In Miami, the Miami-Dade County (MDC) State Attorney’s Office (SAO) and the 34 local police departments have a close working relationship. Together, we have helped reduce the crime rate by almost 70% in the last 30 years. We have achieved these great results by treating offenders as individuals and addressing them according to the severity of their misconduct and criminogenic needs, a method we refer to as Smart Justice. As part of our strategy, we developed and implemented a civil citations program in 2007 that allows officers to cite juveniles who commit low level misdemeanors in lieu of arresting them. MDC police departments have successfully cited instead of arresting over twenty-one thousand (21,000) youth since the program’s inception. In this article, we discuss the program’s use and how it has helped us drive down the crime rate while saving significant resources.
During a zero-tolerance era in our school system State Attorney Fernandez Rundle helped develop a pre-arrest civil citation program for first-time misdemeanor juvenile offenders in 2007. She also promoted legislation for the use of civil citations statewide.
MDC’s civil citation program now is well-established and efficient. Officers may cite juveniles who commit any misdemeanor offenses, other than those involving a firearm, sexual related behavior, or gang activity, including those who commit petit theft and possession of misdemeanor. However, officers must obtain victim approval for cases involving battery, assault, or graffiti and SAO approval for cases involving carrying a concealed weapon and animal cruelty.