Unless otherwise provided, the following provisions apply to all hearings:
(a) Presence of the Child. The child shall be present unless the court finds that the child’s mental or physical condition is such that a court appearance is not in the child’s best interests.
(b) Use of Restraints on the Child. Instruments of restraint, such as handcuffs, chains, irons, straitjackets, cloth and leather restraints, or other similar items, shall not be used on a child during a court proceeding except when ordered by the court prior to the child’s appearance in the courtroom in accordance with this rule. Instruments of restraint must be removed prior to the child’s appearance unless after an individualized assessment of the child the court finds that:
(1) The use of restraints is necessary due to one of the following factors:
(A) to prevent physical harm to the child or another person;
(B) the child’s history of disruptive courtroom behavior that has placed others in potentially harmful situations or that presents a substantial risk of inflicting physical harm or himself or herself or others as evidenced by recent behavior; or
(C) a founded belief that the child presents a substantial risk of flight from the courtroom; and
(2) There are no less restrictive alternatives to restraints that will prevent flight or physical harm to the child or another person, including, but not limited to, the presence of court personnel, law enforcement officers, or bailiffs.
(3) In making a determination that the use of instruments of restraint is necessary, pursuant to subdivision (b)(1), the court shall consider:
(A) any past escapes or attempted escapes by the child;
(B) evidence of a present plan of escape by the child;
(C) a credible threat by the child to harm himself or herself or another person during court;
(D) evidence of self-injurious behavior on part of the child; and
(E) any other factor that is relevant in determining whether the use of instruments of restraint are necessary pursuant to subdivision (b)(1).
(4) The court shall provide the child’s attorney an opportunity to be heard before the court orders the use of restraints. Counsel shall be appointed for this hearing if the child qualifies for such appointment and does not waive counsel in writing as required by rule 8.165.
(5) If restraints are ordered, the court shall make specific and individualized findings of fact in support of the order and the least restrictive restraints shall be used. Any restraints shall allow the child limited movement of his or her hands to read and handle documents and writings necessary to the hearing.
(6) Under no circumstances should a child be restrained using fixed restraints to a wall, floor, or furniture.
(c) Absence of the Child. If the child is present at the beginning of a hearing and during the progress of the hearing voluntarily absents himself or herself from the presence of the court without leave of the court, or is removed from the presence of the court because of disruptive conduct during the hearing, the hearing shall not be postponed or delayed, but shall proceed in all respects as if the child were present in court at all times.
(d) Invoking the Rule. Prior to the examination of any witness the court may, and on the request of any party in an adjudicatory hearing shall, exclude all other witnesses. The court may cause witnesses to be kept separate and to be prevented from communicating with each other until all are examined.
(e) Conducting Hearings. Except as otherwise provided in these rules, proceedings must be conducted as follows.
(1) Evidentiary proceedings must be conducted in person unless the parties agree that a proceeding should be conducted remotely or conducted in a hybrid format, or the court so orders upon good cause shown.
(2) All other proceedings may be conducted remotely or in a hybrid format upon agreement of the parties or by court order unless good cause is otherwise shown.
(3) The court may consider the following factors in determining whether good cause exists: the consent of the parties, the time-sensitivity of the matter, the nature of the relief sought, the resources of the parties, the anticipated duration of the testimony, the need and ability to review and identify documents during testimony, the probative value of the testimony, the geographic location of the witnesses, the cost and inconvenience in requiring the physical presence of the witnesses, the need for confrontation of the witnesses, the need to observe the demeanor of the witnesses, the potential for unfair surprise, and any other matter relevant to the request.
(4) A party who participates in a hearing conducted remotely or conducted in a hybrid format must be given the opportunity to privately and confidentially communicate with counsel during the proceedings.
(f) Taking Testimony.
(1) Testimony at a Hearing or Trial. When testifying at a hearing or trial, a witness must be physically present unless otherwise provided by law or these rules.
(2) Remote Testimony. Upon stipulation of the parties, or upon motion of a party for good cause shown, the court may permit a witness to testify at delinquency proceedings by contemporaneous audio-video communication technology that makes the witness visible during the testimony to all parties, the judge, and any other necessary persons. In determining good cause, the court must consider whether the child’s right to confrontation is preserved.
(3) Administration of the Oath. Before testimony may be presented through audio-video communication technology, the oath must be administered to the witness as provided in this subdivision.
(i) Person Administering the Oath is Physically Present with the Witness. An oath may be administered to a witness testifying through communication technology by a person who is physically present with the witness if the person is authorized to administer oaths in the witness’s jurisdiction and the oath is administered consistent with the laws of that jurisdiction.
(ii) Person Administering the Oath is not Physically Present with the Witness. An oath may be administered to a witness testifying through audio-video communication technology by a person who is not physically present with the witness if the person is authorized to administer oaths in the State of Florida and the oath is administered through audio-video communication technology in a manner consistent with the general laws of the State of Florida. If the witness is not located in the State of Florida, the witness must consent to be bound by an oath administered under the general laws of the State of Florida.
(g) Continuances. The court may grant a continuance before or during a hearing for good cause shown by any party.
(h) Record of Testimony. A record of the testimony in all hearings shall be made by an official court reporter, a court approved stenographer, or a recording device. The records shall be preserved for 5 years from the date of the hearing. Official records of testimony shall be provided only on request of a party or a party’s attorney or on a court order.
(i) Notice. When these rules do not require a specific notice, all parties will be given reasonable notice of any hearing.