Florida prosecutes more children for felonies in the adult criminal justice system than any other state. During 2017-18, more than 900 children were prosecuted as adults. Even with a recent decrease in the number of direct file cases, Florida disproportionately sends more children to the adult system than other states — even compared to states like California and Texas with larger populations. In 2016, Florida direct filed more youth than California, Texas, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Michigan combined. Since 2009, more than 16,000 children — some as young as 10 years old — have been prosecuted as adults in Florida. What’s more, Florida disproportionately transfers children of color to the adult criminal justice system.
Almost all of the children prosecuted as adults in Florida are transferred to the adult system at the sole discretion of prosecutors, without a judge’s input, through a process called “direct file.” There is no way for a child to appeal this decision.
What's the Solution?
• Let the judge, not the prosecutor, decide which court is more appropriate for the child. The judge would consider a number of factors such as the child's age and maturity, history of trauma, level of participation in the offense, and whether the child and community would be better served if the case were handled in the juvenile or adult system. In each case, the judge would be required to explain the court's decision in writing.