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.
If a juvenile case is sent to adult court, the child has to get re-arrested and processed through the adult jail. Children are housed in one area at the Duval County Detention Facility and do not have contact with adult inmates. Once children are in adult court, they are allowed to get a bond or to be released on their own recognizance just as any other adult that has been arrested. If a juvenile is convicted of a crime in adult court, the court has the option to punish the child in a few ways. The court can elect to sentence the child as if the child is an adult, which means adult prison and adult probation. The court can give the juvenile a youthful offender sanction, which is essentially a blend of juvenile and adult punishment. Finally, the court can sentence the child to juvenile sanctions.
If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Jacksonville Juvenile Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.