Public Outcry Over Drowning Video Could Land Florida Teens in Jail
Five Florida teens, ages 14-16, are now facing criminal charges after failing to help a drowning man, who they evidently filmed while drowning.
While Florida does not have any laws which require bystanders to obtain assistance for anyone in distress, indications are that local prosecutors feel compelled to make an example of the teens because of public outcry due to the video. Reportedly, the Police Chief has indicated that he will recommend that the state lawyer prosecute the teens under a statute requiring someone with knowledge of a death to notify a medical examiner.
Is This A Permanent Trend?
The story connotes a similar recent prosecution of a teen who was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter just last month for texting with her boyfriend while he expressed a desire to commit suicide, and who now faces 20 years in prison when she’s sentenced on August 3.
While important to ensure that juveniles do not behave recklessly and without regard for human life, are prosecutors and the courts going too far so as to search for some means within the law to make a lesson out of these teens?
The Law in Florida
As a result of the Florida drowning incident, police are specifically recommending that the state lawyer file charges under Florida Statute 406.12 (a misdemeanor), failure to report a death. This law states that it is the duty of any person in the district where a death occurs who becomes aware of the death of any person occurring under certain circumstances to report such death and circumstances forthwith to the district medical examiner. Anyone who fails to do so or who willfully disturbs the body or any associated article with the intent to alter the evidence or circumstances surrounding the death shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree.
However, from the perspective of the defense, there are arguably issues with relying on this particular statute: Most notably, the purpose of the law appears to be to deter tampering with evidence associated with death in case of a homicide investigation, not to hold individuals responsible in association with any kind of Good Samaritan law.
Experienced Criminal Defense Services for Florida
If you are facing criminal charges in Florida, you need to work with an experienced criminal defense lawyer to ensure that you have a strategy, and that one statement made to police does not ruin your entire life. This is especially important for juveniles charged as adults with the potential to spend their entire lives in prison.
At the Baez Law Firm, we pride ourselves on ensuring that our criminal defense clients receive justice in cases like these. If you are seeking legal assistance, we are here to help. Contact us today to find out about our services.