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Juvenile justice advocates seek solutions to make citation rates consistent

Efforts to make citations mandatory failed in Legislature this year

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TALLAHASSEE, Fala. – Some juveniles who get in trouble with the law this weekend will be issued civil citations, and others will go to jail. Efforts to make the citations mandatory failed in the state Legislature this year.

Juvenile justice advocates are looking into new solutions to make citation rates more consistent throughout the state.

Florida's counties are all over the board when it comes to issuing civil citations to minors. A study by the Department of Juvenile Justice found rates as high as 93 percent in some counties officers in others issued no civil citations.

Legislation introduced during the 2017 session would have made it mandatory for officers in the state to issue civil citations to minors for their first offense. The bill died because law enforcement said it would take away officer discretion.

"Essentially we would have had folks up in Tallahassee telling an officer in Fort Lauderdale how to assess the scene he or she was in," said Sandi Poreda, of the Florida Police Chief's Association.

Standardizing civil citations across the state was the Children's Campaign's top priority. The campaign said when kids get arrested, it can seriously impact their futures.

"You have to ask the question: how many children aren't able to get summer jobs because they have an arrest record? And then we look at the arrest record and it's for a misdemeanor," said Roy Miller, of the Children's Campaign.

The organization is looking for a way to raise citation rates that both advocates and law enforcement can get behind.

Officials with the Children's Campaign believe they may have better luck raising citation rates by creating incentives for officers who write them.

The campaign wants officers to be required to justify, in writing, why they chose to arrest a minor over issuing a citation. Advocates with Florida Smart Justice Alliance say the proposal has potential.

"If it's extra paperwork for them, maybe they're going to think twice and they'll say, 'Hey, let's go ahead and divert this juvenile instead,'" said Barney T. Bishop III, of the Florida Smart Justice Alliance.

Police said if people want change, it should come from local residents, not the state.

According to the Department of Juvenile Justice’s study, Pinellis County led the state with a civil citation rate of 93 percent. Ten of Florida’s counties reported zero citations between 2015 and 2016.

Click here for statistics on your county's civil citation rates for 2015-2016.