In 2011, Dontez Tillman, who was 14-years-old at the time, murdered a homeless man behind a Pontiac bar. Tillman’s case became national news when he was not only charged as an adult, but became the youngest person ever to be sentenced to life in prison.
Tillman is not the first minor to be charged as an adult; in fact, many circumstances can lead to a minor being tried as someone of legal age. So, in short, yes, your child can be charged as an adult. Children are often charged as an adult depending on a few factors, including the severity of the crime that was committed. In extreme cases, minors have been charged as adults as young as 11 years old.
Trial as an Adult in Florida
If a juvenile is tried as an adult, then certain protections minors receive in court are waived. Traditionally, children are not tried as adults for less serious crimes, but depending on the severity of the case, they may be tried as an adult even if they are not of age. In the state of Florida, prosecutors—not judges—can decide whether a juvenile will be tried as an adult. Whether a child is tried as an adult varies on a case-by-case basis, but here are some general rules listed under Florida Statute for when a child may be tried as an adult:
- If a minor is 14 or 15 years of age at the time of the crime, they may be tried under “adult sanctions” as required by a state attorney if they committed or attempted to commit crimes such as arson, sexual battery, aggravated child abuse, murder, etc.
- If the minor was 16 or 17 at the time of the offense and is being charged with a forcible felony
- If a minor is 16 or 17 years of age at the time of a crime and has been previously found guilty of committing a delinquent act which is considered a felony
- If they are 16 and have been charged with a misdemeanor and has been found guilty of a delinquent act at least twice in the past or adjudicated withheld for an act where one prior offense was a felony
What If My Child is Transferred to an Adult Court?
If your child is transferred to an adult court, they face the same penalties that an adult would face except they cannot receive the death penalty under a recent United States Supreme Court opinion. This can include a life sentence without parole. A child who is tried as an adult and convicted will have an adult criminal record and will be faced with the harsh realities of jail or prison time.
If your child has been accused of a crime, it can be a stressful and scary time—especially if they could possibly be tried as an adult and face harsher penalties. Cases where minors are charged under adult sanctions are very serious and require proper legal guidance for you and your loved ones. For more information on similar legal matters, click here, or visit Khonsari Law Group today.