Articles Posted in Juvenile Crimes in Jacksonville

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.

A United States Supreme Court ruling this week will pave the way for a resentencing in one of Jacksonville’s most notorious murder cases – the 1998 killing of 8-year-old Maddie Clifton. The high court last week shot down mandatory life sentences for juveniles convicted of first-degree murder – and there are differences of opinions locally on whether or not it completely forbids any life sentence for a juvenile, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. This the second major Supreme Court ruling as it relates to juveniles in Jacksonville. The first, in 2011, was based on a Jacksonville case and abolished life sentences for juveniles convicted of anything but murder. Criminal defense attorneys argued the decision made it illegal to sentence a juvenile to life in prison for anything, though prosecutors said they interpreted it to mean judges still had the discretion to impose a life sentence, the newspaper reported. Before the ruling, anyone indicted on a first-degree murder charge, regardless of age, is subject to a mandatory life prison sentence if convicted.

The science that has been brought up repeatedly is that the brain is not fully developed to understand the consequences of such behavior. A similar finding emerged last week in the case of Cristian Fernandez, now 13, charged with first-degree murder in the beating death of his 2-year-old half-brother. The state is planning on trying Fernandez first on Jacksonville Sexual Battery Charges against another stepbrother, but a psychiatrist found Fernandez was unable to understand his Miranda rights when they were read to him – key testimony in a pending decision about whether the interviews and alleged confession will be brought in at trial.

The Supreme Court ruling also means another sentencing for Josh Phillips, convicted of brutally beating and stabbing his neighbor when he was 14 years old. He has already served 14 years in prison. The Jacksonville State Attorney at the time told the Times-Union this week that if he had it to do again, he would have left the sentencing discretion with the judge and not forced the court’s hand with the mandatory life sentence. Recent high court decisions are moving toward reduced sentences for juveniles, while in Clay County, Duval County and Nassau County, the trend seems to be moving in the opposite direction. Jacksonville Juvenile Crimes are very serious and can without question have a lasting impact on the life of the youth who is charged and convicted. There are numerous options – from diversionary programs to incarceration – for teens charged with serious crimes and our Jacksonville Juvenile Crimes Attorney has represented thousands of teens and knows all of the possible sentences and programs available. Our Jacksonville juvenile crimes lawyer is committed to working toward the best possible scenario so the teen can do his or her punishment that is deserved, but move on with his or her life and not have a mistake dragging them down the rest of their life.

Prosecutors will have an interesting decision to make this week on 11 Fleming Island High School students charged with ransacking an unlocked home during Memorial Day weekend. All of the boys are 16 and 17, most of them football players at Fleming Island, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Most are charged with Florida armed burglary, a first-degree felony publishable by up to life in prison. That would be if the boys are charged as adults. And that’s where the decision will come in. The authority lies with the prosecutor’s office and would exponentially increase the amount of prison time the teens could be facing. The charges stem from a Memorial Day weekend incident where a family accidentally left their home unlocked while in Alabama, the newspaper reported. Police said the boys may have known the family was going to be out of town. The teens are accused of ransacking the home and stealing three guns, a gun safe, gas cards, electronics and golf clubs, the newspaper reported. The loss was estimated at over $5,000. A neighbor said they saw several cars parked near the home one night over the weekend, the newspaper reported.

Information on past criminal records for the boys was not reported by the local media, but that will likely be a huge factor in whether they are charged as adults. There are various types of juvenile sanctions that can be levied in a case like this, from time in a juvenile facility on down. All are geared with an eye on rehabilitation and helping the offender become a productive member of society once the sentence is up. That would not be the case if the boys ended up charged as adults and serving time in adult prison. They could be stuck in prison for decades. And while the charges are very serious, it could be argued they sound more severe than what actually happened. Armed burglary can be a bit of a misnomer. The charge makes it sound like a person had a gun or a knife when they committed a burglary. In many cases, including this one, that is not true. If someone takes a gun during a burglary in Clay County, that can be charged as an armed burglary. The only thing that makes it an armed burglary is if the person accused of the burglary was armed at some point during the crime. And if that weapon is a gun, as it is in this case, the crime is punishable by up to life in prison.

The number one job of a Clay County criminal Juvenile Defense Attorney in this case is to try to keep the case in juvenile court. Our Clay County juvenile crimes lawyer has represented hundreds of teens who teetered on the edge between juvenile and adult court. Oftentimes, starting the discussions early with prosecutors and building as much evidence as possible that shows this was an isolated incident can be beneficial. If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Fleming Island or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm, PA at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Clay County Armed Burglary Attorney is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The 70-year prison sentence of a Jacksonville teen found guilty of attempted first-degree murder when he was 14 was sent to the Florida Supreme Court this week for review. The case is being reviewed following last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that found sentencing juveniles to life in prison for crimes other than murder was cruel and unusual punishment, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The sentenced at issue was also a Jacksonville juvenile case, where a teen convicted of armed robbery was sentenced to life in prison. His sentenced has since been reduced to 25 years. The Supreme Court ruling affected more than 200 cases, but 70 percent were in Florida, the newspaper reported, and Jacksonville has certainly had its share. The case discussed last week involves Shimeek Grindine, who was 14 when he shot a man during a Jacksonville robbery attempt in 2009.

The appellate court decision to send Grindine’s case for another look centers on what exactly constitutes a life sentence in practical terms. For Grindine, he would be in his mid-80s if he did the full sentence. Even if he received gain time and did the 85 percent of the sentence most inmates actually serves, he’d get out in his mid-70s. There is was no timetable given as to when Grindine’s case might be heard by the Florida Supreme Court. Interestingly, as the sentences handed down to juveniles are getting attention for their severity, more and more Jacksonville youth are seeing their cases handled in adult court, rather than in the juvenile system established for kids under the age of 18. When juveniles are charged with serious felonies, the state can do what is called a “direct file,” meaning they will put the case in regular court and the defendant will face the same penalties an adult would. That practice is becoming more and more common in Northeast Florida, particularly in Clay County and Duval County.

Last year, Jacksonville prosecutors filed first-degree murder charges against Cristian Fernandez, who was 12 at the time he was accused of killing his 2-year-old half-brother. Most recently, a 16-year-old who was in the home and had drugs in his pocket when a Clay County detective was shot during a meth raid was charged as an adult with felony murder. There used to be a time where a record that stuck with you was the major concern for juveniles charged with crimes. Now, it’s serious time in serious prison, and you need an experienced Jacksonville Juvenile Crimes Attorney to help work through the process. Our Jacksonville juvenile lawyer has represented hundreds of youth charged with crimes and can start negotiations early in hopes of keeping the charges in juvenile court where they belong, and minimizing the long-term damage on the child’s future.

A girl who helped spray red paint into the eyes and nose of a historic and vaunted marble lion on the Bridge of Lions in St. Augustine will be on Florida probation until she’s 19. The girl, whose name was not released because she is a juvenile, will also have to complete 40 hours of community service, pay $721 in restitution and write a public letter of apology, according to a report by First Coast News. She was 15 at the time of her arrest and visiting her grandparents in St. Augustine. She was arrested with a 19-year-old man three days after the vandalism was discovered, the television station reported. She admitted to having the paint, but denied doing any of the painting. She was found guilty this week of criminal mischief, a misdemeanor. The 19-year-old partner received more than seven times the community service when he was sentenced in November.

The courts are typically more lenient with juvenile arrests, and the laws are set up that way. For crimes such as this – vandalism, petit theft, possession of marijuana or a minor in possession of alcohol – the penalties are not as stiff as for adults. But that doesn’t mean charges should not be taken serious. In fact, it’s the opposite. If your child or a loved one’s child winds up on the wrong end of the law, it’s important that it is handled the right way to prevent future damage. Juvenile Attorneys will often negotiate what is called a “withhold of adjudication,” which means the person will not be listed as being convicted, provided the terms of the agreement are met. Those terms are often similar to what was given in the Bridge of Lions case – community service, probation and a fine, maybe even a class on alcohol or drugs, depending on the offense.

Teen-agers make mistakes. It happens. But it is crucial to make sure the consequences do not hurt him or her down the road, if that can be avoided. In many cases, the conviction can even be removed from the person’s record. Our Jacksonville Juvenile Criminal Defense Attorney has represented countless teenagers, many of whom have taken their punishment and moved on – staying out of trouble going forward. Our Duval County criminal defense firm defends many juvenile clients.

A 16-year-old boy trying to run from police finds himself in much deeper trouble now after he ran a red light and killed a 22-year-old driver. The teen, Zachary Lambert, is now charged with vehicular homicide, according to the Florida Times-Union. Vehicular homicide is a second degree felony in Florida and is punishable by up to 15 years in prison if the state attorney treats Zachary as an adult. Lambert is also charged with driving without a license causing death or serious bodily injury, a third degree felony and fleeing or attempting to elude a law enforcement officer after causing death, which is a first degree felony, the newspaper reported. The Florida Highway Patrol, which is investigating the case, told the newspaper it is still looking into how Lambert got the pick-up truck he was driving and how fast he was going.

The Florida Highway Patrol reports that Zachary was headed eastbound on Beach Boulevard while being pursued by a marked Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office patrol unit with lights and sirens. They report that the boy failed to stop at the traffic signal at Beach Boulevard and San Pablo. The victim was northbound on San Pablo and entered the intersection on a green light and was hit on her side door by Zachary’s vehicle. According to a witness at the scene, the traffic signal was red for Zachary. The victim was killed by the impact. Police estimate that Zachary was going around 100 miles per hour in the car.

Prosecutors now have a decision to make as to whether to charge Lambert as an adult or let the case play out in juvenile court. The state weighs a slew of factors in making that decision – and sometimes will charge a teen as an adult as a negotiating chip to coax a plea deal out of the youngster. Often, a teen’s criminal record plays a role. In this case, Lambert’s doesn’t help him. The newspaper reports Lambert was charged with aggravated assault in Duval County in September after pulling a knife on his sister and threatening to kill her.