Welcome to our podcast. We are speaking to Mike Kenny of Bauer, Crider, Kenny and Parry. They’re criminal defense lawyers in the Greater Tampa area. And this is their second edition, and we’re talking about juvenile crimes. Now, we’re going be talking to Mike Kenny, Tampa juvenile theft defense attorney. Mike how are you?
Mike Kenny, Attorney, Bauer, Crider, Kenny and Parry: I’m very well. How are you?
B: Good. Good. You gave us an overview in the previous podcast about juvenile crimes in general. Now we’re going to dig down a little bit more into the theft.
M: Yeah. That’s certainly a common accusation that you see in in juvenile court. There’re some unique things when it comes juvenile crimes that don’t necessarily come into play in adult crimes. Obviously, the statutes are the same. You know? A theft is a theft. And it’s punished the same way, as far as it prescribed, the same way as it would be in juvenile court. The theft of a certain amount of money, $300 or more, is a grand theft; anything below that is a is a misdemeanor. So, that’s kind of the basic stuff.
But what normally is the issue in a theft, is things like prior history and restitution. A restitution is: if something is stolen, and it’s not replaced or returned, there is an amount of money that often the offender would have to pay to make the victim whole again. Well, in juvenile court, that restitution amount can sometimes be placed against the family to pay back. And that’s important because in some cases the amount is very expensive. In adult court, you’re on your own. You’re an adult. You’re a grown person. And it’s your responsibly to meet your requirements. But obviously, in juvenile court, a lot of times these kids don’t have jobs, and the only way they meet the requirements is through the help and assistance of the family.
So, sometimes the person who’s really on the hook, at least financially, in a lot of respects, could be mom and dad. So, it’s important for mom and dad to kind of realize that when we’re talking about these types of crimes. And why it’s so important to have somebody get involved early to kind of know what the issues are, and try to remedy whatever can be remedied through this process. So, everyone has a good idea and understanding what’s going on, and how to best represent the families of the loved one – this child.
So, the unique thing about juvenile court is there is no prison, and there is no jail. So, the punishments are going to be generally probation, or depending on how significant the crime is, maybe if it’s really significant, and there’s some significant prior history, the juvenile goes to some type of program. A program meaning, he actually leaves his home and gets shipped off somewhere to address the issue. In theft cases, you don’t see that happen all the time, but you do see it happen occasionally.
What I have seen happen, in my experience as a juvenile criminal defense lawyer, is a lot of times there’s car thefts. You know? Kids who think that they’re going to take a car out for a ride, and a lot of times there’s accidents that happen, and the damage is significant. And that’s what kind of has the overriding impact on juvenile cases – is the amount of money that has to be paid back to the victims. And that’s been a very heavily litigated issue, a lot of times. Because not everyone always agrees on how much the item is worth, that has been either stolen or destroyed. So, I find in juvenile cases, not only are you arguing whether or not a crime has been committed, but you’re also arguing what is the actual damage or the impact of that alleged crime if the juvenile’s convicted.
In juvenile cases, as I was mentioning before, they’re not technically convicted of crimes. They’re adjudicated “delinquent” or not, and sometimes there’s a withhold of an adjudication of delinquency, which means the same thing in adult court. It’s not a conviction of a crime, but it is sometimes something that can have a serious impact on a juvenile. Any felony, there are certain ways that the public can see a juvenile who’s got a felony charge. So, for instance, everyone has this this belief that if you’re a juvenile nobody knows about it. It’s not in the public record. And it goes away when they hit the age of 18. That is not the case in the state of Florida. Although, some misdemeanors, you’re never probably going to be able to view it. The Clerk’s website does not post juvenile crimes, but on felony-type cases those arrests can be, it does not have the same protection. There are juveniles who are arrested for felony charges. And I’ve have seen cases where those juveniles arrested were literally posted in the jail, and when they post in the jail they’re obviously public record. Then you see them on those websites that post people’s arrest pictures.
So, it’s the false belief that, “It doesn’t matter if it’s a juvenile crime” is really misleading, and it’s damaging. Because you want to handle things in a juvenile case just as well as if you would be doing an adult case. Quite frankly, I think a juvenile matter can sometimes be more important because this is before person even gets, you know, his foot out the door, as far as starting his life, his or her life. And you want to make sure that he or she has every option available to him. And if somebody does a background check and they find out that this juvenile may have had a felony conviction some time ago, you know, that’s going to be tough for him or her find a job.
B: Now, in the first one you talked about a risk assessment that that the DJJ does. Part of that risk assessment in a theft case would be probably based on what was stolen. Correct? Whether it be a car, or you know, a six-pack of beer.
M: Sure. The actual crime itself is looked at. And then the family environment is looked at. Maybe the educational level that the juvenile has, the intellectual ability that the juvenile has, all of that is looked at, and then viewed to see whether, or not, this person is likely to reoffend. Most the time, a person, whose first foray it is into the juvenile world, is probably not to be found to be a very high risk of reoffending. But there are certain things that can have an impact on whether or not that risk is considered high risk or not. And obviously the higher the risk assessment, the higher the level of supervision the Department of Juvenile Justice is going to request from the court, as far as the sentence is concerned.
That’s what it all really boils down to. What it boils down to, is when you represent a juvenile in a theft case, you want to have the Department of Juvenile Justice make the best recommendation possible for your client if you believe it’s a case you’re going have to resolve with a plea. And the reason why you want to do that is because you don’t want someone to start off in the juvenile justice system with a very difficult sentence, that he or she may not be able to complete.
So, you want to make sure that the Department of Juvenile Justice gets all the information they need to make a good assessment on your client. To realize that your client is a person that mom and dad say he is. And a lot of times that’s putting the best foot forward. That’s making sure mom and dad are advised of what the procedures are in a juvenile case. That they go to these meetings with the Department Juvenile Justice, and they show they’re willing participants in the program. And a lot of times when the DJJ sees that there’s a family that’s motivated, involved to bring a child out of this area where he or she may have made a mistake, a lot of times the assessment is viewed to be lower than some high risk. You know? When you have certain individuals who maybe have no one there to help them through this program, you know, it’s a much less optimistic outlook.
B: All right. Anything else you want to cover on theft?
M: No. I think that’ll cover it.
B: All right. You’ve been speaking to Tampa juvenile theft defense attorneys at Bauer, Crider, Kenny, and Parry, and Mike Kenny. And join us for our next edition of our podcast.