Six Fort Lauderdale Youths Arrested on Felony Charges for Theft, Gun Crimes
On June 26, 2017, police announced the arrests of six juveniles, all hailing from Fort Lauderdale, in connection with theft and gun crimes tracing back several weeks. According to West Palm Beach’s CBS 12 News, various law enforcement authorities across South Florida collaborated in order to bring about the arrests on felony charges. Among the stolen items are a Porsche, handguns, and cash in excess of $200,000. Considering their extensive history of similar crimes, it’s unlikely that the suspects – who range in age from 14 to 16 years old – will be charged as juveniles. Florida criminal law and procedural rules are clear on the circumstances under which a youthful offender may qualify for programs that punish juveniles less harshly as compared to adults.
Overview of Juvenile Direct File Cases
When a child has been charged with certain serious felony crimes, the case may be transferred to the adult criminal courts. Under these circumstances, the juvenile is treated the same way as someone 18 years or older. Prosecutors treat the minor as any other defendant, and – in the event of a guilty verdict or plea – the child is sentenced as an adult. A juvenile case may head to adult court through one of three ways:
- Indictment: The State of Florida may convene a grand jury to indict a juvenile at any age. These matters typically involve a crime punishable by life in prison or the death penalty.
- Waiver Motion: The prosecuting attorney may move the juvenile court to transfer a minor to adult court, but only in cases where the child is 14 year or older. There is a hearing on the motion, and the judge will either deny or approve the request based upon the circumstances.
- Direct File: In certain cases, a prosecuting attorney may direct file the juvenile’s case with the adult criminal system – completely bypassing the juvenile court. There is no hearing on the case and a judge doesn’t have the opportunity to review the minor’s file. A direct file case may be either mandatory or discretionary under Florida criminal procedural rules:
- Discretionary Direct File: A prosecutor has the option of direct filing if the child was 14 or 15 years old at the time of the offense, and if the crime is of a serious nature, such as arson, sex crimes, homicide or manslaughter, or other offenses listed in the statute.
- Mandatory Direct File: If the juvenile is aged 16 or 17 years old at the time of committing the crime, the prosecutor must direct file with the adult court system. Mandatory direct file is necessary where the child has a past felony history and the new crime falls within certain types of crimes designated by law.
Consult with Florida Criminal Defense Attorney Right Away
Based upon the circumstances and their criminal records, it’s clear that these juvenile offenders will be treated as adults for purposes of Florida criminal law. However, the matter isn’t so clear-cut in other situations. Considering the severe implications of mandatory versus discretionary direct file cases, it’s best to have an experienced criminal defense lawyer to help with these proceedings. Fort Lauderdale attorney Kevin J. Kulik has assisted many youth offenders, both in adult criminal court and through the juvenile court process. Please contact our office today for a confidential consultation.