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.