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

Florida criminal law makes a number of important distinctions between juveniles and adults when it comes to being charged with and convicted of a crime. One difference involves probation, a type of punishment that the court imposes on a defendant in lieu of incarceration and other penalties. In T.L.H. v. State, Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal explains a major difference in determining whether a juvenile has violated probation.

TLH, a minor child, was placed on juvenile probation for six months after being convicted of a crime in 2010. The probation period was set to expire January 20, 2011. Less than a month before the expiration date, TLH was arrested in Pinellas County and charged with grand theft. The arresting officer also charged TLH with violating his probation. TLH was placed in a detention center.

In a February hearing, TLH’s attorney argued that the probation violation charge should be dismissed because, by the time of the hearing, TLH’s probation had expired. The trial court sided with the State, however, which argued that the probationary period was tolled when the officer filed the probation violation charge. TLH then admitted to the probation violation and was given another six months of probation.

On appeal, the Second District ruled that neither the arrest, detention, nor filing of the charge tolled the probationary period. Unlike in criminal proceedings concerning adults, “there is no provision in either the statutes or the Florida Rules of Juvenile Procedure that allows for a tolling of the probationary time period,” the court noted, citing the Fifth District’s 2011 decision in K.L.T. v. State.

Thus, the officer’s filing of the probation violation charge was not sufficient to toll the probation period. Rather, the Department of Juvenile Justice or the State Attorney’s office is required to bring the child before a court on probation violation charges prior to expiration of the probationary period, the court concluded. That process begins with the filing of a petition alleging violation of juvenile probation. The petition must include an affidavit from someone with knowledge of the alleged violation and must be “signed and filed by legal counsel.”

“Both the DJJ and the State had over thirty days in which to file a petition, attach the complaint filed by the deputy sheriff, and have it served on the child (whose location was known), before the expiration of his probation.” Instead, the state waited until the hearing on TLH’s grand theft charge to prosecute the probation violation charge. Because TLH’s probation had expired by this time, the court ruled that the trial court should have dismissed the charge.

If you are under the age of 18 and have been charged with a crime in Florida, you should consult the advice of an attorney as soon as possible. An experienced attorney can assess your particular situation, prepare legal defenses that can get your sentence reduced or dismissed, and help you achieve the best outcome possible. The South Florida criminal defense attorneys at Anidjar & Levine are thoroughly knowledgeable about Florida juvenile justice law and are committed to providing you with the highest quality representation.

Related blog posts:

Florida Court Reverses Drug Convictions for Lack of Reasonable Suspicion – Smith v. State

Florida Court: No New Charges After “Speedy Trial” Period Expires – Whitehall v. State

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

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