Copyright (c) 2006 Whittier College
Whittier Journal of Child and Family Advocacy
ARTICLE: FUNDAMENTAL UNFAIRNESS OF THE DISCRETIONARY DIRECT FILE PROCESS IN FLORIDA: THE NEED FOR A RETURN TO JUVENILE COURT WAIVER HEARINGS
6 Whittier J. Child & Fam. Advoc. 13
Florida is among fifteen states that have instituted drastic punitive changes in the law permitting direct file of juvenile offenders with the criminal court at the unfettered discretion of the state attorney. 1 The transformation of transfer policy has been quick and dramatic. In the mid-nineties, forty-four states and the District of Columbia enacted statutes facilitating the transfer of juvenile offenders to adult criminal courts. 2
The United States Supreme Court's first significant recognition of a delinquent juvenile's right to some basic or fundamental due process protection occurred in Kent v. U.S. 3 In Kent, the Court held that juveniles are entitled to a hearing as a condition to a valid waiver order and removal from juvenile court to adult criminal court. 4 The Court also stated that a juvenile facing a jurisdictional waiver hearing has the right to have his counsel examine the social records upon which the juvenile court will base its decision. 5 Further, the Court noted that the juvenile court must conduct a full investigation and offer a statement explaining the specific reasons for the transfer, demonstrating that the investigation was thorough. 6 The Supreme Court in Kent recognized a child's right to have a hearing in the juvenile court. 7
The Florida legislature enacted a statute mandating direct file of the juveniles with the adult criminal court, 8 thus depriving children of their right to a hearing before a juvenile court judge. Although waiver hearings pursuant to Florida Statute §985.225 can be ...
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