ORLANDO, Fla. — Although many were shocked to hear two six-year-olds were arrested at an Orlando charter school last week, one local juvenile defense attorney feels it’s a problem that is too common.
- Orlando juvenile defense attorney says she sees young kids in court far too often
- Two six-year-olds were arrested at an Orlando charter school last week
- Previous stories on arrested of elementary school kids
Katherine Puzone teaches the Juvenile Defense Clinic at the Barry University Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law. She says although it’s shocking to think of six year-olds being handcuffed, she sees young kids in court far too often.
“The youngest I’ve seen in court was 8,” Puzone explained. “My youngest clients have been 10.”
None of those children were deemed competent to stand trial but Puzone says under state law, competency is the only thing separating the kids from the adults.
“It is very much criminal court for kids, except the fact that kids do not have a jury,” Puzone said. “They are put in handcuffs, they are put in detention, they are arrested and prosecuted under the same statutes that adults are prosecuted under.”
“One of our kids was charged with shoving another kid into a fence and taking his phone,” she continued. “[The child] was charged with strong-arm robbery, and technically it fits the language of the statute.”
Puzone said she once had a 14-year-old client who was sentenced to 30 years behind bars.
“That we hand out those types of sentences to children - no matter what they may have done, they’re still children,” she said. “Their brains have barely begun to form.”
She hopes the controversy over the six year-old boy and girl’s arrests keeps the conversation going on our juvenile justice system and how often law enforcement should be involved.
“Of course there needs to be consequences and kids need to learn not to beat each other up,” Puzone said. “We don’t need to involve law enforcement in that.”
Orlando Police have not said what led to the kids’ arrests. Their misdemeanor charges were dropped and the state attorney is looking to have the arrests removed from their records.