State Rep. Larry Ahern filed a bill Tuesday that would require the creation of civil citations or similar diversion programs for juveniles.
“We cannot continue to arrest more than 10,000 nonviolent juvenile offenders who do not have a full understanding of the consequences of their actions,” the Seminole Republican said. “We should look at this as a teachable moment and allow them the opportunity to correct their behavior.”
The bill is a companion to a Senate bill filed by Republican Sen. Anitere Flores of Miami. Flores’ bill has been referred to the criminal justice; appropriations subcommittee on criminal and civil justice; appropriations.
Ahern’s proposal is directed at juveniles who commit “nonserious delinquent acts.” Among other things, the bill would require all counties to create a civil citation program for juveniles who commit minor offenses.
The bill lists 11 misdemeanor offenses that would qualify a youth offender to be cited or sent to a similar diversion program. Among them: possession of alcoholic beverages, disorderly conduct and criminal mischief.
If a police officer decides to arrest a first-time offender who has committed one of those acts, he must provide a written reason for not issuing the citation. The bill also offers law enforcement officers the authority to decide whether to issue a civil citation for repeat offenders.