My child has recently been hanging out with a new group of friends. I haven’t met the friends yet, but I’m aware that a few of them have been in trouble at school and have even been arrested in the past. I don’t believe my own child would commit any crimes, but I’m worried my child may still get into trouble if he’s with these other children and they do something illegal.
Parents should be aware of who their children are spending time with, as if their friends commit a crime and your child is with them when it happens, your child can be charged with the same crime. The most serious example of this is felony murder. Felony murder laws have gained recent media coverage, as some criminal justice reformation movements are pushing to change or abolish felony murder laws across the states. Under Florida’s homicide statutes, a person who is present during or an accomplice to the commission of certain felonies can be charged with second-degree murder if someone is killed during the commission of that felony, even if that person is not the one who actually killed someone and did not intend for anyone to die.
An example of this would be if your child was present with a group of friends during a burglary, and one of the friends shoots and kills someone during that burglary, your child could be charged with felony murder, even if your child did not intend for anyone to be harmed during the burglary and was not the one who pulled the trigger. Another example of how your child could be charged with felony murder without actually killing someone would be if your child stole a vehicle for their friends to use to commit a burglary, and during the burglary, one of their friends commits a murder. Even though your child was not present for the burglary and did not kill anyone, your child would still be an accomplice to the burglary and could, therefore, be charged with felony murder for the killing that occurred during the course of the burglary. Other felonies that can lead to a felony murder charge if someone is killed during their attempt or commission are robbery, arson, kidnapping, sexual battery, aggravated child abuse or aggravated abuse of the elderly or disabled, carjacking, aggravated fleeing and eluding with serious bodily injury or death, and resisting an officer with violence. Felony murder charges against someone who did not actually commit the killing are second-degree murder charges and punishable by up to life in prison.
While some states have abolished their felony murder statutes or have considered reforming them to reduce the harmful consequences these laws can have on juveniles who are involved with friends committing a crime but do not actually kill anyone themselves, Florida has not yet made such reforms. While felony murder is one of the most serious examples of your child being charged with a crime due to hanging around the wrong crowd, any time your child is facing charges you should consult with a criminal defense attorney with experience handling juvenile cases to ensure the best possible results for your child’s future.