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Innovative Measure Approved for First-Time, Non-Violent Offenders

Civil Citation Program Expected to Save Millions, Ease Burden on Criminal Justice System

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Tallahassee -- Juvenile justice leaders are praising Monday's passage of legislation in the Florida Senate that gives communities a vital tool to deal with non-violent youth: civil citation.

The use of civil citations statewide is expected to save millions of dollars that would otherwise be spent if youth were arrested and burdened with a criminal record. For many, this begins an odyssey through the criminal justice system that rarely offers a second chance at a better life.

"This legislation puts Florida at the forefront of juvenile justice policy innovation and makes us a role model for other states to follow," said Gov. Rick Scott, whose administration proposed the initiative. "I wish to thank Senator Ronda Storms and Representative Ray Pilon for their leadership as sponsors of this legislation."

Under the legislation, a law enforcement officer may issue a civil citation to a youthful offender suspected of a first-time misdemeanor. The youth must admit to the offense, perform community service and participate in intervention services, if required.

"The Senate's approval of statewide civil citation is a bold step in the right direction toward community-based approaches to help non-violent youth turn their lives around and become productive, law-abiding members of society," said Florida Juvenile Justice Secretary Wansley Walters. "The civil citation is at the center of Gov. Scott's strategy to strengthen community-based intervention of youthful offenders while holding them accountable for their actions."

Specifically, CS/HB 997 directs that:

  • The Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) will encourage and assist in the implementation and improvement of civil citation programs around the state.
  • The entity that operates a civil citation or similar program shall be selected upon consultation and agreement by the state attorney and local law enforcement.
  • Under a civil citation or similar diversion program, any law enforcement officer may issue a civil citation.
  • Stipulates that intervention services will be provided based on an assessment of the needs of the youth.
  • Limits civil citations to first-time misdemeanor offenders.
  • Requires that the operating agency report the outcome of the civil citation or similar diversion program to DJJ; ensures that the issuance of a civil citation is not considered a referral to DJJ.
  • Provides that DJJ establish guidelines for the program that include intervention services and which are based on successful civil citation programs in the state.
  • If a youth does not comply with civil citation requirements, the juvenile probation officer will process the original delinquent act as a referral to DJJ and report to the state attorney that the child has committed a delinquent act.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Florida's Civil Citation program

 

1) What is civil citation and what are its advantages?

Civil citation is a process to channel youth who commit first time misdemeanors into intervention services at the early stage of delinquency and help them avoid further involvement with the criminal justice system. Research has shown that youth who have been detained in juvenile justice facilities are more likely to end up deeper in the system and are at risk to re-offend.

Advantages of civil citation include:

  • Enhancing public safety by encouraging youth to stay out of trouble. Civil citation identifies and assesses the behavioral needs of youth after their first misdemeanor encounter with law enforcement and helps them to change conduct that leads to delinquency. It also avoids significant costs to the state and local governments by decreasing the likelihood that youth will reoffend. As with any diversion effort, if a youth fails to complete civil citation requirements, the incident is processed as a referral to the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ).
  • Requiring youth to participate in intervention services based on a needs assessment. Civil citation may also include other obligations such as performing community service, providing restitution, participating in school progress monitoring or prevocational services and writing letters of apology to the victim(s).
  • Allowing youth to avoid a criminal record which can hinder eligibility for employment, scholarships and other opportunities. Civil citation allows juveniles the opportunity to fulfill their debt to society without limiting future growth and success.
  • Saving taxpayers money. A November 2010 report by Associated Industries of Florida said implementing civil citation statewide would save $157.8 million. According to the report, civil citation "is one of the best examples of a highly effective program as well as a significant and smart return on investment." Read the full report here.

2) Doesn’t Florida already have a law authorizing a civil citation program? If so, how does the legislation passed this year (CS/HB 997) differ from what already exists?

Current law (s. 985.12, Florida Statutes) authorizes local governments to establish civil citation programs. CS/HB 997, passed in the 2011 legislative session, requires such programs in every community. Statewide implementation will offer all first-time misdemeanant youth an equitable opportunity to participate in civil citation, an opportunity with limited availability in the past. This bill directs DJJ to develop guidelines for civil citation which include intervention services based on proven diversion programs. Also effective July 1, only youth who commit first time misdemeanors will be eligible for civil citation. Participants will be offered services as determined by an assessment of needs. The entity selected to operate civil citation must report the outcome to DJJ for tracking and analysis of results and trends. In many communities, this entity will be the Juvenile Assessment Center or, in small communities, the juvenile probation officer.

3) What counties in Florida already implement a civil citation program? How will they be affected by CS/HB 997?

As of March 2011, civil citation was operational in the following counties: Alachua, Brevard, Broward, Charlotte, Clay, Collier, Duval, Hillsborough, Lee, Leon, Marion, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Nassau, Orange, Pinellas, St. Johns and St. Lucie. Unless these programs already do so, under CS/HB 997 they must limit civil citation to first time misdemeanants, report outcomes to DJJ and provide services based on a needs assessment.

4) What exactly does civil citation require a youth to do?

CS/HB 997 provides that a youth can be required to perform up to 50 hours of community service and must participate in intervention services based on an assessment of the youth’s needs, which may include family counseling, drug screening, substance abuse treatment, and/or mental health treatment. Additional sanctions or services considered at the local level could include a letter of apology to the victim(s), restitution, school progress monitoring or prevocational skill services. Youth who do not complete their civil citation requirements will be referred to DJJ.

5) Which offenses are eligible for civil citation?

First time misdemeanor offenders only are eligible for civil citation with these exceptions:

These misdemeanor offenses will not be accepted into civil citation:

  • Any misdemeanor that involves the possession or use of a firearm.
  • Any misdemeanor that involves exposure of sexual organs or other sexual related behavior, i.e., prostitution, lewd and lascivious behavior.
  • Any misdemeanor that is directly related to, or a part of, gang activity.

These misdemeanor offenses are eligible with the approval of the victim, family and state attorney:

  • Battery
  • Assault
  • Non-firearm weapon possessions cases
  • Animal cruelty

6) What agency or agencies are responsible for implementing the program? What is DJJ’s role?

Civil citation will be implemented through coordination and agreement between the state attorney and local law enforcement agencies and with the concurrence of the chief circuit judge and the public defender. The agency that operates the civil citation program may be law enforcement, DJJ, a juvenile assessment center, the county or municipality or an entity selected by them. The agency anticipates that civil citation will be operated in many communities by the Juvenile Assessment Center or, in small communities, by the juvenile probation officer. In addition, DJJ will help improve and implement programs, collect and analyze data and develop guidelines for implementation.

7) How does a local government set up a civil citation program?

DJJ will soon release guidelines to assist local governments develop civil citation programs.

8) Is there a fiscal impact to the civil citation program? Will it cost the state or local governments to implement it?

According to the legislative staff analysis of CS/HB 997: "Civil citation and diversion programs are designed to prevent youth from formally entering the juvenile justice system. By requiring that civil citation or similar diversion programs be established at the local level, it is possible for the bill to have a positive fiscal impact on DJJ and the courts. Because civil citation and other diversion programs are designed to prevent youth from formally entering into the juvenile justice system, cost savings could occur throughout several entities within DJJ. However, the precise impact of the bill will depend on the utilization of the civil citation or similar diversion programs and the success rate of the programs. The bill requires DJJ to develop guidelines for the civil citation program. DJJ’s analysis states the cost of the requirements in this bill are cost neutral and can be accomplished within existing funds."

9) Are local governments required to have a civil citation program even though they have other diversionary program(s)?

The law specifies that local governments must have a "civil citation or other similar program." Civil citation will not take the place of or eliminate other types of similar diversion programs. As long as such programs meet the law’s requirements for civil citation, local governments will not be required to develop another program.

10) Are any statistics available on civil citation’s effectiveness in the counties or judicial circuits where it is currently offered?

Yes. Click on this link for the most recent statistical data on civil citation maintained by DJJ.

11) What is the role of the juvenile justice circuit board and county council?

The role of juvenile justice boards and councils, as well as other stakeholders, will be determined at the local level.

12) Who at DJJ can I contact for more information on starting a civil citation program locally?

DJJ’s civil citation reference model will be available shortly. DJJ local chief probation officers can provide local information and guidance.



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