By Kortney Daly
Gun violence in Central Florida is on the rise. Over the weekend from 04/09/2022 to 04/11/2022, there were 15 shootings reported in Central Florida. Among those shootings, a thirteen- and fourteen-year-old girl were victims of a drive-by shooting. An unknown silver sedan fired multiple shots at the girls and drove off. The teenage girls went to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
Earlier this month, two teens in Orlando took turns shooting each other while wearing a body-armored vest. It’s unclear what kind of vest they were using and what kind of bullets the vest was rated for. Dr. David Thomas, a forensics professor at Florida Gulf Coast University commented to in one of the articles covering the incident and he explained that the vests are rated on scales for different types of bullets that they can stop.
It is alleged that one of the teens shot the other one who was wearing the vest, but the bullet hit an area of the chest not covered by the vest. That child died as a result of the gunshot wound to the chest. It is also alleged that another teen was recording videos on snapchat while the teens were shooting each other.
The teens involved were sixteen and seventeen years old. The seventeen-year-old who shot and killed the sixteen-year-old was arrested. It appears he has been arrested as a juvenile. When a child is arrested for a crime, they are taken to the Juvenile Assessment Center where they determine the seriousness of the crime the child is accused of and decide whether to hold the child in secure detention based on the results of the detention risk assessment instrument. The detention risk assessment instrument is a point system used to gage the risk of a juvenile. The legislature has made changes to the risk assessment instrument in recent years. If a child scores 12 points or more, they are held in secure detention for 21 days or until the judge releases them. The Judge always has discretion to release a child who scores to be held. A child accused of any violent felony is going to score to be held under the point system even if the child has zero criminal history. It is unlikely that a judge will make the decision to release this child from secure detention in a situation like this.
Although the teenager was taken into custody as a juvenile, the State Attorney’s office can file charges against him as an adult. When the State Attorney’s Office elects to file charges against a child in adult court, it is called a “direct file.” A child can be direct filed at the age of 14 or 15 for certain violent offenses including manslaughter and murder. A child can be direct filed at the age of 16 or 17 for any felony regardless of criminal history.
Given the seriousness of the situation, it is likely that the teenager in this case could be charged as an adult. There are many factors that go into the decision of a Prosecutor to direct file a child. The seriousness of the offense, the child’s criminal history, and many other factors. Given how serious the situation is, it is likely that the State Attorney is considering filing charges against the Seventeen-year-old as an adult. Sometimes Children can avoid being direct filed by coming to a resolution with the prosecutor where the child agrees to a Department of Juvenile Justice Commitment program.
I have represented several juveniles, and many of these children had firearms while committing these crimes. It is truly a scary thing to see. I’m not sure what is going on, but there are way too many kids getting involved with firearms and getting their hands on them. there are number of juveniles I have spoken to have told me that they carry a firearm for protection. I’m not entirely sure why these kids feel like they need to carry a firearm, but it is alarming. They are inexperienced, untrained, and their brains are not fully developed. They are likely to make bad decisions that leads to situations like this. I don’t know what the answer is, but something has to change.