Legislation decriminalizes many non-violent, first time offenses committed by adolescents
The Florida Senate today passed House Bill 301, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Anitere Flores (R-Miami, Monroe). The legislation reforms requirements regarding the issuance of civil citations for certain non-violent youthful offenses.
“Almost daily, we see local, state, and even national news stories, where law enforcement officers are brought in to referee the day-to-day challenges that come with raising children,” said Senate President Joe Negron (R-Stuart), who has made juvenile justice reform a priority of his two-year term as Senate President. “We should not, and we will not tolerate serious wrongdoing by young people, but at the same time, we should not stigmatize non-violent, first-time youth offenders with a criminal record that could impact their ability to further their education, join our military, or earn credentials for many other important jobs.”
House Bill 301 requires law enforcement officers to issue a civil citation, or require the juvenile’s participation in a diversion program, when the juvenile admits to committing certain first-time misdemeanor offenses including: possession of alcoholic beverages, criminal mischief, trespass, and disorderly conduct, among others.
“There is a difference between the lack of judgement and maturity, and deliberate criminal behavior. When young people commit serious, violent crimes, there needs to be an appropriate legal penalty to ensure public safety. However, for many non-violent, first-time offenders, a civil citation is a better mechanism to help a young person learn from his or her mistakes without a criminal record that could haunt them throughout their adult life,” said President Pro Tempore Flores.
Under House Bill 301, for offenses where law enforcement officers have the discretion to issue a civil citation, but instead arrest the juvenile, they must provide written documentation articulating why an arrest was chosen over a civil citation. The legislation also specifies the option of the issuance of a civil citation or referral to a similar diversion program, does not apply to a juvenile who is alleged to have committed, has plead guilty to, or has been convicted of a felony, or a misdemeanor offense arising out of an episode in which the juvenile is also alleged to have committed a felony.