Florida DJJ Changes Sanction Recommendation to Stricter Punishment against Teenagers Accused of Beating a 13-year-old on a School Bus

Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Wansley Walters has personally revised her agency’s recommendations about sanctions for the teenagers accused of beating a 13-year-old on a school bus in Gulfport. She is now advocating a tougher form of probation. The department previously had recommended giving two of the three 15-year-olds nine months of a program known as court-supervised probation. Prosecutors had recommended they get at least a stricter form of probation known as DJJ-supervised probation; upon further consideration, the DJJ determined that the highly violent nature of the incident warrants highly structured probation under DJJ supervision, as the state attorney’s office recommended.

Despite a decline in juvenile offending over the past decade, the population of youth confined in pre-trial secure detention has steadily grown. On an average day, more than 27,000 youth are estimated to reside in locked detention centers — a number that has grown 72 percent since the early 1990s. Further, many jurisdictions continue to rely on incarceration for youth in spite of research demonstrating that juvenile detention has critical, long-lasting consequences for court-involved juveniles.tbd_schoolbusbeating081413_11307110_8col.jpg

In many cases, if a juvenile is given an alternative sentence, it is in the form of treatment or punishment in the community rather than incarceration. There are a few exceptions, many times allowing for the court to combine different forms of treatment and punishment. Sometimes, this blending of the sentences of a juvenile offender who has committed a serious crime may end in the offender receiving a sentence that combines both a juvenile sentence and an adult sentence.

The State would wish that all juvenile offenders, regardless of the seriousness of their offenses, leave the system understanding that actions have consequences and that they are responsible for their own actions. No prison sentence can achieve this result for every offender, but mediation, restitution, and rehabilitation programs are some much more beneficial ways to encourage offenders to take personal responsibility for the harm inflicted by their acts.

School-based probation is a supervision model in which the juvenile probation officer works directly in the school rather than the traditional courthouse environment. This model allows the probation officer to contact clients more frequently, observe client interactions with peers and behavior in a social setting, and actively enforce conditions of probation such as school attendance.

One police department in Illinois has begun passing out green 3-by-5 cards to parents of youths suspected of being involved in crimes. The cards give notice of a time and date for an appointment for the youth and at least one parent or guardian to meet with a juvenile officer. The card also advises parents why the meeting is important, stating, “It may be possible for an Urbana Police Department Juvenile Officer to work with your child and discuss alternative options to the criminal justice system”.

Even if a juvenile has been arrested, the process of going through the court system can be stopped. If one obtains an experienced attorney, one’s attorney can work with the juvenile, the parents, and the prosecutor to see if staying out of the system, clean of a charge, is possible.
In Florida, some juvenile offenders are able to take advantage of one form of alternative punishment, called Pre-trial Intervention (PTI). Pre-trial intervention is a diversionary program administered by the State of Florida through the Department of Corrections (DOC). Eligible individuals who enter into a PTI agreement will be required to participate in a supervised program similar to probation, except at the end of the intervention term, if all conditions are successfully completed, the charge will be dismissed.

The key to obtaining a favorable outcome when young children and juveniles face criminal charges is thorough investigation of the circumstance of the offense. Through proper investigation, one’s experienced juvenile crimes defense attorney can determine if the prosecution has satisfactory evidence to establish guilt, and if so, will be able to help the juvenile fashion a sentence which satisfies the requirement for punishment, but is beneficial to the juvenile’s rehabilitation.


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: Tougher probation recommended for teens accused in Gulfport school bus beating, The Tampa Bay Times