Articles Posted in Juvenile Crimes

While there are laws against perjury in all states, police in Florida are allowed to lie to suspects – including juveniles – during questioning. Any confessions obtained during these deceptive interactions can be used against the defendant. police interrogation

Recognizing that juveniles are especially vulnerable when faced with these types of interactions (and often taught to trust police), one Florida lawmaker has filed a bill that would render the confession of a juvenile inadmissible if it was obtained by police using deception.

Frankly, SB 890 is unlikely to pass. A similar measure last year failed unanimously, and this one does not yet have a companion bill in the state House.

But it does bring up an important point that our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers often must broach with suspects who opt to speak with police before asking for a lawyer: That it’s almost always a very bad idea. This is especially true for custodial interrogations involving juvenile suspects. We would agree that they are deserving of some additional legal protections, but as of now, they don’t have it.

There is a common – and generally judicially accepted – practice by law enforcement to lie without consequence to suspects during questioning. They make false promises of lighter sentences in exchange for confessions. They misrepresent the evidence in order to get them to confess. They’ll say a co-defendant has confessed when in reality they haven’t. These tactics are even more problematic in the context of juvenile cases because youth are more vulnerable – physically and psychologically. They are more susceptible to suggestibility. This has been known to lead to false confessions – especially with kids and teens.

Just take the case of the Exonerated Five, previously known as the Central Park Five – each told by police that their friends had already implicated them in a crime and that they’d face death unless they confessed. They did confess – each giving completely different stories – only to later be exonerated.

When there is a confession or self-incriminating statement given to police during interrogation, it almost inevitably leads to a conviction or plea. That is why so many Florida criminal defense lawyers are so adamant about suspects avoiding interrogation without their attorney present. Continue reading

In the experience of our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers, many parents are in the dark when it comes to Florida’s sexting laws. In fact, a fair number aren’t even aware of the definition, let alone that their teens may be engaging in it. Florida sexting defense

Sexting in general refers to the exchange of sexual content material via technological devices. It’s a term deriving from the words “sex” and text.” By some measures, approximately 1 in 5 teens have engaged in sexting. While males are more likely than females to engage in sexting, females are more likely to send nude photos of themselves. Most of these are to a boyfriend or girlfriend. But even minors could find themselves facing serious criminal charges in Florida for sexting. In some respects, it is treated as akin to child porn. Consequences can include prison time and requirements to register as a sex offender.

If you’re a parent of a teen, it’s imperative that you educate yourself on what sexting is, what the law says, and how your child can protect themselves from legal trouble.

Florida Sexting Law

Where two consenting adults are involved in sexting, there is no crime. (Consent, however, should be explicit from both sides. Additionally, be certain you know your partner’s true age, as you can be held responsible even if your partner lied about their age. Further, even if sending/receipt of such material between adults is consensual, it can cross the line into revenge porn – also known as sexual cyberharassment, per F.S. 784.049(3) – if the receiving party willfully and maliciously forwards material to third parties without the consent of the initial sender.)

Sexting is considered a serious crime when it involves:

  • Lack of one party’s consent.
  • A minor (under 18).

Specifically, F.S. 847.0141 prohibits explicit exchanges of photos, videos, voice notes, and sexual texts between two minors AND between an adult and a minor.

Minors can be charged with sexting if they use a cell phone, tablet, computer, or other electronic device to send nude videos or photos to another minor. The other minor possession of those images could be charged with sexting, but may defend against the charges if they:

  • Did not solicit/ask for the photo.
  • Did not forward to a third-party.
  • Took steps to report it (to a parent, school, or law enforcement authority).

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Minors tend to think their social media habits are harmless. However, our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers recognize that social media videos, snaps, timelines, messaging, and more have become pivotal evidence in some very serious criminal cases in Florida, particularly those involving juveniles. juvenile detention lawyer Fort Lauderdale

Snapchat, in particular, is a social media network that has exploded in recent years. It started as a private, person-to-person photo sharing app, but it’s now used to send short videos, initiate live chatting, messaging, and story sharing, as well as the creation of caricature-like avatars. The wide arrange of free filters also make it popular, and it’s used by more than 250 million people daily.

It’s also had a noted connection to a number of recent alleged crimes. Among those:

  • Three teenage boys from the Florida Keys are facing charges of lewd and lascivious battery, obscene communication by transmitting child pornography and cruelty toward a child by promoting material involving the sexual act of a child. The video in question reportedly depicts two of the boys (both 16) engaged in sex acts with a 12-year-old girl. The third boy, age 14, reportedly shared the video at school. The boy who shared the video said he had no knowledge of it, but detectives reportedly found numerous incriminating videos saved in his Snapchat account, according to the Miami Herald. Lewd and lascivious battery is a serious felony charge, but so too are the others that involve disseminating the material on social media. F.S. 827.071, which pertains to sharing material that shows a child engaged in a sex act. Depending on one’s degree of involvement, the charge can be a second- or third-degree felony, with maximum penalties of between 5 and 15 years in prison.
  • Three teens were arrested in Wesley Chapel, FL (north of Tampa) over videos on Snapchat that depict them with guns in a grocery store bathroom. The teens were arrested while still on site at the store, in the dairy section. Authorities allegedly found stolen handguns, ammunition, and a stolen credit card.
  • Three middle school students were arrested for alleged threats made on Snapchat against their school. Specifically, they are charged with making a written threat to do bodily harm or commit an act of terrorism. As outlined in F.S. 836.10, this is a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

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After he was sentenced to life in prison at age 16 for a non-murder felony, Terrence Graham argued the injustice all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court – and won. Because of that case, teens convicted of felonies that did not involve a homicide cannot be locked up for life without parole. Doing so, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, amounts to cruel and unusual punishment because youths change. For better or worse, one is rarely the same person at 36 that they were at 16.Fort Lauderdale juvenile defense lawyer

But the namesake of the landmark 2010 ruling in Graham v. Florida is still locked up – nearly a decade after that ruling and having served more than 15 years behind bars. He recently lost an important appeal in his ongoing bid for freedom. The loss of this appeal means he’ll be behind bars for at least another six years.

At 16-years-old, he and two others robbed a restaurant in north Florida, beating a manager with a metal pipe in the process. After pleading guilty, he spent one year in jail and was placed on probation. The following year, he was arrested for home invasion robbery, F.S. 812.135, a first-degree felony that carries a possible life sentence if a firearm is used. Because of the prior felony, he was sentenced to life in prison. Continue reading

It’s summertime, school’s out (or soon-to-be) and throughout South Florida, teens and young adults are celebrating – fairly often with substances they aren’t legally allowed to have or consume (namely, alcohol).Fort Lauderdale lawyer underage alcohol

As Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorneys can explain, these scenarios can result in several different criminal charges:

  • Unlawful possession of alcohol by a person under age 21, per F.S. 562.111.
  • Unlawfully selling, serving or giving alcohol to a person under age 21, per F.S. 562.11.
  • Open house party where host knows or should know alcohol will be served to minors, per F.S. 856.015.

There are also potential civil consequences if the minor becomes impaired and somehow hurts themselves or is involved in an underage DUI car accident that injures themselves or others. Those cases will be handled by the civil justice system, separate from any criminal charges. Continue reading

The day after a gunman fatally shot 17 people at a high school in South Florida, most of American teenagers returned to school. And when they did, a number of so-called “copycat” threats were made, posted on social media, scrawled on bathroom walls and called into school administration offices. Regardless of how serious these individuals are, they need to know that such actions can have very real criminal consequences, even for minors. Police, prosecutors and school districts are not likely to assume such assertions are idle. If anything, there will be a tendency to overreact, despite the fact that we know 15- and 16-year-olds (the most common perpetrator in these cases) aren’t developmentally mature and don’t always make the best decisions. criminal defense lawyer

  • In South Carolina, we saw a 9th grade student arrested after allegedly posting a photo of himself wearing a partial mask, holding what appears to be an assault rifle above a caption that says, “Round 2 of Florida tomorrow.”
  • A sixth-grader in Broward County was arrested for writing a note threatening to bring a gun to school and “kill all of you.” She had slipped the message underneath the principal’s door and later gave a confession to administrators.
  • In Brooklyn, New York, two 16-year-old boys were arrested for threatening to shoot up their school less than two hours after word spread about what happened Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
  • A Brevard County student was arrested after posting a photo on Snapchat of herself holding a gun, above the caption, “I’m coming to space coast, watch out.”
  • In Ohio, a high school student was arrested for a social media post referencing the Parkland shooting. He is facing a felony charge for inducing a panic.

The list goes on and on, and includes everything from students posting photos of unloaded guns to actually bringing weapons to school. In Collier County on Florida’s West Coast, officials reported 27 school threats in less than two weeks after the shooting. USA Today reports more than 600 copycat threats have been made against schools throughout the country (about 70 daily).  Continue reading

South Florida prosecutors recently announced they would be charging a Fort Lauderdale teen as an adult for his alleged role in an attempted robbery that resulted in the fatal shooting of a construction worker at a convenience store. The state attorney’s office said the 17-year-old suspect reportedly shot the 33-year-old construction worker, who had just exchanged a $100 bill for several $20 bills. The two reportedly started “tussling” when the suspect held the worker at gunpoint, and the suspect in turn fired at least three shots, killing the worker, police said. teen

When teens are charged as adults, it’s via a process known as “direct file,” spelled out in F.S. 985.557. The statute allows that any child who is 14 or 15 at the time of an alleged offense may be subject to a “discretionary direct file” (the discretion being that of the state attorney’s office) for certain felony offenses, including (but not limited to) murder, sexual battery, kidnapping, stalking, child abuse, aggravated battery or armed burglary. A child who is 16 or 17 may be subject to a mandatory direct file if they have previously been adjudicated delinquent for one of these felonies or if the current offense is a “forcible felony” or if the the offense involved possession of a firearm/ destructive device and/ or involved discharge of that weapon.

So while some of these matters may be out of prosecutors’ hands via statute, the fact remains that Florida transfers more children out of the juvenile justice system and into adult court than any other state. The Human Rights Watch reported on this fact in a 2014 investigation. Ninety-eight percent of children who end up in the adult court system do so as a result of the direct file statute, which does not require prosecutors to get any input from a judge.  Continue reading

Broward Sheriff’s detectives are lauding the actions of a mother who turned her teenage son into authorities after spotting him on television news, fleeing on foot from a police helicopter that had been chasing him and three others across four cities along I-95. sadness3

Authorities say she brought her son to the police station around 1:30 a.m. and instructed him to cooperate with deputies. Her actions were deemed “upstanding” and “noble.”

To be sure, parents have a responsibility to hold their children accountable for wrongdoing. At the same time, what some may not realize is that even though these are minors, they can still face adult penalties. That’s why they should receive the same kind of legal defense protection as any adult facing serious charges.  Continue reading

A 15-year-old from Boca Raton is facing charges of vehicular homicide and homicide while engaged in a felony offense after he crashed a stolen Mustang into a Honda Pilot during a police pursuit. Although the teen and his 20-year-old passenger were uninjured, the driver of the Pilot, 46-year-old Wendy Harris, was killed.

At this time, we’re not naming the teen because he hasn’t (yet) been charged as an adult. However, considering the circumstances of this situation, we recognize it’s highly probable prosecutors will do so.F.S. 985.557 is the “direct file” statute, which spells out situations in which prosecutors have discretion in “direct filing” a juvenile offender as an adult – to face (mostly) adult penalties, and when such action is mandatory.

The statute says that when any child who is 14 or 15 at the time of the alleged offense, prosecutors can seek adult sanctions when the person is arrested for a number of serious and violent felonies, including robbery, sexual assault, arson, aggravated child abuse, aggravated stalking, grand theft, robbery, kidnapping, carjacking or grand theft of a vehicle (when juvenile has a prior adjudication for the same or similar offense). Prosecutors may be required to “Mandatory Direct File” when the child is 16 or 17 at the time of allegedly committing a forcible felony or when any felony offense is committed and the teen has a previous adjudication for a violent felony.

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A measure that would inject some common-sense into the impossibly stringent sentences imposed on young, non-violent offenders in Florida is gaining widespread support.
Passing by a vote of 37-1 in the Florida Senate, HB 99 would increase the use of civil citations for juveniles who run afoul of the law for crimes like trespassing or shoplifting. It would also grant law enforcement officers discretion to simply issue a warning and notify parents if a juvenile admits to committing a non-violent misdemeanor. The law even allows repeat misdemeanor juvenile offenders to participate in the civil citation diversion program, as opposed to limiting the option to first-time offenders.

The twin bill in the state senate is SB 378.

The effect of this legislation on the lives of minors could be huge.
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