Crimes are not always performed by adults, and Florida certainly has its fair share of juvenile offenders. However, in Florida, minors are not always charged as juveniles. Depending on the details surrounding their case and how serious of a charge they are facing, minors can be treated as adults in the criminal justice system.
According to Human Rights Watch, an organization that investigates and reports on abuse all over the world, Florida is one of just 15 states (and the District of Columbia) that allow prosecutors to charge minors as adults without the discretion of a judge. Florida also charges more children in adult courts than any other state, with an average of over 2,000 kids prosecuted in adult criminal courts each year. Unfortunately, every time cases like this come to light, the state of Florida seems critically underprepared to handle the matter.
Cases of Children Being Charged as Adults in Florida
In 1999, a boy in Port Saint John, Florida became the youngest convicted killer in the United States at just 12 years old. He and his 13-year-old sister murdered their father’s girlfriend after their reports of sexual abuse by a male family member went unheard. In July 2015, he was released from prison after completing an 18-year sentence.
In 2011, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office arrested a 12-year-old boy for the murder of his 2-year-old half-brother. The 12-year-old was angry with something his stepfather did and decided to take it out on the 2-year-old while he was left to babysit. The boy pushed his younger brother into a bookshelf, ultimately killing him. He was released from prison in 2018 at the age of 19.
Most recently, on June 1, 2021, two children, aged 12 and 14, ran away from a foster home and used an AK-47 and other guns on a shooting rampage. The 12-year-old and 14-year-old girls now face felony charges of attempted first-degree murder of law enforcement officers and armed burglary.
When is a Juvenile Tried as an Adult in Florida?
A “juvenile” in the eyes of the law, is anyone under the age of eighteen. Usually, juveniles are tried in a juvenile court system separate from the court system designed for adults. Juveniles are also held in their own correctional facilities separate from those of adults. However, a juvenile can have their case transferred to the adult criminal division in Florida if:
- They are facing charges for a serious violent crime, such as murder or aggravated assault.
- Their offense was sexually motivated, such as rape.
- They have an extensive criminal history and have not responded to discipline in the juvenile court system.
- They were previously tried as an adult. Once you are tried as an adult, you cannot go back through the juvenile court system.
When a juvenile is tried as an adult, they are treated as such and will not be granted any special treatment even though they are legally still a child. Juveniles being charged as adults will go through the same processes and risk the same penalties that an adult would if they had committed the same crime.
It is important to try to keep juvenile cases in juvenile courts because, unlike the adult criminal system, which is designed to punish criminals, the juvenile justice system is intended to correct the behavior of minors to prevent them from becoming criminals in the future. In certain cases, a criminal defense lawyer can file a “reverse waiver” to request that the court change their decision to send the case through the adult criminal system and to send it through the juvenile court.
Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer in West Palm Beach
Attorney Brian Gabriel has practiced the representation of criminal defendants since 1995. Brian Gabriel’s aggressive, competent, and experienced legal counsel at The Law Office of Gabriel and Gabriel will be strategic in finding solutions for your case, so you can rest assured that your rights and future are in capable hands. Call (561) 622-5575 or complete an online contact form to schedule a free review of your case.