Not all cars are stolen by professional adults who can hotwire a car in mere minutes, take it to a chop shop, and sell the car for more money in parts than the car is actually worth. There is another growing trend in Florida made up of teenagers and pre-teens who break into vehicles for access to speedy transportation, to impress friends, and for the thrill of speeding away from cops while going 115 miles per hour. Many of these young drivers have stolen enough cars to become very familiar with the process of being taken into custody and booked. Certain individuals have become so familiar, in fact, that law enforcement officers may go out looking for them on any given day.
Increase in Juvenile Offenders Means Courts Seek Harsher Penalties
The Tampa Bay Times recently released a two part investigative article on the car-theft epidemic in Pinellas County, Florida. According to their research, once every four days a minor crashes a stolen vehicle somewhere within the county limits. While a juvenile may not face the same long-term prison sentences that an adult would for stealing the same care, a juvenile who has been found guilty of auto theft has a slew of other future problems that may haunt them well into their adult. For one, causing a crash that results in injuries to others, severe bodily injury, death, or property damage, will greatly add to any criminal charges. Even if a stolen car is recovered in good condition, there may be a weapon or money that gets stolen from within the car, and the juvenile would be charged with theft of additional property or theft of a firearm. As the Orlando Sentinel reported, having a car means that the young drivers now have a mode of transportation that allows them to travel further and break more laws.
Auto Theft Charges
Depending on the value of the vehicle, if your child is charged as an adult, they could be facing either a third degree felony or even second degree felony if the vehicle was worth more than $20,000. There is no specific grand theft auto charge in Florida. However, theft of any vehicle is, at minimum, a third-degree felony and punished as grand theft. Grand theft is the theft of property valued at $300 or more, according to Florida statute 812.014. However, grand theft of the third degree is charged even if the vehicle was valued at under $300. Other, greater, charges may apply if the vehicle had a firearm within, if the value of the vehicle was over $20,000, or if property damage or bodily injury occurred in the theft.
Contact a West Palm Beach Attorney Today
Once a habit is formed of breaking into and stealing vehicles, it becomes more and more likely that the juvenile will continue to break more laws and rack up more criminal charges along the way. The court realizes this, and will take every measure available to severely punish even the youngest offenders. However, severe punishment is not always in the juvenile’s best interest. Furthermore, the prosecution may seek punishment in an adult detention facility, which could have devastating long-term effects on the child. Call the West Palm Beach criminal defense attorneys of the Skier Law Firm today at (561) 220-3355.