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Children and Crime: How Florida Deals with Juveniles

When we think about felonies and crimes, our image of the perpetrator is rarely a child. However, in the news, there are several stories that have been currently receiving significant attention, largely because the child is the at the center of a horrific act. For example, in Alabama recently, an eight-year-old was charged in the alleged murder of his 17-month-old sister. The baby was found dead in her crib as a result of internal injuries due to blunt-force trauma. The mother, however, was nowhere to be found. The mother had left with her friend to go out to a nightclub, leaving her two children and her friend’s five children in the house alone. The boy who allegedly murdered his sister was the eldest in the group at the house. The eight-year-old is currently residing in Alabama and most likely will be prosecuted, and the mother will be charged with manslaughter.

Criminal Responsibility

Criminal responsibility is a difficult concept to define, especially when it comes to children. Each state deals with children differently and largely it depends on the offense committed and the child’s age, maturity, mental acuity, and the ability to understand right and wrong and fantasy from reality. The purpose behind setting age limitations for crimes is the fact that at such young ages, there really is a lack of maturity and ability to reason how their actions may lead to certain consequences. At a young and tender age, fantasy and reality may be hard to separate, and the several outcomes that may occur from their one action may be too difficult for them, at the time, to conceive.

Minimum Age Limits Around the United States

Alabama, like Florida, has no minimum age limit to prosecute. In other words, no matter the age of the criminal defendant, he or she could still have charges brought against him/her. Eleven states and territories have a minimum age of 10 by statute dictating the ability of the state to try the juvenile. In Arizona, Nevada, and Washington, the child must be at least eight years old. In Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New York, there is a minimum age of seven. Finally, North Carolina sets the minimum age at six.

Direct File in Florida: How Children are Charged as Adults

There is a difference, however, to being tried as a juvenile and tried as an adult. According to Florida, it is up to the prosecution to direct file information for a juvenile determining that he/she is old enough and the crime heinous enough to be tried as an adult. It is in the discretion of the prosecution, but generally discretionary direct file provides that children who were 14 or 15 at the time of the offense may be charged as adults for felonies such as arson, murder, sexual battery, and manslaughter, among others. The state has a mandatory direct file for children who were 16 or 17 at the time of the offense.

Florida’s Youngest Child to Be Charged as An Adult

In Florida, the youngest child to have ever been charged as an adult was 12 years old and he was recently released in July of 2015 at the age of 29. He and his sister allegedly murdered their father’s girlfriend and were allegedly planning to murder the father and another male relative in retaliation for sexual abuse. He and his sister served almost 18 years in prison.

Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Fort Lauderdale

Children may not always understand how their actions affect others and that could lead to some fatal outcomes not only for the child, but for the parents as well. An experienced criminal defense attorney like Kevin J. Kulik can provide legal advice to both child and parents if the child has been involved in criminal activity. Contact Kevin J. Kulik today for a free and confidential consultation in the Fort Lauderdale area.

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