A South Florida neighborhood has seen a rise in violent crimes committed by local gangs. The West Kendall area has been the location of several gang-related drive by shootings this year. The Hammocks District of the Miami-Dade Police Department is responsible for investigating the gang related activities committed in the Kendall area. Eight shootings have been reported over the past eight months. Three 17 year olds have been charged with the offense of attempted first degree felony murder. While the law in the State of Florida considers these defendants juveniles, the same laws allow for the Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office to bind these defendants over to circuit court to be treated as adults. The defendants will either be appointed a Miami criminal lawyer for the public defender's office or the defendant's family will hire a privately retained Miami criminal defense law firm. Investigators are continuing to look for other gang members involved in the shootings.
Hammocks investigators have determined that the shootings are occurring as a result of a gang war that is developing in Kendall. The spree of shootings apparently is the result of retaliation for the shooting death of one local gang member. An 18 and 19 year-old have been arrested and charged with first degree murder and are being held without a bond in the Dade County Jail awaiting trial. Because first degree murder is a capital offense, the defendants are not entitled to a bond. However, the defendants can requested a type of bond hearing called an "Arthur hearing" where their defense lawyers can try to obtain bond. According to police investigations, the ongoing gang war is being conducted between the "Southbound Thugs" and the 137th Avenue Boys".
The Hammocks section of the Miami-Dade Police Department are taking an active approach to quelling the violence in the Kendall neighborhood. Detectives are actively tracking gang members and showing a strong police presence where gang members go and through the use of confidential informants. The Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office also has a specially designated gangs unit that is used to prosecute gang members throughout the county. While gang members are normally of the age that allow them to be treated as juveniles and youthful offenders, prosecutors tend to deal with these type offenders more seriously than the run-of-the-mill youthful offenders.
The defendants under the age of 18 are normally prosecuted in the juvenile courts system. However, in severe cases and cases involving gang members, the prosecutor's office will often send these defendants to the adult court system to be prosecuted. Once juvenile is arrested, it is important that the defense attorney representing the client meet with the juvenile prosecutors in order to keep him or her within the juvenile system. Many times the result will depend in large part on the offense for which the juvenile is charged. For example, a defendant charged with murder will always be sent to adult court, while a defendant charged with burglary will probably be left to remain in the juvenile system. Of course, the mission becomes more difficult if the defendant is linked to gang related activity. Even if a defendant is direct filed to adult court, hope is not lost, the state still has to prove the case, and in the vent of a strong case, he or she will be eligible for youthful offender sanctions in adult court.
Drive-By Shootings on the Rise in West Kendall, The Miami Herald.com, August 30, 2010.