Articles Posted in Juvenile Crimes in Jacksonville

Jacksonville police announced that they have arrested more than one juvenile in the murder of a Duval County cab driver late last year, according to an article in the Florida Times Union.  The victim was found shot in his vehicle the night of January 30th.

These juveniles will most likely be treated as adults in this case.  Commonly referred to as “direct file”, the prosecutors in the state of Florida have the discretion to treat children as adults.  This means that a child as young as 14 years-old can be sent to prison if certain factors are met.  If a child is 14 or 15 years-old, they may be sent to adult court if the child is charged with certain serious Jacksonville crimes, such as murder, sexual battery, robbery, kidnapping, aggravated child abuse and carjacking.  If the child is 16 or 17 years of age, they can be sent to adult court if they are charged with any felony, not just the most serious crimes listed above.  The Florida legislature has elected to give state attorney’s offices across the state of Florida so much power over these Duval County juvenile cases.  With one piece of paper, a child’s life can change forever.

When a juvenile is arrested for a felony in Jacksonville, they will receive a “score” that determines whether or not they must remain in secure detention.  Secure detention is a jail for children surrounded by barbed wire located in downtown Jacksonville.  If the crime is non-violent and the child has little to no prior criminal history, the juvenile may qualify for home detention, which is essentially house arrest, or straight release, which means the child is free to go where they want as long as they return for their court dates.  Once detention or non-detention is determined, the case begins.  In many of the felony juvenile cases in Duval County, the prosecutor’s office will look at the child’s file to determine whether or not to send to adult court.  Often times, the Jacksonville Juvenile Attorney on the case will send mitigation to the state attorney assigned to the case.  Mitigation consists of school records, letters from teachers, family and coaches, as well as psychological testing if appropriate.  The goal is to keep the child’s case in juvenile court.

Prosecutors have changed course and are now charging a 15-year-old boy as an adult in four fires police say were deliberately set in a Jacksonville neighborhood.  Fire officials were investigating the fires to three vacant homes and a car in a Jacksonville neighborhood and told police a person had been seen near all of the fires, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. A suspect matching the description was spotted by an officer and the boy was allegedly carrying a can of gas, the newspaper reported. The boy was taken to the juvenile detention center, where most teens are taken following an arrest. However, in this Jacksonville Juvenile Crimes Case, the boy has been transferred to the county jail and charged as an adult, the newspaper reported.

Arson is a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison on each count. With four counts, this 15-year-old boy could be looking at up to 120 years behind bars. While it is highly unlikely, this appears to be another case of prosecutors using adult charges to try to push a boy around. No one was injured in any of the four fires, and there has not been an estimate on monetary damages in any of the media reports on the incidents.  Even when a Jacksonville Juvenile Crimes Case is transferred to adult court, it can still be brought back to juvenile court. In many cases, adult charges are part of the negotiations by the state – right or wrong, that’s the reality. If the crime stays in juvenile court, juveniles can still be punished in the same manner as adults – from house arrest and probation on up to what amounts to a prison for teens. Because this boy is charged with first-degree felonies, some of the lower level options are not available to him. Those sentences include house arrest and placement in a low-risk residential facility. Judges have latitude in most juvenile cases, but there are certain punishment standards driven by the type and severity of the crime a child is facing.

The juvenile court system is in place to handle youth and teens differently than adults, recognizing that people make mistakes in their youth that should not completely ruin their ability to be a productive adult. In many Jacksonville Juvenile Crimes Cases, there is a one-size-fits-all approach to punish to the highest degree and treat kids like adults.  Our Jacksonville Juvenile Crimes Attorney will thoroughly investigate the case against your loved one and work to have the case addressed in juvenile court – where it belongs.  Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney has represented hundreds of juveniles accused of crimes, including very serious crimes, and is well-versed in the law regarding juvenile crimes.

Prosecutors have charged a 15-year-old as an adult in the shooting death of a Jacksonville man. The teen and two others were not invited to a March party in a Jacksonville apartment, but showed up anyway and soon got into an argument with the victim, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The victim was pistol whipped and shot in the head, according to the newspaper, and died several days after the incident.

The teen is charged with second-degree murder, which has a penalty of up to life in state prison – though recent Supreme Court decisions have not thought highly of life sentences for juveniles, even in Jacksonville Murder Cases. Both other men with the victim were also arrested – a 26-year-old charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and a 19-year-old charged with possession of a firearm by a juvenile delinquent, the newspaper reported. In Jacksonville Juvenile Crimes Cases, the state has the option to try the case in juvenile court or can choose for what is called a “direct file” and move the case directly to adult court. That is often the option local prosecutors choose, especially in Jacksonville Gun Crimes Cases and Jacksonville Murder Cases. One of the interesting aspects in this case is the charge of second-degree murder. Once the facts come out in the case, it will be more apparent if premeditation was there that would qualify it for first-degree murder, but it does lead one to wonder if the state filed it as second-degree murder in part to keep mandatory life off the table.

In first-degree murder cases, the only possible sentences are life in prison or the death penalty. The state cannot seek death when the defendant is a juvenile, so the only other option is life in prison. But, last year a state court overturned the life sentence of a Jacksonville man who was 16 when he robbed and stabbed a man to death in 2010. In second-degree murder, the judge can sentence a defendant to anywhere from 25 years to life in prison – but the key for this Jacksonville Juvenile Crimes Case is that is cannot be life – or a sentence of, for example, 70 years, which is essentially a life sentence. The Legislature and courts are still working on what the state deems fair in sentencing juveniles, and there will likely be several more contested sentences before there is a resolution as to what is appropriate.

What school and police officials say was a random check in a Jacksonville high school classroom turned up a loaded gun in the sock of a 16-year-old boy. The student was arrested on the felony charge of bringing a weapon onto a school campus and was ordered to be held in a juvenile detention center, according to a report on News4Jax. The teen told police he was having problems with some people outside of school, was going to be walking to a friend’s house that day and thought he needed it to protect himself, the television station reported. Bringing a weapon onto school grounds is a third-degree felony in Florida, punishable by up to five years in state prison.

That punishment in a Jacksonville Gun Crimes case is for if the boy is charged and sentenced as an adult. The mere fact that this Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case is a high school student being caught with a gun in a classroom would indicate that this is a Jacksonville Juvenile Crimes Case and should be handled through the juvenile justice system, though that is not always the case. Assuming that it does stay in the juvenile system, the range of penalties is far different than it is for adults. There are five different levels of juvenile detention, ranging from non-residential programs in which the students can still attend school, on up to what amounts to a prison for teens. Because this Jacksonville Juvenile Crimes Case involves a gun, the defendant would automatically be disqualified from the two least serious options. At the very least, if convicted, the teen would likely be in a locked juvenile facility serving a sentence with little access to the community. In some cases, teens are allowed to visit home or enroll in school near the end of their sentence to help get everything in order to move on with their lives after being released.

In terms of school, the teen’s options could be limited, too, as a result of this Jacksonville Juvenile Crimes Case. Bringing a weapon to school is an automatic suspension in Florida and could ultimately lead to the student being expelled from school entirely. That leaves the teen without many places to turn to get an education that he will need to lead a productive life. There are some educational programs in the juvenile detention centers where a student can stay on track for his or her diploma, and the schools look at each student individually when determining whether he or she can return to school.

A Clay County legislator has again filed a bill to bring the state’s sentencing of juveniles in line with two Supreme Court rulings that have altered that landscape in recent years. One 2010 ruling eliminated life sentences for juveniles in cases other than murder and a second two years later banned mandatory life sentences for juveniles, even in murder cases. In the wake of those two cases, many of the 265 juveniles now sentenced to life in Florida prisons have been in limbo as judges sought guidance on the issue, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union.

State Sen. Rob Bradley, for the second straight year, has introduced a bill to clean up the law. The proposal is revised slightly this year and would set a maximum penalty of 35 years for juveniles who are found guilty of crimes that do not involve a death. Parole hearings could also be set every 25 years to discuss an early release – but not for juveniles convicted of murder. Those sentences would not be subject to further consideration. The proposal for Jacksonville Juvenile Crimes cases would still allow for juveniles to been sentenced to life in prison for murder. However, there would be a special hearing for the judge to consider the defendant’s likelihood of rehabilitation and his or her personal and family background before a life sentence can be issued. A sentencing hearing of sorts is held in almost every other case but, in Florida, people convicted of first-degree murder can only be sentenced to life in prison or the death penalty. Juveniles cannot be sentenced to death and it was the mandatory nature of the life sentence that the Supreme Court overruled.

While the regulations would apply for people convicted of the most serious of crimes, most defendants in Jacksonville Juvenile Crime Cases never see the inside of a prison cell. The system is designed to provide punishment, but also to keep in mind that brushes with the law can happen to juveniles and those mistakes should not have a lifelong effect. For common Jacksonville Juvenile Crimes such as burglary, vandalism and drug possession, common penalties include community service and probation. As conditions of probation, a Jacksonville Juvenile Crime defendant may have to meet periodically with a probation officer, submit to drug tests and stay out of further trouble. There are also varying degree of incarceration available to judges in Jacksonville Juvenile Crimes Cases, from house arrest all the way up to what amounts to a juvenile prison. Our Jacksonville Juvenile Crimes Attorney can work for your loved one to try to ensure that the case stays in the juvenile court system and that a sentence won’t keep him or her from moving on from a poor decision.

Two teens were arrested last week on a slew of theft and more serious charges after a failed attempt to flee from St. Johns County police. A 15-year-old and a 13-year-old were initially sniffed out by a man who saw the two teens inside his van and pressed the panic button to activate his vehicle alarm and scare them off, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The teens allegedly took off in another car and one of them rammed a stolen car into a police car and also nearly ran over an officer on foot, the newspaper reported.

The Florida felony charges are serious and this will be an interesting St. Johns County Juvenile Crimes case to watch to determine whether the boys will receive punishments that lean more toward adult crimes or juvenile crimes. The 15-year-old is charged with grand theft auto, two counts of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer and driving without a license, the newspaper reported. Grand theft auto in Jacksonville is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison. Aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison, and driving without a license is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in the county jail. So, all told, the teen could be looking at a total of more than 35 years in prison if charged as an adult in these St. Johns County Juvenile Crimes Cases. That’s highly unlikely, especially since he is 15 years old, but shows how quickly bad decisions can spiral and charges can add up when someone starts to flee from police. In most cases, especially if it is a first offense, teens are punished within the juvenile justice system. Teens can be placed on probation, or sentenced to one of a variety of levels of detention. Those levels are:

• Minimum Risk Non-Residential: The teen must attend this program five days a week, but can continue to go to school or work. Typically teens with less serious offenses are placed here.

A 16-year-old St. Johns County juvenile inmate likely made his stay significantly longer after he was caught about 200 miles away the same day. Syllas McMillan was caught after he took a cab from St. Johns County to Inverness and then skipped out on the $275 cab fare, according to a report from First Coast News. The cab driver called police who, thinking it was likely McMillan, searched the area, the television station reported. McMillan was found by a police dog on a wooded area.

McMillan now faces a Florida escape charge, on top of the non-violent theft and burglary charges that landed him under juvenile supervision in the first place. McMillan was on an approved field trip to a local horse ranch when he allegedly kicked out a bathroom window and took off on foot, the television station reported. And, in this St. Johns County Juvenile Crimes case, McMillan just made his life a lot more difficult.

In St. Johns County Juvenile Crimes cases, there are a wide-range of punishments and supervision requirements. The most severe, obviously, is being housed in a juvenile detention center – essentially a prison for teens. But there are other options where teens can have some degree of freedom, including field trips and other activities like the one McMillan was on last week. The Florida juvenile system is supposed to be designed toward rehabilitating the teens and making them productive members of society, so there are certain freedoms and responsibilities given. But running away on a field trip is a good way to have any and all of those freedoms taken away. It will be interesting to see if the state decides to charge McMillan as a juvenile or as an adult on the escape charge. Deputies poured plenty of resources into trying to find him, setting up searches along Interstate 95, S.R. 16 and all throughout World Gold Village. He was wearing street clothes, so it’s not like the cab driver would have automatically known by looking at McMillan that he had escaped.

A state court has overturned the life sentence of a Jacksonville teen who was 16 when he robbed and stabbed a man to death in 2010. The 1st District Court of Appeal overturned the sentence last week because of a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that found life sentences without parole for juveniles were unconstitutional, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union.

The reversal is the latest sticky issue when it comes to sentencing juveniles in Jacksonville and all over the state of Florida. Life sentences for crimes other that murder were already determined unconstitutional, and it was a Jacksonville Juvenile Gun Crimes case that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on to establish precedent. With murder added, it directly conflicts with Florida law that requires anyone convicted of first-degree murder to be sentenced to either life in prison or the death penalty. The appellate court did not specify what should be done in the next sentence for Thomas Partlow, who along with two friends robbed a man of $3 and then stabbed and killed him, the newspaper reported.

The larger issue that will likely have to be addressed then is whether the state will be able to charge youth as adults in first-degree murder cases. Jacksonville was once more in the national spotlight after local prosecutors charged 12-year-old Cristian Fernandez with first-degree murder in 2011 in connection with the death of his 2-year-old half-brother. Lawyers for Fernandez have sought to have the charge dropped because of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, but the motion was denied. Fernandez is scheduled for trial in March.

A ruling by a Jacksonville judge in a Jacksonville Juvenile murder case getting national attention has the Jacksonville sheriff reconsidering how his detectives interview juvenile defendants. The judge ruled last week that Cristian Fernandez did not understand he was waiving his right to an attorney during interrogations in the murder and Jacksonville sexual battery cases against him, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Fernandez, now 13, was 12 at the time of the interviews. After the ruling, Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford ordered his detectives to build cases against defendant 12 years old or younger on physical and forensic evidence alone and to not rely at all on any statements made to police.

The statements were seen to be very significant pieces of evidence in both cases against Fernandez, the newspaper reported. Fernandez is charged with first-degree murder in the beating death of his 2-year-old half brother and is also charged with sexually assaulting a different 5-year-old step-brother. Jacksonville state attorneys will soon decide if they’ll appeal the judge’s ruling. If they do, it will likely delay the Duval County sexual battery trial scheduled for Sept. 6, and the murder trial also scheduled for next month. A four-day hearing in August included testimony and reports from mental health professionals who provided their opinions on whether a 12-year-old boy with no knowledge of the criminal justice system could understand the severity of waiving his rights. The recordings have not been released, but Jacksonville criminal defense attorneys have said Fernandez refused to talk nine times before eventually agreeing to speak with detectives, the newspaper reported.

It will be interesting to see if the state decides to appeal the ruling to the 1st District Court of Appeal. The ruling opens up the discussion as to how old a defendant must be before they can understand the charges against them and the ramifications of talking to the police. Is it 12? 13? 14? That makes it fairly likely, from the perspective of a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney’s perspective, that the state will appeal the decision. The decision is already having an impact on how Jacksonville police conduct their business, and they will likely want clear direction on how to move forward. Not to mention the affect the ruling has on the cases against Fernandez, one the state has been criticized heavily for in making Fernandez the youngest person ever to be charged with first-degree murder.

The state will seek 35 years in prison for a 16-year-old Jacksonville boy who pleaded guilty last week to Jacksonville vehicular homicide charges in connection with the death of a 22-year-old hospital employee. Zachary Lambert was being chased by police about 3 a.m. after an officer saw him driving erratically, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Four miles later, Lambert’s truck sped through an intersection and hit another car, killing the 22-year-old driver. Lambert was initially charged with murder, but the charge was amended and he pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide in Duval County, according to the newspaper report. His deal with the state attorney also included guilty pleas to Jacksonville Grand Theft Auto and Jacksonville Fleeing or Attempting to Elude a Law Enforcement Officer. His Jacksonville Criminal Attorney told the newspaper she will seek a youthful offender sentence for Lambert.

A youthful offender sentence in Jacksonville, Florida is available for a judge when the defendant is 21 years of age or younger at the time of sentencing. Florida Youthful Offender sentences are a maximum of six years in prison, but are typically a combination of prison and some form of Jacksonville probation (for example, four years in prison followed by two years of Duval County house arrest). The sentences are also focused more on rehabilitation, designed to help the young men and women lead productive lives once they have served their time. Youthful offender sentences are not the same as juvenile sentences. For one, the person must be charged as an adult. Jacksonville juvenile sanctions typically only apply when a defendant is charged as a juvenile – which is happening less and less often in Clay County, Duval County and Nassau County. The second difference is youthful offender sentences extend until a defendant is 21. Once a person turns 18, they cannot be in juvenile court. So the law does allow some leniency for younger offenders – if the judge or the state decides to use it.

In the Lambert case, the state is opposing the youthful offender provision and is asking for the maximum sentence possible for what Lambert pleaded to – citing the death Lambert caused and the teen’s prior criminal record. His previous charges include an aggravated assault for allegedly threatening his sister with a knife. Lambert’s criminal record will be an issue. Most judges are not in the business of giving a series of chances. If a person has been spared a tougher sentence in the past or, for example, been sent to drug rehabilitation instead of prison, a judge may be more likely to drop the hammer. Sentencing hearings are essentially the trial in most cases, and our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney has represented hundreds of clients in those hearings. Our Jacksonville criminal defense attorney will lay out the case and may call family members and friends as witnesses – whatever it takes to share your side of the story and hopefully achieve the best sentence possible.