Sheriff Chad Chronister is proud to announce changes to the Juvenile Arrest Avoidance Program (JAAP), which is commonly referred to as the juvenile civil citation program.
To ensure that more juveniles who make a minor mistake are given the opportunity to avoid having an arrest record and can get necessary support services, enrollment in JAAP will now include all first-time misdemeanor offenses and be mandatory, absent certain extraordinary circumstances. In previous versions of this program, some misdemeanors were excluded from enrollment and citations were not mandatory. These recent changes will make clear the expectations of the community when assessing low-level juvenile offenders and help build consistency among law enforcement’s implementation of the program during on-scene encounters with youth.
As Sheriff Chad Chronister explained, “Juvenile justice requires us to balance the needs of a child and our unyielding commitment to public safety.” The successful use of any pre-arrest diversion program, including juvenile civil citations, requires law enforcement to weigh the needs of the offender and the needs of our community. Sheriff Chronister went on to note, “Our kids, our deputies, our police officers, and our community have made this program a success, so we are able to take these next steps.” He added, “A civil citation instead of an arrest represents a chance. It is our community saying to a child — Stop going down the bad-decision-making path, because we believe in you. We want you to make better choices. We will help you and hold you accountable.”
Sheriff Chronister said, “These are measured steps to expand this program, and we remain open to all ideas that will build a better juvenile justice system.”
Steering first-time misdemeanor juvenile offenders away from arrest records and juvenile detention facilities means better outcomes for youth and the community. Juvenile offenders present unique challenges for law enforcement and the criminal justice system. Law enforcement officers strive to make on-scene decisions that take all circumstances into account. Under these recent program changes, law enforcement officers will be required to utilize civil citations unless they have supervisor approval not to and there is an extraordinary circumstance such as a threat to the community or the safety and welfare of a crime victim.
All Hillsborough County law enforcement agencies have agreed to adopt Sheriff Chronister’s proposed changes, and we are now working with our criminal justice partners in the courthouse and the community to go through the formal process of signing this agreement.
“Sheriff Chronister’s leadership has resulted in the further expansion of our Juvenile Arrest Avoidance Program. While holding our youth accountable for the behavior and actions that could have led to their arrest for a first-time misdemeanor offense, this program also allows our youth to learn that appropriate behavior will enhance their future opportunities. By addressing the specific needs of the youth, we can enhance their life in a positive manner. The successful future of our youth certainly benefits our community and their family,” said the Honorable Julianne M. Holt, Public Defender for the 13th Judicial Circuit
“The changes to our existing JAAP program announced today by Sheriff Chronister vividly demonstrate that law enforcement, across our entire county, cares about our kids. It is my sincere hope that these changes will help to expand and improve upon the utilization and success of our previous JAAP programs,” said Chief Kenneth R. Albano, Temple Terrace Police Department.
Since 2017, Sheriff Chad Chronister and local law enforcement have led the way in criminal justice reform, working collectively with criminal justice stakeholders to make enhancements to the Juvenile Arrest Avoidance Program as a means to rehabilitate first-time misdemeanor juvenile offenders. Since its inception, the Sheriff has been actively involved with the program and has made adjustments to increase the effectiveness and opportunities for misdemeanor juvenile offenders.
The Juvenile Arrest Avoidance Program is designed for first-time misdemeanor juvenile offenders who have not previously been adjudicated delinquents, had an adjudication of delinquency withheld, participated in a pre-arrest or post-arrest juvenile diversion program, or otherwise been placed under physical arrest for a criminal offense. When the child is a first-time offender and the offense is a misdemeanor, the law enforcement officer will issue a civil citation. This citation requires the juvenile to complete a structured community diversion program that includes services that target specific risk factors that will benefit the child and their family. After the juvenile has completed the terms and conditions set forth by the JAAP, their misdemeanor criminal case is closed without any referral for prosecution. If a child does not successfully complete the program requirements, the case is referred to the State Attorney for criminal prosecution.
Based on the individual needs of the juvenile enrolled within JAAP, they may be required to perform community service hours, make restitution, author an apology letter, attend specialized classes, participate in counseling, write an essay, serve as a Teen Court jury member, have no contact with the victim, require supervision when shopping, receive treatment, and any other sanction that promotes the rehabilitation of the juvenile.