Juvenile criminal defendants in Florida have routinely been shackled, handcuffed or otherwise restrained when brought into juvenile court, regardless of their age, alleged crimes, security, or flight risk. The Florida Supreme Court recently declared this practice unlawful; judges may determine if shackles are warranted on a case by case basis, and any other use of shackles on minors is prohibited. The decision has been praised as a sensible balance between courtroom safety and defendant’s rights.
The issue of shackling minors has long been a source of contention in Florida juvenile courts. The practice was officially challenged in a lawsuit brought by the Miami-Dade County Public Defender’s Office. Florida public defenders argued that the indiscriminate use of restraints on minors violated due process and the right to counsel. They also argued that shackling minors causes emotional and mental distress that can prevent them from being successfully rehabilitated.
Now that the ruling is in effect, it will be up to defense attorneys to properly instruct their juvenile clients on the type of proper courtroom behavior required to remain unshackled. You can read more about the decision to ban indiscriminate juvenile court shackling at Florida Supreme Court limits shackling of juveniles.
If your child has been the victim of unlawful discriminatory practices, please contact our firm for expert legal counsel.