Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Civil Citations for Juveniles; NO VOTE City Council Takes More Time on Issue after State Attorney Raises Objections to Resolution

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Civil Citations for Juveniles; NO VOTE City Council Takes More Time on Issue after State Attorney Raises Objections to Resolution

Article excerpt

Byline: Larry Hannan

Jacksonville City Council decided not to vote on a resolution calling for more civil citations to be issued for juveniles after it drew objections from State Attorney Angela Corey.

The resolution, which was pushed by Public Defender Matt Shirk, said that in Duval County last year, citations were given to 31 percent of juvenile defendants who were eligible for them under state law. The resolution also points out 19 other counties with higher percentages of citations.

Corey said those statistics were wrong because they don't count other diversionary programs her office has for juvenile offenders. By a 10-7 vote the council agreed to send it back to committees and get more feedback from Corey before it returned to the full council for a vote.

"I don't see how we're possibly prepared to vote on this," said Councilman Robin Lumb, while adding that the City Council was "uniquely unqualified" to understand this issue.

But Councilman John Crescimbeni said he favored going forward.

If a civil citation is issued, Corey's office still has the option of going forward with criminal prosecution later, so there's no need to delay the vote, he said.

Corey said her office often diverts youths after they are arrested and those youths never end up facing a judge, but the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice doesn't count those statistics because they only count people who've never been arrested.

But when she diverts youths after an arrest, the record of the arrest is sealed so no one can see it except for law enforcement, Corey said.

"There is a lot of misinformation on this topic," she said. "We are not against civil citations."

Kids have been diverted from criminal prosecution for years, and will continue to be diverted when the situation is appropriate, but civil citations are just one way to divert youths so they don't face criminal prosecutions, Corey said.

According to statistics from the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, 26 percent of eligible youths in the 4th Judicial Circuit were served with civil citations from March 2013 to February. The circuit is made up of Duval, Nassau and Clay counties. Statewide, 34 percent of eligible youths were served with civil citations during the same time period. In Miami-Dade County, 86 percent received civil citations.

Corey wasn't sure if her office could provide figures on how many eligible youths were diverted, saying it depended on how you defined eligibility.

Citations are viewed by many people as a way to address criminal issues involving young people and spare them a criminal record while saving money by not incarcerating them.

Corey has repeatedly said she is opposed to issuing civil citations before an arrest for misdemeanor battery and refused to sign a memorandum of understanding in 2012 with other public officials for the civil citation program because of that opposition.

But on Tuesday Corey said her office sometimes diverts juveniles arrested for misdemeanor criminal battery into programs that don't lead to criminal prosecution, but wouldn't allow that to happen before an arrest. …

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