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Bill Would Require Civil Citations Over Arrests for First-time Juvenile Offenders

Photo: PBS via WGCU

If a juvenile’s first offense is a minor crime in Florida, officers don’t have to make an arrest. They have the option of handing out what’s known as a civil citation, an alternative to arrest that doesn’t mar their record.

In Florida, individual police officers of sheriff’s deputies decided whether or not they make an arrest or issue a civil citation. In 2016 roughly half of juvenile arrests resulted in civil citations in Florida, according to the Department of Juvenile Justice. Now a bill going before lawmakers in Tallahassee would require officers and deputies to issue civil citations first first-time juvenile offenders of misdemeanor crimes, and it would encourage other “diversion programs” for “nonserious delinquent” behavior.

Leading the charge for civil citations in Southwest Florida is Lee Interfaith For Empowerment, or LIFE, a mutli-congregational community outreach effort focused on community engagement and improvement.

Friday at 1 p.m. on Gulf Coast Live, Reverend Rusty May with LIFE joins program to talk about how they’ve tried to increase civil citations locally and benefits of civil citations for helping youth avoid arrest, and how he’s working on local efforts to increase civil citation alternatives.

Also joining the program is William Oberdick, who has brought LIFE’s emphasize on civil citations to Tallahassee in support of Senate Bill 196 and House Bill 205.

Dr. Sandra Pavelka, director with FGCU’s Institute for Youth and Justice Studies, also joins the show to discuss the impact of arrests on juveniles and the benefits of civil citations, and explore what the bills would change about the state’s civil citation implementation. 

Matthew Smith is a reporter and producer of WGCU’s Gulf Coast Live.
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