Articles Posted in Juvenile

Several Car Burglaries Reported in St. Johns County

Recent news stories detail the arrest of a 14 year old boy in regards to several car burglaries in St. Johns County.  The 14 year old can’t be named because juvenile names are not allowed to be disclosed under Florida law.  The 14 year old has been charged with armed burglary to a conveyance and grand theft.  The 14 year old currently remains in the custody of the Juvenile Justice Department.  A 17 year old co-defendant is currently on the run at this time. The News4Jax story states that the 4-5 vehicles broken into were all unlocked, and firearms along with other personal items were stolen.  It is often known by car burglars that people keep firearms, laptops, tablets, and other high end electronics in addition to cash and change inside of their vehicles. A separate news story published by the Florida Times Union details the concerns of law enforcement in regards to car burglaries.  The title of the Times Union Story says it at, “Sheriff: Guns stolen from unlocked cars may be contributing to violent crime.”  It is quite often that law enforcement officials blame car burglars for supplying guns to criminals on the street.

Crime of Opportunity

Most Car Burglaries are very similar in nature.  They are often committed by juveniles, often times with more than one juvenile at a time, in upper scale neighborhoods or apartment complexes, with the vehicles being found unlocked.  When these type of cases come into play, a group of juveniles get together and walk a neighborhood, going car to car, checking door handles to see if the vehicle is in fact unlocked.  Once an unlocked vehicle is located, the juveniles will “toss” the vehicle to take anything of value.  It is common that in a single neighborhood, the juveniles will locate several cars during the night to break into.  The tough question for law enforcement and state attorneys is proving which vehicle was broken into by which juvenile.  This can be proven by which property if found on which juvenile, where the juvenile is taken into custody, and what the juvenile tells law enforcement when caught.  The simplicity and low cost of surveillance cameras have also assisted law enforcement in the arresting of people breaking into cars.  The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office has even given images to several news outlets in an attempt to help locate the 17 year old still on the run. Continue reading

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
deadly weapon.

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.

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Earlier this week, a 22-year old man and a juvenile female were arrested by police in relation to an overnight crime spree that started in Flagler County and ended in Hardeeville, South Carolina. According to a report by the Fox News affiliate in Jacksonville, police are claiming that the couple called for Chinese delivery and beat the delivery driver upon his arrival. Allegedly, the couple pretended to be law enforcement officers and, after beating the man, handcuffed him and put him into the back of his own car.

According to police, the couple then pushed the delivery driver from his own car before committing an armed robbery in St. Johns County. Police spotted the couple in Georgia, and the couple led them on a high-speed chase. Ultimately the couple got away until they were again spotted, and this time stopped, in Hardeeville, South Carolina. Although charges have not yet been filed, the adult male faces charges of: kidnapping, aggravated battery, robbery and grand theft.

Juveniles Can Be Tried as Adults in Florida

While juveniles are generally tried in the juvenile justice system, Florida lawmakers have carved out certain exceptions to that general rule. In these cases, juveniles are tried just as adults are in regular court, with the same exposure to the lengthy sentences.

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Male teens at Avon Park Youth Academy, a juvenile detention facility, destroyed eighteen of the 20 buildings on the premises, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage; the teens also sparked two fires during the riot, injuring seven people. Avon Park Youth Academy is a non-secure, 144-bed, moderate-risk program for males in the juvenile justice system between the ages of 16 and 19 years old. Rioters took a guard’s radio and all of the staff golf carts, and set fire to a building containing the teens’ records. A trash bin was also set ablaze. Roughly 150 law enforcement officials, including K-9 units, SWAT team and air support, eventually forced the juveniles to surrender. Facility staff are forbidden from using specialty equipment, including pepper spray, which would have allowed them to deal with the fight before it escalated, authorities said.

Once processed in the juvenile court system there are many different pathways for juveniles. Whereas some juveniles are released directly back into the community to undergo community-based rehabilitative programs, some juveniles appear to the State as posing a greater threat to society and to themselves and thus must endure time in a supervised juvenile detention center.

Detention centers in Florida are for youth who are detained under specific circumstances set by Florida statute. There are 21 facilities divided into 3 regions throughout the state of Florida. They hold youth that are awaiting court dates or placement in a residential facility.
Secure detention means that juveniles are held for usually short periods of time in juvenile detention facilities in order to await current trial hearings and further placement decisions. By holding juveniles in secure detention, the State feels an assurance of an appearance in court while also keeping the community safe and risk-free of the juvenile. This type of facility is commonly referred to as “juvenile hall,” which is a holding center for juvenile delinquents. On the other hand, secure confinement implies that the juvenile has been committed by the court into the custody of a secure juvenile correctional facility for the duration of a specific program, which can span from a few months to many years.

Every juvenile detention center is subject to a number of both general and personal problems, whether classified as a non-secure facility, as is Avon Park, or a secure facility such as the Duval Regional Juvenile Detention Center (JDC). The Duval JDC is a 100 bed, hardware secure facility that serves youth detained by various circuit courts throughout Florida. Youth are detained pending adjudication, disposition or placement in commitment facility.

A typical day in secure detention at the Duval JDC typically involves hygiene, meals, school, structured physical and educational activities, and court appearance as scheduled. The average length of stay in this secure detention is approximately 11 days. Unfortunately not every juvenile escapes this short span of time in detention unharmed. Consider one example of a 16-year-old St. Johns County boy who was sent to the Duval County Detention Center to await trial on violation of probation and possession of drug paraphernalia charges. While detained in the facility, the boy was jumped by two other boys near midnight and was badly beaten, resulting in a broken leg, multiple abrasions on his face and injuries to his eye.

The St. Johns County Judge who sent the boy there hadn’t known of the beating, and was angry when he saw the boy at a scheduled court date. According to the ensuing investigation, there was no report of any action by officers or JDC employees to stop the beating. This beating happened at a secure facility, where constant supervision is required. Contrast this to a non-secure facility: In a non-secure facility, youth are not confined to their rooms during the day. Youth are allowed to move about without handcuffs or shackles for activities, while still accompanied by staff at all times. Teens are taught job skills and receive mental health and substance abuse treatment.

Many times, when a juvenile is facing a charge, it is not just the juvenile but the juvenile’s parents who face the charge with them. If one or a loved one is a juvenile and is facing a criminal charge, one should not take the risk of being sent to any juvenile facility, secure or non-secure. One needs an experienced Jacksonville juvenile criminal defense attorney to fight the case and ensure one’s rights and defenses are known and protected.

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Kaitlyn Hunt, a Florida teen who was accused of unlawfully having sex with a minor has been offered a new plea deal that would spare her jail time and registration as a sex offender but adds a felony count to her charges. Hunt was arrested for two counts of lewd and lascivious sexual battery against a female minor when she was 18 after having sexual intercourse with her then 14-year-old and thus underage girlfriend she met at Sebastian River High School in 2012. Though Hunt has argued the sex was consensual, Florida law considers it a felony offense to have sex with a person under the age of 16 who is considered not legally able to offer consent.
Under the new plea deal, Hunt would plead no contest to two counts of battery and one felony count of interference with child custody. Under this plea, Hunt would not only escape jail time, but would not have to register as a sex offender or wear an ankle bracelet. In exchange, the now 19-year-old would be subject to a curfew, have to perform 150 hours of community service and serve probation.

A plea bargain or plea deal is an agreement in criminal cases between the prosecutor and the accused whereby the accused in return for admitting guilt of a criminal charge, in return for some reduction in punishment from the prosecutor, either in the form of a lighter punishment for the original charge, or a less serious charge with lighter consequences than what was originally charged. In this case, however, the detriment of taking a plea bargain is much worse psychologically for Hunt than standing her ground in trial for her beliefs.

Often, the accused will choose a plea deal in order to receive a less severe sentence
because of hedging the amount of time served for the crime, rather than betting their freedom on a gamble, the risk they take if they were to go to trial and be convicted.

In this case, the State has offered Hunt a plea of no contest to a felony charge of interfering with child custody. A charge of interfering with child custody, a felony charge, is a very serious charge to bring against someone, particularly of Hunt’s young age, as this particular charge cannot be expunged under Florida statute.

Florida’s juveniles want to do what they want to do and sometimes will be charged with sexual battery charges because of them are registered in the system and have records as sex offenders. This can be damaging to many of Jacksonville’s youth in finding careers, particularly for those juveniles whose charges were pursued by a disapproving society who did not like the decisions that the youth made, because they were contrary to their own notions and ideologies, rather than that juvenile actually being guilty of any crime. In this case, it seems now that Hunt will want to reject any plea from the State, in order to prove the point that the State cannot silence certain ideological communities.

As this case, and many others like it show, plea bargaining is an effective but not always best option for the accused in a criminal suit. Some crimes may be too serious, and therefore require a trial. Others are clear cut cases of police misconduct or cases of tampered evidence that can and should be suppressed. However, many State attorneys will attempt to rush a plea agreement before the truth of one’s innocence or the invalidity of the evidence comes to light.

One in a situation such as this should obtain an experienced Jacksonville sex crimes defense attorney to fight for one’s case and ensure one’s rights, defenses, and options are known and protected. One cannot fight this battle alone. With the help of an experienced attorney, one can be sure that this mistake will be whited out of one’s life and become a thing of the past.

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Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Wansley Walters has personally revised her agency’s recommendations about sanctions for the teenagers accused of beating a 13-year-old on a school bus in Gulfport. She is now advocating a tougher form of probation. The department previously had recommended giving two of the three 15-year-olds nine months of a program known as court-supervised probation. Prosecutors had recommended they get at least a stricter form of probation known as DJJ-supervised probation; upon further consideration, the DJJ determined that the highly violent nature of the incident warrants highly structured probation under DJJ supervision, as the state attorney’s office recommended.

Despite a decline in juvenile offending over the past decade, the population of youth confined in pre-trial secure detention has steadily grown. On an average day, more than 27,000 youth are estimated to reside in locked detention centers — a number that has grown 72 percent since the early 1990s. Further, many jurisdictions continue to rely on incarceration for youth in spite of research demonstrating that juvenile detention has critical, long-lasting consequences for court-involved juveniles.

In many cases, if a juvenile is given an alternative sentence, it is in the form of treatment or punishment in the community rather than incarceration. There are a few exceptions, many times allowing for the court to combine different forms of treatment and punishment. Sometimes, this blending of the sentences of a juvenile offender who has committed a serious crime may end in the offender receiving a sentence that combines both a juvenile sentence and an adult sentence.

The State would wish that all juvenile offenders, regardless of the seriousness of their offenses, leave the system understanding that actions have consequences and that they are responsible for their own actions. No prison sentence can achieve this result for every offender, but mediation, restitution, and rehabilitation programs are some much more beneficial ways to encourage offenders to take personal responsibility for the harm inflicted by their acts.

School-based probation is a supervision model in which the juvenile probation officer works directly in the school rather than the traditional courthouse environment. This model allows the probation officer to contact clients more frequently, observe client interactions with peers and behavior in a social setting, and actively enforce conditions of probation such as school attendance.

One police department in Illinois has begun passing out green 3-by-5 cards to parents of youths suspected of being involved in crimes. The cards give notice of a time and date for an appointment for the youth and at least one parent or guardian to meet with a juvenile officer. The card also advises parents why the meeting is important, stating, “It may be possible for an Urbana Police Department Juvenile Officer to work with your child and discuss alternative options to the criminal justice system”.

Even if a juvenile has been arrested, the process of going through the court system can be stopped. If one obtains an experienced attorney, one’s attorney can work with the juvenile, the parents, and the prosecutor to see if staying out of the system, clean of a charge, is possible.
In Florida, some juvenile offenders are able to take advantage of one form of alternative punishment, called Pre-trial Intervention (PTI). Pre-trial intervention is a diversionary program administered by the State of Florida through the Department of Corrections (DOC). Eligible individuals who enter into a PTI agreement will be required to participate in a supervised program similar to probation, except at the end of the intervention term, if all conditions are successfully completed, the charge will be dismissed.

The key to obtaining a favorable outcome when young children and juveniles face criminal charges is thorough investigation of the circumstance of the offense. Through proper investigation, one’s experienced juvenile crimes defense attorney can determine if the prosecution has satisfactory evidence to establish guilt, and if so, will be able to help the juvenile fashion a sentence which satisfies the requirement for punishment, but is beneficial to the juvenile’s rehabilitation.

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The University of Georgia has been the recent subject of a fake ID ring bust. The ring sold more than 600 IDs and made “six figures” reaching four different states, according to UGA Chief of Police Jimmy Williamson. The 600-ID figure only reflected what the police were able to prove from beginning of the ring’s infiltration to its end, suspecting more were probably involved.

Florida Statutes, Section 322.212 criminalizes, and makes a felony, the making, selling, or possession of a false identification card. Typically, this statute will be applied to underage college students or high-school teenagers attempting to gain entry into a bar or club. “Fake I.D.’s” are fairly common, but arrests should be rare.

The situation leading up to the arrest is often similar: an underage person walks into a store, restaurant, or club, hands the fake ID to the person required to check the I.D., and that person realizes the I.D. is fake. Sometimes the ID’s will be confiscated by the bouncer or bar security and the matter goes no father. Florida Fake ID arrests usually come however, when the patron refuses to leave or engages in an altercation with the bar/nightclub staff. At this point officers become involved and often charge the individual with this offense, as well as trespassing, or other minor misdemeanor offenses. This is scenario is typically how persons in Jacksonville are arrested for having a Fake ID.

The decision to prosecute these cases as felonies was an unfortunate decision by the Legislature. In an attempt to crack down on those who manufacture the fraudulent IDs, the State ends up charging teenagers and 20 year olds with attempting to get into clubs with fake IDs. It is likely that virtually no one who tries to pass a fake ID has any idea they are committing a felony in Florida.

Many Florida driver licenses are indeed fake, and now are being more and more commonly spotted by security features that are being used by not only Florida, but 47 other states in the U.S. Doormen at night clubs and police officers that stop one’s vehicle for any infraction are being trained to spot the increasingly tough to distinguish fake I.D.s.

One particular way law enforcement or anyone required to check one’s I.D. can tell the validity of one’s Driver’s license is by looking at the micro print security feature with a magnifier. Many times, by looking at the I.D. with such a magnifier, the law enforcement officer will be able to instantly recognize the I.D. as being counterfeit. At this point, normally one is then placed under arrest for presenting a fake ID.

IDchief, a website designed to facilitate such fake I.D. sales, as well as thousands of other companies like it are responsible for the ease of access and thus ease of the charge resulting from the badly created I.D. Companies like IDChief give incentives to customers to buy more of these fake I.D.s, resulting in many of these college students buying their IDs at the same time in order to receive group discounts.

These Asian-based Web-sites offer good quality IDs for a reasonable price. These fake IDs possess several of the security features of genuine IDs. To the cursory examiner, the ID looks good. It has bright, easily seen holograms and UV features. It looks professionally made so teenagers will not fear in showing it to a bouncer or server at a restaurant.

Many of the accused parties that enter the court system for this charge are in their early years, between the ages of 16 and 20 years old. Many of these counterfeit Florida driver licenses will say the holder is legal to drink but still young enough to appear the age, many times claiming 21 or 22.

Many youth charged with this particular do not realize both the consequences associated with the court system but also the consequences at home. For many, this involves a severe amount of shame and guilt from one’s family, as well as a record of crimes of dishonesty that do not go away so easily.

One in a situation such as this should obtain an experienced Jacksonville fake ID crimes defense attorney to fight the case. The evidence usually does not look good for someone accused of possession of a fake I.D.; however, if the police mishandled the evidence in any way, the evidence may be excluded, making a fake I.D. charge hard to prove if there has been mishandled and therefore inadmissible evidence. If one is under investigation or has been arrested on fake I.D. charges, one will need to obtain an experienced Jacksonville false identification crimes defense attorney to fight the case.

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The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice is shifting its focus: Getting offenders out of detention and putting a priority on prevention and alternative programs. However, many prosecutors are concerned that there are a number of kids in the Department of Juvenile Justice that have serious problems that will not be addressed now, and as a result, will unfortunately be addressed in the future in terms of victims and in terms of jail or prison time.

Juvenile arrests make up just a fraction of those made by police, and they have declined significantly in the past several years. In 2012, police made 3,218 juvenile arrests, less than half the number made in 2007, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
The true focus of concern should be the small number of most dangerous offenders, sometimes repeat offenders, who need the most help. Putting some troubled juveniles into ever-more severe and life-shattering punishments will most likely permanently alter their perception of society for the worse, making the end the State is supposedly trying to prevent, inevitable. The juvenile justice system’s purpose is to give these troubled youth opportunities to change their behavior rather than sending them down a certain path of behavioral and psychological issues, s that are more positive.

National research, as well as past experience with the state Juvenile Probation Officer (JPO) supervision model in Florida indicate that using state JPOs to supervise reentry youths remains an largely ineffective model to prevent further reoffenders reentering the justice system. Comparative statistical data shows that other models of juvenile supervision, particularly the Community-Based Intervention Services (CBIS) treatment model, indicate 76-92 percent of juveniles (varying somewhat by judicial circuit) were crime free one year after release from the program, compared to the 50-59 percent under the JPO supervision model.

Many states’ emphasis on incarceration and punishment interferes with effective diversionary, treatment, and rehabilitation practices. Most states only rarely implement evidence-based diversionary practices, mental health and substance use treatment, and rehabilitation practices.

In Florida, some juvenile offenders are able to get into a diversionary program known as Pre-trial Intervention (PTI). The PTI program is administered by the State of Florida through the Department of Corrections (DOC). Eligible individuals who enter into a PTI agreement will be required to participate in a supervised program similar to probation, except at the end of the intervention term, if all conditions are successfully completed, the charge will be dismissed.

Many times, in situations like this, a diversionary offer may be the only safety an accused may feel, particularly when the accused is in their youth. Diversionary offers are solely at the discretion of the filing State Attorney. Diversionary programs are only available to those who have no criminal record or at most have a very minor record spread out over a long period of time. An experienced juvenile crimes defense attorney could have the case “diverted” into a program where the accused will may have to participate in a number of different court directed community service hours in exchange for the case not being filed or dropped. For many, this may also mean military school, holding signs on public street corners, speaking at victim’s advocacy events, and even visiting a mortuary room in some extreme cases involving possible death, depending on the severity of the juvenile charge.

Even if one is not eligible for the Pretrial Intervention Program, with the help of an
experienced Jacksonville juvenile crimes defense attorney
, one could persuade the Judge to render a much lighter punishment that would involve counseling, house arrest or a probation sentence that would allow the youth to continue their education and move past the charge, rather than face that charge every morning while they are incarcerated, stagnating their future because of something for what is many times a small infraction of the law.

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18-year-old Kaitlyn Hunt Florida senior high school student year has become a nightmare — all because she was in a same-sex relationship with a 15-year-old. After Hunt turned 18, she and the other girl, a freshman, began dating and expressed their relationship in “intimate ways.” When the basketball coach found out about their relationship, Hunt was thrown off the team and the other girl’s parents were notified. The parents then told police, and a phone call was recorded between their daughter and Hunt in which the girls discussed their relationship, Gay said.

In many states across the U.S., the public opinion on homosexual relationships, including gay marriage, has begun to change. Many teenagers decide to pursue adult relationships and participate in adult activities, including sexual activities, and as the times change, so should the law.

Currently under Florida law, Hunt could see up to 15 years in prison and must register as a sex offender. According to Hunt’s parents, a plea deal remains on the table that would give Hunt two years’ house arrest and one year of probation. However, if Hunt’s defense fights the case properly, Hunt may stand for conviction but will be free from being on the sex offender registry list, a designation that can be very damaging to a juvenile fresh out of high school student.

Florida’s juveniles want to do what they want to do and sometimes will be charged with sexual battery charges because of them are registered in the system and have records as sex offenders. This can be damaging to many of Jacksonville’s best and brightest in finding careers, particularly for those juveniles whose charges were pursued by disapproving parents who did not like the young girl or boy that their child was involved with, rather than that juvenile actually being guilty of any crime.

Other times, juvenile sex charges are the result of two love-struck teenagers who were caught by their parents and reported to police. Males used to be the prime target for being placed on the sex offender registry, but as this story shows, females have now taken some precedent in sex crime charges in Florida. No matter the individual or the circumstance, being listed on the Sex offender registry can severely hinder this first and probably only-time offender’s future of a decent career.

In response to the growing problem of juveniles being scared by sex offender registry listings, 2007, the “Romeo and Juliet” law was enacted by the Florida legislature. This law allows those previously convicted of a Lewd or Lascivious offense or Sexual Battery to petition the court for removal from the sex offender registry, assuming they meet a strict set of eligibility requirements, listed below:

– One engaged in a consensual sexual encounter with a 14, 15, 16, or 17 year old minor;
– One was no more than 4 years older than the alleged victim at the time of the sexual encounter
– One was subsequently convicted of sexual battery or other Lewd or Lascivious Offenses
– One does not have any other convictions for a Lewd or Lascivious Offense, Sexual Battery, or Lewd or Lascivious Exhibition using a Computer.

– One was required to register as a sexual offender/predator solely because of the single conviction.

One in a situation such as this should obtain an experienced Jacksonville sex crimes defense attorney to fight for one’s case and ensure one’s rights, defenses, and options are known and protected. One cannot fight this battle alone. With the help of an experienced attorney, one can be sure that this mistake will be whited out of one’s life and become a thing of the past.

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16-year-old Kiera Wilmot, a student at Bartow High School in Polk County, Florida, has been arrested and charged as an adult for a concoction of household chemicals she mixed together on school grounds that caused a minor explosion. No damage was reported other than the bottle she mixed the chemicals in exploding. Wilmot said she combined toilet bowl cleaner and aluminum foil in an 8-ounce bottle at the urging of a fellow classmate. To her surprise, the top popped off and the concoction began to smoke, followed by a small explosion. Wilmot is regarded as an excellent student by her principal and stated Wilmot has never been in trouble.

Wilmot has been charged as an adult with possessing or discharging weapons or firearms on school property” and “making, possessing, throwing, projecting, placing, or discharging any destructive device,” both felonies under Florida law. The prosecutor was not bound by Florida law to dole out these severe charges.

There are four main processes by which juvenile defendants in Jacksonville can be transferred to criminal court:

– Judicial Waiver: Juvenile court judges have the ability to transfer juveniles to criminal court, usually taking account of age and the severity of the offense
– Prosecutorial Discretion: Prosecutors have the authority to file cases in juvenile court or criminal court jurisdiction
– Statutory Exclusion: Certain laws may require certain categories of juvenile offenders to appear in criminal court based on a particular age or the type of offense
– Once waived/always waived: Certain laws may require juveniles to be tried in criminal court if any previous charges were removed to criminal court.

Prosecutors maintain a critical role in determining the forum of prosecution. In addition to direct file legislation, prosecutors may charge a youth with an offense mandating statutory exclusion and transfer to adult court. NCJJ observed that prosecutorial discretion in the absence of guidelines for the exercise of that discretion can result in inconsistent treatment of juvenile offenders and urged legislation providing uniform prosecutorial guidelines.

In Florida, prosecutors may file charges directly in criminal court against any juvenile age 16 or older who commits a felony, any juvenile age 14 or older who commits a violent felony or burglary, and any juvenile who commits a homicide. In addition, juvenile court judges may waive to criminal court any juvenile age 14 or older based on certain findings.

There are many problems that a juvenile may face as a result of being transferred to criminal court. Prosecution in criminal court exposes the accused juvenile to the same penalties as adults under the charge. They may face a life or death sentence depending on the severity of the charge, a possibly long prison sentence, where the juvenile is exposed to the many dangers of prison life, as well as having a permanent criminal record that one may or may not be able to have sealed or expunged.

The benefit of juvenile proceedings is that if the case is adjudicated in juvenile proceedings, the juvenile must be released at age 21, as well as receive rehabilitative treatment in a juvenile facility, and may be allowed to have their juvenile records expunged. None of these options are so easily available or guarantee-able if one or one’s child’s case is moved to criminal court.

Adolescents are involved in incidents like this every day on school grounds. Not every one of those juveniles were intending harm others and are simply exploring chemical combustion processes. One in a situation like this should obtain an experienced Jacksonville juvenile crimes defense attorney to fight the case and ensure one’s rights and defenses are known and protected.

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