Kiera Wilmot was a model student by all accounts. Following a fellow high school student’s directions, she mixed some cleaning chemicals with aluminum foil, expecting nothing more than some smoke in what Kiera characterized as a science experiment. According to school officials and her own account, she was motivated by curiosity rather than malice. She had no intent to hurt anyone or do any damage. Indeed, her experiment on the school grounds produced a tiny explosion and some smoke without hurting anyone or damaging any property.
Kiera was arrested, expelled from school, and charged with two felony counts of discharging a destructive device and possession/discharge of a weapon on school grounds. She was to be tried as an adult until public outcry persuaded the prosecutors to dismiss the charges.
Can my child be charged as an adult?
Despite a juvenile justice system that seeks to rehabilitate youngsters rather than incarcerate them, a get-tough-on-juvenile-crime sentiment swept Florida in the last couple of decades and resulted in some draconian results for juvenile offenders. Children as young as 14 can be charged, tried and sentenced as adults under Florida laws. How does a child end up in adult court?
There are several ways your child’s juvenile offense can end up being transferred to the adult court system where he or she will be treated as an adult:
- Waiver – The prosecutor can ask the juvenile court to transfer child offenders aged 14 or older to adult court regardless of the offense charged.
- Mandatory direct filing – State law mandates that for certain offenses, the prosecutor must file adult charges against a juvenile.
- Discretionary direct filing – Florida prosecutors are vested with the authority to file adult charges against juveniles directly with the adult criminal court system.
- Indictment – Certain very serious charges can be brought to the grand jury for decision and their indictment will place the case in adult court.
Kiera or any other child in this situation faces very serious consequences. The rehabilitative programs of the juvenile court system are not available to children charged as adult offenders. Kiera’s adult charges could result in a prison sentence and a lifelong felony record affecting her future education and employment, and robbing her of the right to vote or own a firearm.
If your child is facing criminal charges in Sarasota County, the experienced, knowledgeable juvenile crimes defense attorneys at the Byrd Law Firm, P.A. may be able to provide assistance.