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State increases use of civil citations

Study author: Citations could save state millions of dollars

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The state of Florida is allowing civil citations to be issued three times before a suspect is arrested, starting in October.

Since 2013, Florida has offered civil citations for non-serious delinquent acts, but only to first-time offenders.

If a teenager admits to his or her wrongdoing, then a police officer can give a citation, keeping the crime off the record.

According to the author of a civil citation study, citations can save millions of dollars.

"The cost saving of $1,467 to $4,614 per civil citation issued," said Dewey Caruthers.

DOCUMENT: Report on state use of civil citations

Caruthers said he discovered through his study that civil citations are under-utilized. Only 38 percent of people eligible are given a citation, while 62 percent have an arrest record.

Florida Children's Campaign representative Roy Miller said that the offenders are not receiving equal protection under state law.

"You have a child who commits an offense in one county and receives a civil citation and maybe their cousin commits the exact same offense in the county next door and they receive an arrest with all the complications to the kid's future," said Miller.

Caruthers study shows that increasing civil citations by 25 percent can result in saving at least $20 million and at most $60 million statewide.

Children who initially receive a civil citation repeat the offense about 4 percent of the time, according to the study. Based on records, a third of those children go to a traditional juvenile program.

The percentage of children who repeat the offense increases from 4 percent to 10 percent when the children live in a juvenile facility.

Advocates for children say that the best way to promote and increase civil citations is by training police officers better. The advocates are asking lawmakers for $2 million for training for next year.