A Jacksonville high school student is facing more than five years behind bars after he was arrested for having a gun on the campus of First Coast High School. Police started looking at the teen after a school security officer walked into the boys’ bathroom and saw two students trading marijuana, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. While the officer questioned the two young men, one of the suspects ran out the door. The officer found some marijuana on the first student, and then ran after the other, who was eventually caught in the back of the gymnasium with pot in his pocket, the newspaper reported. When police looked around the area, they found a handgun near the back door and then found more pot, a scale and 15 bullets in the teen’s backpack. The teen was taken to the Duval County jail and also charged with Jacksonville marijuana possession, a misdemeanor in Florida. The serious charge is Jacksonville possession of a gun on school property, a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
And while school officials said after their own investigation that it did not appear the teen brought the gun to school with intent to hurt anyone, it is still a major violation of school policy and the law, the newspaper reported. Individual school districts and state legislatures have cracked down on penalties for having guns and other weapons on campuses after the rash of school shootings that began in the late 1990s. Most states, as Florida does, have a specific law about guns in schools and the rare cases where it is permitted, such as a career center that has a shooting range. One piece of this case to watch is whether the state decides to prosecute this teen as a juvenile or as an adult. As a Jacksonville Juvenile case, he could receive a variety of different sentences from a form of probation to time in what is essentially a youth prison. Or the state could pursue charges as an adult and he’d be facing hard time in state prison. Those decisions are often based on a teen’s previous criminal record and the severity of the charge. The difference can be enormous for the teen. A felony conviction is an automatic strike when it comes to looking for a job and would severely limit his options. He would still have plenty of explaining to do on a Duval County Juvenile Charge, but many employers and training programs can be more likely to give the benefit of the doubt on a juvenile crime – especially as time goes on, assuming the person has stayed out of trouble. Having a Jacksonville Juvenile Crimes Attorney on board early in a case like this is crucial. The difference between juvenile court and traditional court in a case like this is huge and any mitigating factors should be brought to the state’s attention immediately, in hopes of keeping the case in a juvenile setting.
If you or a loved one needs an experienced Juvenile Attorney in Duval County or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Jacksonville Juvenile Crime Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.