Homicide is a serious crime, regardless of the age of the person who has been charged. When the defendant was a minor at the time of the alleged offense, Florida authorities can under some circumstances choose to try the case as if the defendant was an adult.
Trying a juvenile in Florida
In normal circumstances, juvenile court systems handle cases for anyone under the age of 18 and sentence them to correctional facilities for rehabilitation purposes. However, if the court finds that a minor has committed murder, additional repercussions may follow.
Florida law mandates that any child between 14 and 17 years old charged with first-degree murder must be tried as an adult. If the defendant is under the age of 14, it’s up to the State Attorney’s Office to decide whether or not law enforcement should try them in juvenile or adult court, taking into account their mental competence and maturity level.
If the court finds the offender under 18 guilty of first-degree murder in adult criminal court, he or she can face life imprisonment without parole and possibly even the death penalty, depending on the severity of the case. In some circumstances, the court might commute the sentence to 25 years in prison after a review.
Factors that exacerbate the charge
If the minor committed several juvenile crimes before or if there were any aggravating circumstances, it increases the chances of an adult trial. Additionally, the age difference between the victim and offender is an important factor. If one party is significantly older than another, it can rev up charges from second-degree murder to first-degree murder.
Parents’ responsibility for juveniles committing murder
Florida courts can sometimes hold parents partly responsible for the crime. For example, if a parent fails to stop their child from committing murder or did not intervene when it was possible to do so, the judge could charge them with negligence or impose other civil penalties.
Parents of minors must understand the legal system and take necessary steps to prevent their children from committing such a serious crime. Knowing what factors exacerbate the charges can also help the parents and their child understand the gravity of the situation and prepare for the criminal case with a lawyer’s help.