July 15, 2019 Feature

Juvenile Civil Citation: An Effective Innovation in Reducing Juvenile Crime and Recidivism

Laura Lothman Lambert with A Perspective from the Bench by The Honorable Arthur L. Burnett Sr.

Juvenile civil citation was enacted in Florida in 1990 as an arrest alternative for “nonserious” or misdemeanor crimes. The practice did not gain much traction in the state until 2011, when the Florida statute was amended to require statewide diversion in each of the judicial circuits. As late as 2016, however, the Fourth Judicial Circuit remained one of the lowest issuers of juvenile civil citation as an arrest alternative for misdemeanor crimes in the State of Florida. Not surprisingly, the juvenile arrest rate was also one of the highest. Yet, studies on civil citation supported its use for improved public safety outcomes and significant cost savings. In 2017, newly elected State Attorney Melissa Nelson convened 22 stakeholders, including multiple law enforcement agencies, the court system, and State Attorney’s Office, to enhance and expand the use of civil citation circuit-wide. As a result, the Fourth Circuit, which is made up three distinct counties and includes the city of Jacksonville, has become one of the highest issuers in the state, arrests are down, and the program has been highlighted as a model of collaborative best practice. (Fla. Dep’t Juv. Just., Civil Citation and Similar Diversion Program Best Practices Guide (2018). This article will give a brief overview of the concept of civil citation as an arrest alternative; discuss its statutory basis; detail the program from Florida’s Fourth Judicial Circuit, including several of its more unique aspects; and conclude with reflections from the bench.

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