Earlier this month, according to NEWS4JAX, a Jacksonville high school student was arrested and sent to the juvenile detention facility for stabbing a fellow student. This incident occurred at Wolfson High School after one student, the victim, reportedly had made threats to the suspect and followed thru on the threats the following day. The suspect, worried about the threats, took a knife on his person to school the following day. The suspect was arrested on a charge of Aggravated Battery With a Deadly Weapon. The victim went to the hospital with arm lacerations. The suspect is still being held in the the Juvenile Detention Facility.
Aggravated Battery With a Deadly Weapon in the Florida Criminal Justice System
Aggravated Battery with a Deadly Weapon is a 2nd degree felony punishable, under Florida Statute 784.045 by up to fifteen years in the state prison system and a $10,000 fine. To prove a case of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:
1. the defendant intentionally touched or struck the victim against the victim’s will, plus
the defendant intentionally caused bodily harm or injury to the victim. And,
2. In the above intentional act of battering the victim, the defendant either caused great
bodily harm, permanent disability or permanent disfigurement to the victim, or, used a
Juveniles and a the Risk Assessment Instrument
Juvenile defendants appear before a Judge within 24 hours of arrest. The Judge’s primary function at that point is to determine if the child(and the juvenile is referred to as “child” not “defendant” by the court) is to be kept in secure detention at the juvenile facility or be released to some responsible adult. Adult defendants go before a Judge within 24 hours in order to have their bonds set at some monetary level or be denied bond if the court deems fit. Juvenile defendants appear before the court after folks from the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, or “DJJ” have completed the child’s risk assessment instrument. This assessment assigns points to matters such as the nature of the crime, any violence, any past crimes, any probationary status and has the child come to court before voluntarily or did a “pick up order” have to be used to go get the child. The magic number for secure detention is 12 points in Florida as a Judge is required to hold the child in detention for 12 points or better on the scoresheet. The Risk Assessment Instrument in Juvenile Court covers numerically what most Judges consider in setting the bond on an adult defendant. There are no monetary bonds set on juvenile offenders. The child is either kept in detention or released to family or some responsible adult.
Florida Prosecutors Charge Children as Adults
Florida Stature 985.557 gives the State Attorney the discretion to move a juvenile case to one of the regular felony or “adult” courtrooms. This is what is referred to as a “Direct File.” If a child is moved from Juvenile Court to a regular Felony Division the child, if he or she pleas or is convicted, faces adult sanctions to include incarceration at a young age in an adult prison. It takes a serious case to be direct filed and the the prosecutors in juvenile court usually reserve this filing for juveniles with previous records of delinquency who have not done well at earlier attempts of probationary sentences or being sent off to programs. Any type of violent juvenile crime and any crime involving firearms are the typical “bump up” to adult court cases. Procedurally, what happens here is, the child’s juvenile case is dropped on the record in juvenile court, and, as he proceeds through the back door of the courtroom, he is served with and arrested on a felony warrant, thus, entering the adult system. Many times a child will be direct filed after rejecting a plea offer from the juvenile prosecutor. This is a huge gamble and is a weekly event in juvenile court. The juvenile will reject an offer which would keep them only exposed to the sanctions under the law that apply to a juvenile delinquent and give the new, incoming felony prosecutor a good chance at making them a convicted felon and sending them to the state prison system. In summary, the choice to direct file an arrested juvenile is the prosecution’s call. The overall philosophy of the elected State Attorney weighs in heavily on subordinate prosecutors here with some Circuits being very aggressive in punishing juvenile offenders and other Circuits coming in on the other end of the spectrum and, despite the nature of the crime, always striving to save the child from “the system.”
If your child is facing a juvenile charge, especially a charge that could result in a direct filing as mentioned above, you need to consult with and retain an experienced Florida juvenile criminal defense attorney immediately. As mentioned above, the outcome for your child , the difference between a juvenile program and state prison, is at the discretion of the prosecutor early in the case.
The Forbess Law Firm is a dedicated Jacksonville criminal defense firm that has the dedication to fight for your child. Our firm routinely handles serious Juvenile cases and there is never a fee for an initial consultation. Click here to contact the Forbess Law Firm online , or call 904-634-0900 today to schedule a free consultation.
Student stabbed at Wolfson High School, News4JAX.com, January 22, 2014