Under Florida law, a juvenile who violates his or her probation is subject to punishment. But what happens when the person violates the probation more than once? The Florida Supreme Court recently took on this issue in J.M. v. Gargett.

J.M., a minor, was sentenced to juvenile probation in October 2010. Probation is a type of punishment that the court imposes on a defendant in lieu of incarceration and other penalties. The goal is to ensure that the person remains on good behavior and is not breaking the law.

J.M. was cited for violating the probation terms by missing curfew twice in the first three days of the probationary period. He also allegedly violated certain household rules during the same time. A month later, J.M. was found in contempt and sentenced to five days in a detention center for the first curfew violation to be followed by another 15 days in detention for the other curfew violation.

On the day that the sentence was handed down, J.M.’s lawyer filed a motion arguing that the sentencing violated Florida law. Section 985.037, Florida Statutes (2010) states that a delinquent child who is found in contempt may be sent to a detention facility for a period of time “not to exceed 5 days for a first offense and not to exceed 15 days for a second or subsequent offense.” Relying on the Fifth District Court of Appeal’s 2008 ruling in M.P. v. State, J.M. argued that the statute does not allow sentences to be imposed consecutively for more than one violation of the same probation order.

The Second District Court of Appeal denied the motion, ruling that consecutive sentencing was appropriate under the law. “[A] trial court may, in a single proceeding, adjudicate a defendant guilty of multiple instances of indirect criminal contempt and may thereafter impose consecutive sentences for each conviction,” the court ruled. The court acknowledged, however, that its decision conflicted with that in M.P. v. State, and thus certified the issue for review by the state Supreme Court.

After considering the conflicting decisions, the Supreme Court sided with the Second District, ruling that consecutive sentencing was appropriate pursuant to Section 985.037. “There is no ambiguity on the face of the statute,” the Court ruled, adding “trial courts are explicitly authorized to sentence a juvenile to up to five days in secure detention for a first act of contempt, and up to fifteen days in secure detention for each additional act of contempt.”

As this decision makes clear, a juvenile who violates his or her probation is subject to separate punishment – including time in a detention center – for each violation. A person under the age of 18 charged with a crime in Florida is well advised to seek the advice of an experienced juvenile criminal defense attorney immediately. Representing clients throughout the region, including in Hialeah, Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale, the South Florida criminal defense attorneys at Anidjar & Levine are knowledgeable about Florida juvenile law and are committed to providing you with high quality representation.

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Florida Court Reverses Probation Violation for Juvenile Criminal Defendant – T.L.H. v. State

Florida Court Reverses 80-Year Sentence for Juvenile Convicted of Armed Robbery with Pellet Gun- Floyd v. State

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