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Bills on raising age to charge juveniles as adults, restitution advance

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Sen. Bracy

Sen. Randolph Bracy

A bill raising the age by one year when juveniles could be charged as adults has cleared its second Senate committee.

Another bill, aiming to make it easier for crime victims seeking restitution to value property that has been stolen or damaged, also passed the Senate Criminal Justice Committee on March 2.

SB 474 by Sen. Randolph Bracy, D-Orlando, would set 15 as the minimum age, instead of the current 14, where juveniles could be charged with the most serious crimes. It would also set 17, instead of 16, as the minimum age for charging juveniles as adults for less serious felonies or for misdemeanors if the defendant has a previous felony conviction.

“We are moving it just one year and I think that when you’re talking about a 14-year-old, there is a better way to deal with that. I think they need to be treated instead of incarcerated with adults,” Bracy said.

The bill passed 6-1, but some senators said they have reservations.

“I do have some questions,” said Sen. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton. “I think I understand, but I want to get a little more clarity on some questions.”

As he did at the Judiciary Committee earlier, Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Lady Lake, cast the only vote against the bill but told Bracy, “Keep talking to me, you’re a very convincing man.”

The bill next goes to the Rules Committee. It has no counterpart in the House.

Sen. Gayle Harrell

Sen. Gayle Harrell

SB 354, by Sen. Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, would allow victims to use reliable hearsay testimony — such as the Kelly Blue Book to establish the value of a car — for damaged or stolen property when judges are determining restitution orders as part of a sentence.

She said the bill came at the request of the Fourth District Court of Appeal, which in an opinion called for a legislative review because current standards are inadequate, and from 15th Circuit State Attorney Dave Aronberg. Harrell said crime victims now have to find and hire experts to testify about values, which can be expensive or impractical.

The bill passed 8-0 and next goes to the Rules Committee.

The House counterpart, HB 495, by Rep. Jim Mooney, R-Islamorada, passed the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Subcommittee on March 3. It next goes to the Judiciary Committee.

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