Advocates looking for new solutions to make juvenile civil citations consistent

Published: Jun. 16, 2017 at 5:52 PM EDT
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By: Jake Stofan | Capitol News Service

June 16, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Some Juveniles who get in trouble with the law this weekend will be issued civil citations while others will be sent to jail.

Efforts to make the citations mandatory failed in the Florida Legislature this year.

Juvenile Justice advocates are looking in to new solutions to make citation rates more consistent throughout the state.

Florida's counties are all over the board when it comes to issuing civil citations to minors. A study by the Department of Juvenile Justice found rates as high as 93% in some counties officers in others issued no civil citations.

Legislation introduced during the 2017 session would have made it mandatory for officers in the state to issue civil citations to minors for their first offense. The bill died because law enforcement said it would take away officer discretion.

"Essentially, we would have had folks in Tallahassee telling an officer in Fort Lauderdale how to assess the scene he or she was in," Sandi Poreda of the Florida Police Chief's Association explained.

Standardizing civil citations across the state was the Children's Campaign's top priority.

The Campaign says when kids get arrested it can seriously impact their futures.

"And you have to ask the question, how many children aren't able to get summer jobs because they have an arrest record?" asks Roy Miller of the Children's Campaign. "And then we look at the arrest record and it's for a misdemeanor."

The organization is looking for a way to raise citation rates in way both advocates and law enforcement can get behind.

Officials with The Children's Campaign believe they may have better luck raising citation rates by creating incentives for officers who write them.

The Campaign also wants officers to be required to justify, in writing, why they chose to arrest a minor over issuing a citation. Advocates with Florida Smart Justice Alliance, like Barney T. Bishop III, say the proposal has potential.

"If it's extra paperwork for them, maybe they're going to think twice and they'll say hey lets go ahead and divert this juvenile instead," explained Bishop.

Police say if people want change, it should come from local residents, not the state.