Senate Committee Approves Restrictions On When Kids Can Be Charged As Adults
By Lynn Hatter

The Florida Senate’s Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Committee has cleared a number of bills related to juvenile justice reform. One proposal changes how and when juveniles can be charged as adults.

Senate bill 314 put caps on the number of so-called “direct file” cases prosecutors can send to adult court. Judges could still determine other cases where a child is tried as an adult. Prosecutors argue the move takes away a major crime deterrent, but supporters of change like First Judicial Circuit Judge Terry Ketchel says the move could lead to a drop in recidivism:

“Non-violent cases, the data shows, is that there is greater recidivism and more violent cases when these non-violent cases are dealt with in adult courts. And therefore, we’d urge that the discretion lies in the juvenile courts.”

Ketchel serves on a Florida Supreme Court Steering Committee, and believes decisions on whether to charge kids as adults should be handled in juvenile and family courts.

Juvenile Justice reform is a priority of the committee Chairman, Joe Negron. He’ll be the next Senate President and has argued against what he calls criminalizing childhood.