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Mandatory Sentencing Enhancement for a Florida Minor in an Armed Burglary Case

Sometimes detention is a mandatory enhancement for disposition of a Florida juvenile criminal matter. In a recent Florida appellate case, the government appealed a delinquency decision in which the lower court didn’t commit a minor to a mandatory 15 days in secure detention for committing armed burglary of a conveyance.

The case arose when a witness reported seeing four males in a parking lot. They were trying to open car doors. Officers came to the scene and set up a perimeter. A particular minor was arrested. While he was detained, the police officers found a handgun had been stolen from a vehicle burglaries by the four suspects. The minor told them he knew where the handgun was, and took them to retrieve it from a particular location.

Another suspect said that a third suspect had given him the gun and he’d hidden it in the bush where the police found it. However, he didn’t say who stole the gun from a car.

The minor was charged with resisting without violence, armed burglary of a conveyance, grand theft of a firearm, and burglary of a conveyance. He pled to these charges. At his plea hearing, the government said that because it was a firearm case, a 15-day mandatory detention was required under Florida Statutes section 790.22(9)(a). The minor’s attorney said he didn’t possess the gun personally so it was difficult to understand why he should face an enhancement. The court reset the case so the attorneys could do more research.

The government relied on a case that said a juvenile defendant didn’t have to personally possess or use a firearm for the sentencing enhancement to apply. The minor relied on a different case that he believed required actual possession to place a detention penalty. The lower court agreed with the minor and the government appealed.

The appellate court explained that the issue was whether the lower court had made a mistake in failing to enhance the sentence with 15 days in secure detention as part of the punishment for armed burglary of a conveyance under section 790.22(9)(a).

The appellate court explained that the statute didn’t require the minor to actually possess or use a firearm in order for the enhancement to apply. The appellate court explained that the legislature had intended the mandatory minimum detention part of the code section to act as an example of what would be forthcoming if the defendant engaged in further crime. It rejected the minor’s view that there was any ambiguity in the statute. Even if the minor had simply been a lookout for the crime, he’d been involved in a crime the included use of a weapon.

It explained that the statute unambiguously required a 15-day mandatory secure detention sentence and there was notice that had been missing in another case. The statute didn’t require actual use or actual possession of a firearm, only that the crime involved the use or possession of the firearm. Armed burglary of a conveyance involved use or possession of a firearm. Burglary of a conveyance becomes armed burglary of a conveyance where an offender is armed or arms himself within the conveyance with a dangerous weapon or explosive.The purpose of the sentence enhancement is to send a wake-up call to juveniles that a firearms offense is serious enough to justify automatic deprivation of their freedom for a certain period even if it’s a first offense.

The order was reversed.

If your child is charged with a theft or burglary crime in Broward County, it is important to retain knowledgeable counsel who can mount a strong defense and also respond appropriately to sentencing issues. It is crucial to pay attention as best as you can during an arrest and investigation, and retain an experienced juvenile criminal defense attorney. Call The Hoffman Law Firm at (305) 249-0090 or (800) 223-1866, or contact us via our online form.

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