Florida teens could soon face stricter penalties for possessing illegal firearms
Supporters say early intervention is necessary, but critics worry the proposal isn't fair to kids.
Kids caught with an illegal firearm could be charged with a felony under a bill (HB 1181) moving through the Florida House.
Representative Berny Jacques (R-Seminole) is behind the bill. He said on Friday that the measure will better hold kids accountable.
“There’s plenty in our current criminal justice system for diversion, prevention, and deterrent," Jacques said to a House Criminal Justice committee. "There has to be accountability as well on the other end. Accountability can be a deterrent.”
Under the measure, minors under 18 would be charged with a third degree felony if they’re caught with an illegal firearm. The bill would also extend how long juvenile detention centers could hold minors before a court begins criminal proceedings.
The bill notes, the minor could remain at the facility anywhere from five to 21 days, depending on the crime committed.
“In a situation where a known youth is always known to be carrying around a firearm and have committed offenses before, if they are addressed early on, that may deter them from doing something else in the future because these things escalate," said Jacques.
Representative Michael Gottlieb (D-Sunrise) spoke out against the measure. He argued the adjudication process can sometimes take weeks or even months. He believes that's too long for kids to be locked away, especially without them being convicted.
“A juvenile's mind is capable of maturing," Gottlieb said citing Roper, Graham, and Miller, a U.S. Supreme Court case. "We’re ignoring that and what we’re doing is we’re taking that child, we’re not giving them the proper deterrent. We’re incarcerating them, which is harming their brain to begin with.”
Despite concerns, the bill is moving forward in the House. It has two committee stops left to go. A similar bill in the Senate has not yet been heard.