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Fort Lauderdale Man Charged with Attempted Murder for Firing on Teens Who Tried to Steal Cars from His Auto Dealership

On May 28, 2014, the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reported that Mr. Jonas Charles, the owner of an automobile dealership, had been arrested on charges of attempted murder for firing a gun at several teenagers who were trying to rob him. In a previous incident, thieves stole two cars right off the lot of Mr. Charles’ dealership, and he was determined not to let it happen again. When the teenagers arrived in the dead of night (it was around 2 AM) and attempted to steal a car, Mr. Charles confronted them, armed with a 9 mm Glock pistol. The teenagers fled, and Mr. Charles fired several shots into the darkness after them, hitting and severely wounding a fifteen-year-old boy.

Police apprehended two of the teenagers, and authorities say they are going to face burglary charges. Meanwhile, Mr. Charles, who says that he was simply attempting to protect himself and his property, faces a much more serious charge of attempted murder. While it’s true that Mr. Charles reacted with excessive force, it also seems likely that this elevated charge represents an attempt by the District Attorney’s office to scare Mr. Charles into pleading guilty to a lesser charge. The prosecutor’s practice of overcharging in an attempt to extract a guilty plea to a lesser charge is, unfortunately, becoming increasingly common. The only way to be sure that you receive justice in the face of overzealous prosecutors is to hire competent counsel who has experience in dealing with the system.

Analysis Under Florida Law

Under Florida law, murder without premeditation is murder in the second degree. The offense is defined by statute as an unlawful killing that is “perpetrated by any act imminently dangerous to another and evincing a depraved mind regardless of human life… without any premeditated design to effect the death of any particular individual.” Fla. Stat. § 782.04(2). According to the Florida Court of Appeals in Belamy v. State, this requires proof of “an act or series of acts that: (1) a person of ordinary judgment would know is reasonably certain to kill or do serious bodily injury to another, and (2) is done from ill will, hatred, spite or an evil intent, and (3) is of such a nature that the act itself indicates an indifference to human life.” Here, it seems difficult for the prosecutors to prove that Mr. Charles was acting from “ill will, hatred, spite or an evil intent.” Moreover, Mr. Charles may be able to defend himself using self-defense, defense of property, and Florida’s stand your ground law. There are, in short, some holes in the notion that Mr. Charles’ actions, even if they were reckless, amount to attempted second-degree murder. But as happens all too often, that does not stop the District Attorney’s office from charging him with it.

All criminal defendants deserve to be prosecuted only for what they have actually done. You can rely on an experienced criminal lawyer like Kevin J. Kulik based in Fort Lauderdale to deal with the District Attorney’s office and stand up for your interests.

 

 

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