A Jupiter Middle School teacher, Joey Santiago, is facing serious charges after he punched a 17-year-old boy following a parking lot altercation. The two met in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant. The teen told police that he was driving through the lot when another vehicle abruptly pulled out of their parking spot nearly causing an accident. The two exchanged heated words and the teacher followed the teen in his vehicle, blocking him into the parking lot. Santiago reportedly knocked on the teen’s window, and the teen cracked it open slightly. Santiago demanded that the teen step out of his vehicle for some fisticuffs, but the teen refused. When Santiago turned around and walked away, the teen rolled down his window the rest of the way, believing that the situation was over. Santiago returned and punched the teen in the face.
What Charges Will Santiago Face?
It’s hard, as a defense attorney, to say someone is definitely guilty, but Palm Beach County police are throwing the book at this math teacher. He is facing one charge of abuse of a child, one count of burglary, one count of burglary with battery, and one count of simple battery.
The most confusing charge for most laypeople is the burglary charge. One in that situation would lead police to charge Santiago with burglary?
Well, burglary happens when you unlawfully access any enclosure that does not belong to you without permission. This not only includes homes but also cars. Since Santiago’s fist traversed the distance from the outside of the teen’s car to the inside of the teen’s car, he has been charged with burglary with battery.
Simple burglary is a third-degree felony punishable by up to 5 years in state prison. Burglary with battery is a first-degree felony punishable by up to life in prison. The teacher is being held without bail and has pleaded not guilty to all three charges.
Does He Deserve Such a Harsh Sentence?
If you punch a minor or a senior, you are automatically facing more severe charges than you would if you punched someone else. Further, Santiago appears to have instigated the entire situation after nearly causing an accident. It’s clear that in his mind, the near-miss was the teen’s fault, but there is little reason to agree with Santiago’s perspective. Santiago would be required to look before pulling out of a parking space. Unless the teen was traveling at an unreasonable speed, the accident would be considered Santiago’s fault.
But even if the accident weren’t Santiago’s fault, challenging another driver to a fight over an accident is clearly unhinged behavior. No matter what happens with the most severe charges, the prosecution will force Santiago into a guilty plea on at least one of the counts meaning he will lose his job as a teacher.
Talk to a West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney
If you punch someone in the face for no reason, you need a West Palm Beach criminal attorney. The Skier Law Firm, P.A. has successfully defended several clients from excessive charges. Call today to learn more about how we can help.