Teen Suspected in Carjacking Charged as Adult

West Palm Beach Carjacking Defense Lawyer

The Palm Beach Post reported on September 29 that the West Palm Beach Police Department said a 17-year-old was being charged as an adult in a reported September 4 carjacking near Good Samaritan Medical Center. The teenager was transferred to the Palm Beach County Jail on September 27 following his September 5 arrest on allegations of armed carjacking, aggravated assault, and resisting arrest.

City police told the Post that the teenager stole a 2011 Volkswagen Jetta at gunpoint on the night of September 4 before leading police on a chase that exceeded speeds of 100 mph. A 31-year-old man told police investigators that the teenager was accompanied by a man in his 40s who climbed into the passenger seat, but the Post said the arrest report neither identified the teenager’s accomplice nor whether that person had been arrested.

The car chase ended in the area of Seventh Street and Division Avenue, according to the Post. The teenager and his accomplice got out of the vehicle and ran, but police K-9 and helicopter units canvassed the area and found the teenager hiding in the backyard of a home. The Post reported that the Volkswagen positively identified the teenager as the carjacker.

According to the post, the 17-year-old is among more than a dozen Palm Beach County juveniles to be transferred to the adult court system in the past year after being charged with carjacking.

West Palm Beach Carjacking Defense Lawyer

Minors may have their criminal cases transferred from the juvenile justice system to the adult court in the following circumstances:

  • Grand jury indictment for felony criminal offense punishable by death or life imprisonment;
  • Discretionary waiver asking juvenile court to hold hearing to determine whether child should be transferred for criminal prosecution;
  • Direct file of criminal charges in the circuit court’s criminal division whenever, in the state attorney’s “judgment and discretion,” the public interest requires it; or
  • Statutory exclusion (under Florida Statute § 985.556, any child convicted and sentenced as an adult is thereafter handled in every respect as an adult for any subsequent violation of state law).

In a 2014 report, the international non-governmental human rights organization Human Rights Watch said 98 percent of all children who ended up in the adult court system did so as the result of Florida’s direct file statute. The review found that more than 12,000 children were moved from the juvenile to adult court system in the preceding five years—more than half of whom were charged with non-violent crimes.

In 2017, State Senators Bobby Powell and Darryl Ervin Rouson co-introduced Senate Bill 192 (SB 192), which sought to limit the discretionary power prosecutors wield in charging juveniles as adults in Florida. The bills ultimately died in Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice.

The juvenile justice system is a much more preferable venue for alleged offenders because it often focuses more on rehabilitation than punishment for juvenile charges. If you or your child has been arrested for any kind of criminal offense in Palm Beach County, you will want to immediately seek the help of the experienced Palm Beach criminal defense attorneys at [[$firm]].

Florida Supreme Court overturns lengthy sentences for juvenile offenders

teen in handcuffs

In four separate rulings, the Florida Supreme Court handed down decisions last week that set new limits on the sentences a juvenile can face for a serious offense.

The Court ruled that a sentence so long that it “ensure(s) these offenders will be imprisoned without obtaining a meaningful opportunity to obtain future early release during their natural lives based on their demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation” is unconstitutional in Henry v. Florida. In that case, a 17-year-old was tried as an adult and convicted for three counts of sexual battery while possessing a weapon, two counts of robbery, and one count each of kidnapping, carjacking, burglary of a dwelling and possession of marijuana.

He was initially sentenced to life in prison for the sexual battery offenses, plus 60 years for the remaining offenses. However, while his appeal was ongoing in 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Graham v. Florida, in which it ruled that life in prison without chance of parole violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment when applied to juveniles convicted of offenses other than homicide.

The trial court then changed Henry’s sentences to a 30-year sentence for every charge of sexual battery. The sentences would be served concurrently, meaning at the same time. However, the 60-year sentence for the other offenses would be served consecutively, meaning after the 30-year sentences were served. This meant he would serve 90 years in prison.

The Florida Supreme Court determined that Graham meant such a sentence would also be unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court decided Graham on the basis that juveniles belonged in a special category due to their lesser ability to understand the consequences of their actions, and a “greater potential for change or positive character growth than adults.” Therefore, they could not be constitutionally sentenced to a term of imprisonment that would effectively mean they spend their entire life in prison.

In Gridine v. Florida, the Court also interpreted Graham to mean that homicide meant only that an actual killing had taken place. In that case, a juvenile who was 14 years old at the time was given a 70-year sentence for attempted homicide. Prior precedent specifically said that attempted homicide was a nonhomicide offense. Under the same reasoning as in Henry, a 70-year sentence is unconstitutional.

The other two cases involved interpretation of Miller v. Alabama, a U.S. Supreme Court based on Graham. In Miller, the Court found that a law with a mandatory life sentence without a chance of parole was unconstitutional as applied to a juvenile defendant.

Falcon v. Florida regarded whether Miller applied to people convicted as juveniles already serving a life sentence. The Court ruled that the decision was retroactive. People sentenced before the decision have two years to file to have a court adjust their sentence.

Florida v. Horsley found that a juvenile whose appeal was in process when Miller was decided but whose case was decided before the Florida Legislature amended the statute was entitled to individualized consideration for a new sentence.

While these are positive developments that reflect some leniency for juveniles, there should be no mistake that Florida has harsh laws for young people accused of crimes. Parents of children facing charges should contact an aggressive West Palm Beach juvenile defense lawyer to protect their child’s future.

Resources:

Henry v. Florida

Gridine v. Florida

Falcon v. Florida

Horsley v. Florida