Juvenile offenders committing minor crimes could soon be ticketed instead of arrested

Posted at 8:12 PM, Jul 20, 2017

"There's probably no one of us who didn't do something stupid when we were a kid,” said Reverend Bernice Powell Jackson.

Second chances will come more often for more juveniles starting in August.

"We don't think kids should be smoking pot but we don't think they should have an arrest record for the rest of their life,” she said.

Reverend Bernice Powell Jackson has been fighting for the changes for four years: changes in the civil citation program allowing most non-violent juveniles who commit minor crimes to be ticketed not arrested.

"For example, if they're arrested for marijuana, there's an assessment given and if they need drug counseling, drug treatment, that is going to be provided to them,” said Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Colonel Donna Lusczynski.

If the juvenile completes the program, they won't have a criminal record.

"When we've shown we can be successful in diverting the first time offenders, we'll start to turn our attention to second and potentially third time offenders,” said State Attorney Andrew Warren.

Local law enforcement, the public defender's office and the State Attorney agree the new program will keep juveniles out of the court system and free up more resources for violent offenders.

And it could be expanded in the future.

"The youth in Hillsborough County will have a second chance,” said Jackson. "We all need second chances."