Increase Pre-Arrest Diversions in Your Community.
Because circuits have so much discretion in designing their pre-arrest diversion program, local voices are well-suited to understand the unique challenges facing their communities and advocate for better practices. Local advocates can persuade local policy makers to expand eligibility and improve processes to increase utilization. Other counties’ practices can be consulted to identify solutions to common barriers. Local advocates can also educate the community, including youth and their families, about the local civil citation process and benefits.
Common Barriers and Potential Solutions
Issue: Local policy restricts eligibility.
The biggest barrier to local usage is policies restricting eligibility - law enforcement has no discretion to issue a civil citation. These are all local restrictions; Florida law does not restrict eligibility for pre-arrest diversion.
Solution: Public advocacy campaign to broaden the offenses eligible for civil citation. Look at what happens to the youth who are arrested for the locally ineligible offense – what percentage of cases are dropped or result in the same diversion program the youth would have participated in had he or she received the civil citation? In many cases, philosophical reasons are stifling usage with counterproductive, costly results for both youth and their communities.
Issue: Youth or their families are not consenting to the civil citation
Under the previous law, youth had to admit the offense(s) they faced to qualify for a civil citation. Often, the arresting officer is charged with getting this admission and the youth had to admit without access to legal counsel. Once arrested, a youth cannot receive the civil citation.
- Public advocacy campaign to remove admission requirement, or at least shift the requirement to the diversion program and give youth access to the public defender's office.
- Public education campaign to help youth and their families understand the civil citation program, so they are better prepared to decide whether to participate.
We know that people do not make their best decisions while under stress; this is especially so for teens because of their developmental stage. Delaying this decision allows them time to cool off, deliberate and seek counsel from trusted mentors and attorneys.
Issue: There is a blanket prohibition against civil citations for domestic violence.
In some counties, civil citations are not available for any offense involving domestic violence. For youth, this means they have assaulted or physically injured a family member or someone living in their home. Often this sort of behavior is a symptom of broader unmet needs in the home. Unfortunately, of youth arrested for domestic violence, more than a third see their cases dropped – meaning they do not receive any sanctions or services.
Solution: Public advocacy campaign to authorize civil citations for domestic violence offenses.
The biggest barrier when youth get into physical altercations at home is providing time and space to calm down. An arrest can do this - but doesn't address the underlying issues and further burdens the youth and family. Many counties take another approach - the youth is taken to the Juvenile Assessment Center or respite care, often a shelter, without an arrest. This respite care is also used for youth arrested for domestic violence offenses - the only difference is the arrest record and court process. Youth who receive a civil citation in these cases will undergo assessments to determine any unmet needs and can receive the interventions they need.
Potential Legislative Action
The Florida Legislature has considered bills in recent years to mandate civil citations for first-time juvenile offenders. Share your ideas and concerns with your legislator.