4th DCA tosses trespassing conviction against minor

, Daily Business Review

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4th DCA
4th District Court of Appeal

The Fourth District Court of Appeal on Wednesday reversed a Broward circuit judge's finding that a minor was guilty of trespassing based on the obvious fact that he was in a city park while it was open to the public.

The juvenile, identified in court paper only as K.C., asked to have the judgment dismissed but was denied by Circuit Judge Elijah Williams, who instead gave the child a stern warning and withheld adjudication.

The arresting officers reported a group of 10 people, including the juvenile, were seen in the park one evening after sunset, when the park was closed. They were not engaged in an illegal or dangerous activity.

Police chased them, and the group fled. They were detained but let go with a warning to "stay out of the park."

The following afternoon, the same group was in the park. K.C. was arrested on a trespass charge.

"The officers did not see the juvenile engaging in any activity while the park was closed which justified warning him to 'stay out of the park' while the park was open," Fourth District Judge Jonathan Gerber wrote in his opinion.

Citing case law, Gerber noted that "while protecting juveniles from victimization and reducing juvenile crime satisfy the compelling interest prong of the strict scrutiny test, a restrictive action cannot include otherwise innocent and legal conduct by minors."

Fourth District Judges W. Matthew Stevenson and Burton Conner concurred and remanded the case.

The opinion did not specify which city or park was involved.

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