Prearrest Diversion Overview

Common youth misbehaviors in the 21st Century result in dramatically different consequences. In past years getting into a simple fight at school or vandalizing a bathroom wall may have had consequences such as a trip to the principal s office, apologies, shaking hands, or scrubbing the bathroom wall. In your community, stealing a tee shirt from a surf shop or underage beer drinking may have resulted in calls to parents or other consequences focused on teaching appropriate behaviors.

Today these common youth misbehaviors can result in being arrested – handcuffed, placed in the backseat of a police car, being fingerprinted, being detained, and most harmful having a criminal misdemeanor record that can impact employment, postsecondary education, housing and loans for the rest of their lives.

An arrest for common youth misbehavior can shape a child's future education, employment and housing

A misdemeanor arrest record can result in the following (only a few examples)

  • Lose college or vocational school scholarships (many scholarships preclude students who have been arrested)
  • Unable to lease a college apartment with a petit theft misdemeanor (stealing a tee shirt)
  • Difficulty obtaining a part-time job to help pay for college with an assault and battery misdemeanor (fight without injury)
  • Cannot join the military with a misdemeanor drug charge (a marijuana joint)

Juvenile civil citations and other prearrest diversions

Florida prearrest diversions offer an alternative to arrest for common youth misbehavior for youth under the age of 18. Research in this and other studies show a type of prearrest diversion called “juvenile civil citations” increases public safety, improves youth opportunities and saves lots of taxpayer money.

To receive a pre-arrest diversion youth must complete the civil citation program

  • Mandatory community service (up to 50 hours)
  • Risk assessment to determine if youth are first-time, one-time offenders or are likely to reoffend
  • Intervention services based on an assessment of youth needs (like mental health counseling)
  • Letters of apology to the victim
  • Letters of apology to law enforcement officers outlining their consequences had the officer chose to arrest

Common youth misbehaviors / misdemeanors eligible for civil citations

Affray, battery, criminal mischief, disorderly conduct, disrupting school function, loitering, petit theft, possession of alcohol or marijuana, prowling, trespassing, vandalism


Risk assessments

Youth issued a civil citation are given an assessment to determine if they are at-risk to reoffend, or are just a first-time, one-time offender. Those at-risk to reoffend are mandated intervention services to address their behavioral issues like anger management, drug and alcohol abuse rehabilitation, life skills and general mental health counseling that may include the entire family.


Swift justice

The timeframe for youth to complete civil citation programs ranges from 30 to 120 days, which provides for more swift justice than an arrest that can range from six months to two years to complete.

5 Years of Research Findings