New legislation would prevent prosecutors from charging 14-year-olds as adults for serious crimes and raise the minimum age for charging juveniles as adults for less serious offenses to 17. SB 474 was introduced by Senator Randolph Bracy, a Democrat from Orlando, and was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 15, 2021.
Almost all of the Florida juveniles who are prosecuted in adult criminal court get there through “direct filing.” Under the current law, state attorneys can directly file charges in criminal court against 14 and 15-year-olds for several serious felonies, including:
Aggravated child abuse
Florida is one of only 15 states that allows state attorneys to altogether bypass the juvenile court and charge children as adults without a judge being involved in the decision. In fact, Florida still prosecutes the most juveniles in adult court out of all 50 states, due in part to the fact that its direct file law is so broad. Between 2019 and 2020, Florida prosecutors directly filed charges in criminal court against 788 minors.
While that number has gone down, the percentage of juveniles charged as adults has remained relatively the same. This shows that the number of minors being prosecuted as adults is primarily attributable to an overall decrease in juvenile crime and not a change in views on direct filings.
The bill was under consideration by the Senate Rules Committee when the 2021 legislative session ended. The legislature will reconvene in March 2022. If passed, SB 474 would change the minimum age for direct filing for serious felonies from 14 to 15 and increase the age for direct filing on other felonies and misdemeanors from 16 to 17.
If your child has been charged in adult court, it’s essential that you retain a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney to protect your child’s rights. Charges in adult court can result in serious consequences, so it’s vital to have an experienced defense lawyer on your child’s side.
The Law Office of Roma W. Theus, II, P.A. has years of experience defending individuals charged with crime in Florida. If your child has been charged with a crime, please call 954.281.4851 or contact me online to schedule a consultation at my Wellington office.
The Law Office of Roma W. Theus, II, P.A. is located in Wellington, FL and serves clients in and around Loxahatchee and Pahokee.
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