When Is A Child Charged As An Adult?

These Are The Criteria

Many Floridians might remember Christian Fernandez. He is the now fourteen year old teenager who was charged with first degree murder and sexual abuse when he was twelve years old. He was charged for the beating death of his two year old brother and for sexually abusing his five year old brother. Christian is the youngest person in Jacksonville’s history to be charged as an adult for a heinous crime.

There is also 14-year old Cassidy Goodson who was charged with the strangulation death of her newborn baby and hiding the body in a shoebox. Polk County filed charges against her for first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse.

According to Florida Statute § 985.557 (2) (a); a child “may be” charged as an adult for certain crimes and “must be” charged as an adult in certain cases. Under Florida’s direct file laws, a prosecutor decides whether or not to charge a child as an adult. Florida law states that a child must be charged as an adult if:

•    The child is accused of a “forcible felony” which includes murder, kidnapping, et cetera
•     “Exceptional circumstances exist which preclude the just prosecution of the juvenile in adult court”. In other words, the circumstances surrounding the crime justifies an adult charge
•    The child has three or so prior charges, within forty-five days of each other; for felony offenses
•    The child steals a motor vehicle and caused injury or death to someone
•    The child is charged with a violent crime against someone
•    The child is an “adjudicated delinquent.”

Author: Amir Ladan
A former assistant state attorney for Orange/Osceola Counties, Amir has handled thousands of cases and dozens of trials, ranging from DUI and traffic offenses to murder, in both adult and juvenile court.

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