority and as such, the child’s defense should be just as high a priority.
The Forbess Law Firm has been aiding clients who face criminal charges in Jacksonville for years and are here to provide aggressive criminal defense to anyone accused of a crime. If you or a loved one require a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer, contact our firm today. We are available through our website or by calling us at 904-634-0900.
Additional Source:Video shows girl, 15, battered in Florida juvenile prison. Carol Marbin Miller, Miami Herald