My 10 year old son has been charged with discharging a gun. What do I do?

Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “My ten year old son was with another boy who discharged a loaded firearm he had stolen from his mother. Although my son claims that he did nothing but hold the gun, he has been charged with a fourth degree felony. What do I need to do now?”

State laws for a minor possessing and using a firearm

State laws for the lawful possession and use of a firearm for minors differ.

For example, Florida outlines when a minor may lawfully use a firearm. Specifically, if the minor is under the age of 16 years of age they are prohibited from using a firearm unless they are under the direct supervision of an adult.

Other minors who are at least 16 years of age may lawfully use a firearm, but they must be hunting, engaged in a lawful marksmanship competition or practice or other lawful recreational shooting activity, transporting an unloaded gun, or under the direct supervision of an adult.

Regardless of where you live, it would be unlawful for a 10 year old to have access to a gun without direct adult supervision, not to mention deciding to discharge it.

What penalties can my child face?

Whether a child who unlawfully discharges a firearm will be charged with a misdemeanor or felony will depend on the severity of the violation, the child’s criminal history, and the state’s laws.

For example, in Florida, if a child is charged with a first offense of unlawfully possessing a firearm they can be charged with a misdemeanor, which includes up to three days in a detention facility and 100 hours of community service.

If a second offense occurred, the child could be charged with a third degree felony, which could include up to 15 days in a detention facility and more community service.

Now, without more information about your state and the actual penalties assessed for fourth degree felonies it’s impossible to say for sure what penalties your child might face. In fact, some states allow juvenile court judges a great deal of discretion to determine what penalties should be assessed against minors.

For instance, some judges may have the right to issue an outright dismissal or require a long-term confinement in a correctional facility. If the minor is older and the felony offense is serious enough, judges may decide to try the minor as an adult and move their case to an adult criminal court.

For the most serious juvenile cases in states such as Texas, confinement could be as long as 40 years, with imprisonment starting at the Texas Youth Commission facility, followed by an optional court transfer to prison. Other offenders may be held in the Texas Youth Commission until his or her 21st birthday.

What do I need to know about a felony charge against a minor?

The information provided above is not meant to scare you, but it should be a wake-up call that the charges assessed against your son are serious. If the state has charged your son with a felony they believe they have enough evidence to win a case against him. More importantly, penalties against a minor for a felony charge can be severe.

Now is the time to act. You need to contact a criminal defense lawyer. Talk to them about your son’s case and discuss whether the charges can be reduced to a misdemeanor or whether the case can be successfully defended in court.

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