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Hillsborough County To Expand Use Of Civil Citations

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Hillsborough County authorities will expand the use of civil citations for juveniles who commit misdemeanors, as part of a move to keep many youths from getting arrested and put into the criminal-justice system, State Attorney Andrew Warren announced Thursday.

Efforts to expand the use of civil citations statewide have drawn repeated legislative debates in Tallahassee in recent years. Under the Hillsborough program, police may issue civil citations for a wide range of misdemeanors such as petty theft, trespassing and marijuana possession.

Warren's office says that an agreement involving law-enforcement and court agencies “expressly presumes that a citation shall be issued except where there is an identifiable threat to public safety, based on the discretion of the involved officer.”

After issuance of civil citations, juveniles and their parents or guardians will meet with case workers to determine penalties, which can include such things as restitution, community service, specialized classes and drug treatment.

“I have emphasized that to best keep Hillsborough safe, we need to find smart alternatives to arrest and imprisonment for non-violent, first-time offenders, especially juveniles, so that we can focus our resources on the crimes that pose the greatest threat to our community,” Warren said in a prepared statement. “Our juvenile civil citation program is a common sense, effective way to make our streets safer, reduce recidivism, and save taxpayer dollars.”