School shootings have been increasing in the last several years, which means greater safety measures and stricter guidelines have been put into play. Bringing a weapon to a school, whether it be an elementary school all the way to high school, is not just a cause for suspension or expulsion, but can incur criminal charges as well. The Florida School Board of Education defines a weapon possession as acquiring a firearm or object that has the capabilities to cause serious harm or put another person in reasonable fear of injury. Those objects may include swords, knives, pocketknives, guns, pepper spray, etc. Florida schools have a zero-tolerance policy; if a student brings any of those objects or a firearm to school grounds, school facilities off site, at a school bus stop, on a school bus, or within 1000 feet of the school, that student will be expelled for one (1) year and submitted for criminal charge.
If the incident involves a firearm, the charge will be, under Florida Statute 790.115 (4): “any minor under 18 years of age who is charged under this section with possessing or discharging a firearm on school property shall be detained in secure detention, unless the state attorney authorizes the release of the minor and shall be given a probable cause hearing within 24 hours after being taken into custody. At the hearing, the court may order that the minor continue to be held in secure detention for a period of 21 days, during which time the minor shall receive medical, psychiatric, psychological, or substance abuse examinations pursuant to s. 985.18, and a written report shall be completed.” As you can see, these penalties are invoked quickly following the arrest. It is possible to limit these penalties at the initial hearing before the Judge.
Florida law states that minors under the age of 18 are not allowed to possess a firearm, unless they meet the few exceptions of transporting the firearm to a lawful competition or hunting activities. If a minor is found to have a firearm and not within the certain exceptions, the minor can be charged with a 1st degree misdemeanor. A conviction can range from a three-day detention sentence and 100 hours of community service for a first offense, to a maximum one year in jail and $1,000.00 fine. Those charges have harsher criminal convictions if that possession is on school grounds.
If the incident involves an object, remember the definition of what type of object can create serious harm is very general and can include many different items. In addition to the above listed objects, some less obvious objects where juveniles have been arrested include laptops, action figures, cologne bottles, or silverware used from meals. Depending on the type of object will either hurt or help defend your child’s case. For example, a juvenile could have a chess piece, which has sharp edges, in his pocket and could be considered an object that can cause serious harm, However, a defense could be he or she is in the chess club and that is why they were carrying the object. It’s a case-by-case basis.
How the juvenile displays the object, and it is reasonable to think they are putting someone in fear, will have bearing and whether the juvenile will be charged with a crime. Florida Statute Chapter 784 discusses aggravated assault as: “An assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill” and battery as: “Actually and intentionally touching or striking another person against the will of another or intentionally causing bodily harm to another person.” Should the juvenile use an object against another with the intent to harm them, regardless that it is classified as a weapon, criminal charges can still be pressed.
Your son may have thought it would be cool to show his friends the weapon he found in the house, so he decided to put it in his backpack, take it to school, and show it to everyone. Kids can make mistakes, but this is not a mistake you want to find your child in. Those mistakes have both education consequences and legal consequences. Having an experienced attorney on your side will increase your chances of having the charges reduced or dropped. Call that experienced attorney at the Law Office of Adams & Luka, P.A. today.