Children Tried as Adults: Reducing the Number of Children Moved to Adult Court

Florida currently leads the nation in the number of youth transferred to adult courts (a process known as “direct file”). Currently, Florida prosecutors have sole discretion on whether a child is charged as a juvenile or charged as an adult. The authorization of direct file into an adult court with no hearing, due process, oversight or input from a judge creates pressure on children to accept guilty pleas just to avoid the danger of adult transfer.

Most children tried as adults in Florida are charged with nonviolent felony offenses, primarily property and drug crimes or misdemeanors. More than 70 percent of children convicted in adult courts are sentenced to probation, calling into question whether a more serious adult court transfer was necessary in the first place.

Transferring youth to adult courts has not been proven to deter crime and in fact, children in adult facilities do not receive the education, rehabilitative services and treatment they need to ensure they do not re-offend as adults. Youth sent to the adult criminal justice system were 34 percent more likely to be re-arrested for felonies than youth who had been retained in the juvenile justice system.


  • Reduce the number of children transferred to adult court: Amend the practice of giving state attorneys the sole discretion on whether to try a child as an adult.
  • Provide a fair review of a child’s case: Elevate judicial review of children who are transferred to adult court.

Additional Resources

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