TAMPA -- Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister is announcing an expansion of the Juvenile Arrest Avoidance Program, which has already diverted more than two thousand youngsters accused of misdemeanor offenses.
Chronister says that from now on, first-time juvenile misdemeanor cases will automatically go to a civil citation, with five exceptions: assault on a school employee or law enforcement officer, battery, DUI, racing, or defying an injunction.
"While we certainly do not condone misbehavior, I think we can all... understand that children do make mistakes. Our Juvenile Arrest Avoidance Program is their second chance to learn from that mistake."
Chronister says that in the majority of cases, juveniles do avoid further trouble and a criminal record. He describes the program as "highly successful."
Another change is that parental consent is required. Chronister says that in the past, some juveniles could not participate because their parents couldn't be reached or wouldn't commit to the program.
Chronister says deputies are now required to consult with supervisors about the JAAP program before arresting any child under the age of 12.
Public Defender Julianne Holt, 13th Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Ronald Ficcarotta, and State Attorney Andrew Warren joined Chronister at the news conference.
Photo: WFLA-TV News Channel 8