Joke or a Threat? Case Against 10-Year-Old Defendant

May 19, 2023 Criminal Defense, Juvenile Offenses, News & Announcements

The case against a 10-year-old child has returned to the courtroom to discuss filing a motion to dismiss. Daniel Marquez was arrested a year ago for an alleged threat of a mass shooting via text message.

This page will provide the case details, along with information on what makes a threat real, how social media can affect criminal cases, and the penalties for written threats in Florida.

Case Details

In May 2022, Lee County Sheriff’s Office arrested a 10-year-old for allegedly threatening to conduct a mass shooting. According to the report, Daniel Marquez sent several text messages to another 10-year-old with images of money, guns, and the text, “get ready for water day.” The texts were sent only days after the Uvalde school shooting in Texas.

The parent of the child who received the text messages reported the incident to law enforcement. The week following the massacre resulted in several arrests throughout the country for false threats. However, Marquez was one of the only ones who had his name and face publicly shown. The story was even internationally broadcast.

After spending 12 days in juvenile detention, Marquez was charged with the felony offense of making a written threat to conduct a mass shooting.

Since the case became public, Marquez’s family has maintained the boy’s innocence, claiming he never intended to threaten anyone. In an interview, Dereck Marquez, Daniel’s father, said the text messages were meant to be a joke that had nothing to do with school.

Marquez claimed that Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno willfully misrepresented the text messages to receive more media coverage. During a radio interview, Marceno described Marquez’s case: “He described wads of cash, and get ready to commit a mass shooting, which is very disturbing.”

Now nearly a year after the text messages were sent, the Marquez family returned to the courtroom on May 10th. The hearing was to set the date to discuss the defense’s motion to dismiss the case. During the upcoming meeting for the motion, both sides will review all the collected evidence, along with potentially new, game-changing legal developments.

The judge will then have to decide whether to drop the charges against Marquez, or if the case will proceed to trial.

What Makes a Threat Real?

Daniel’s attorney, Alex Saiz, has addressed why the case should be dropped due to the lack of intent or a realistic threat from the text messages:

“When it comes to a fake threat, the idea of a threat is that you’re trying to put the person in fear, that fear feels real. But when somebody’s sending you a message they never intend for you to take seriously, they’re never trying to put you in that fear, the law treats that very differently. Because without that intent to put you in fear, there isn’t a crime there that’s punishable.”

 Alan Dershowitz, a Civil Rights attorney and Harvard Professor, explains the concept of mens rea, or a guilty mind: “Intent must be presumed as part of any statute, unless the statute explicitly excludes it. Obviously, it is very relevant on this case.”

During a separate case involving a minor accused of sending threats through Instagram, the Fourth District Court of Appeals court concluded that the trial court was wrong when it determined that the youth’s lack of intent to commit a threat was “irrelevant.”

The trial court specifically decided to reject any consideration of the youth’s intent when they sent the threats. The trial court decided that the issue revolved, not on whether the youth actually intended his words to be seen as a threat, but whether a person receiving them would reasonably find them to be a threat.

The District Court, in a thorough analysis, explained how the crime of electronic threats must be interpreted to include a mens rea element for true threats. In other words, the defendant must have intended to make a communication knowing that it would be viewed as a threat. Because the trial court did not consider the youths intent, the District Court reversed the youth’s conviction of guilty.

Social Media Creating False Narratives?

Only three hours after law enforcement arrested Marquez, Lee County Sheriff’s Office posted a 22-second video that shows a deputy perp-walking the 10-year-old into the back of a police cruiser. In the video Marquez’s face is visible, and both his name and date of birth are displayed in the Facebook post. The video received more than 470,000 views since it was posted.

In addition, Lee County Sheriff Marceno appeared on local and national news to address the department’s zero-tolerance policy when it comes to threats of school shootings. During these interviews, Marceno defended his choice to make Marquez’s identity public claiming the case received support from parents to use it as an example with their own children.

“We’re going to handcuff them, we’re going to post their picture and there’s going to be a perp walk,” Marceno told The News-Press. “I don’t care who it is, I don’t care what age it is.”

However, how much does social media influence the public regarding a criminal case? Civil Rights Attorney Dershowitz addressed the issue of social media creating dangerously misleading narratives: “The framers of the Constitution could not have imagined how social media can impact a case, even the Supreme Court,” said Dershowitz. “Once [social] media gets at somebody, it’s often more than a presumption. It’s a certainty of guilt.”

LCSO posted a TikTok discussing Marquez’s case, where Sheriff Marceno said, “If it’s a 10-year-old, 12-year-old, 18-year-old presses the trigger, the aftermath is the same.”

Dershowitz criticized the video with the following statement:

“ [Sheriff Carmine Marceno] made statements suggesting this kid actually had a gun. Maybe even pulled the trigger. And that’s not what happened here. And a sheriff has an obligation to be straight with the public and he wasn’t. 

Florida Law on Releasing Minor’s Information

While some states have laws in place to protect the personal information of minors accused of criminal offenses, Florida’s Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) is responsible for handling and maintaining juvenile records. The DJJ is authorized to disclose certain information under specific circumstances, such as when a minor is charged with a serious offense or is considered a risk to public safety.

After a 1994 law passed in Florida to toughen juvenile law enforcement, sheriff’s departments were given authority to release juvenile defendants’ personal information including names, photos, addresses, and incident reports for minors who are charged with a felony offense.

The policies are meant to prohibit any additional information from being released to the public, however, LCSO claimed that Marceno is not bound by his department’s policies.

“All Sheriffs retain authority to modify, amend, and/or waive their agency’s specific policies and practices when the Sheriff deems it necessary and appropriate under the facts and circumstances,” said Lee County Sheriff Public Affairs Capt. Anita Iriarte.

Florida Statute Section 985.04 states that the name, photograph, address, and crime or arrest report of a minor is not considered confidential or exempt due to the defendant’s age when:

  • Minor is taken into custody by law enforcement for a violation of law which, if committed by an adult, would be a felony offense;
  • Minor is charged with a violation of law which, if committed by an adult, would be a felony offense;
  • Minor is found to have committed an offense which, if committed by an adult, would be a felony offense; or
  • Minor is transferred to adult court.

Penalties for Written Threats in Florida

The criminal offense of written or electronic threats is classified under Florida Statute Section 836.10. Under Florida law, it is unlawful for any person to send, post, transmit, or procure the sending, posting, or transmission of, a writing or other record, including an electronic record, in any manner in which it may be viewed by another person, when such writing or other record makes a threat to:

  • Kill or to do bodily harm to another person; or
  • Conduct a mass shooting or other act of terrorism.

Any person who violates this law can face a second-degree felony in Florida. The penalties for a second-degree felony include up to $10,000 in fines and up to 15 years in prison.

What is the Detention Risk Assessment Instrument?

The Detention Risk Assessment Instrument (DRAI) is a device used to determine the appropriate placement or punishment for a minor accused of a criminal offense. The Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) screens youth taken into custody to decide whether the minor should be detained in a secure detention facility, get placed on supervised release, or be released without any additional supervision.

Under Florida Statute Section 985.245, all determinations and court orders regarding the placement of a child into detention care shall comply with all requirements and criteria provided in this part and should be based on a risk assessment of the juvenile.

Find a Juvenile Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida  

If you are a minor facing criminal charges, or if you’re the parent of a minor who is accused of a crime involving online threats, it is in your best interest to speak with a defense attorney as soon as possible. A conviction can lead to paying fines, being sentenced to a juvenile detention center, or in the more extreme cases, getting transferred to adult court and imprisonment. Your best shot at fighting the charges against you is by working with a skilled juvenile defense attorney.

Don Pumphrey and his team have represented clients in Florida of all ages and backgrounds. We understand how stressful facing criminal charges is and want to provide top-quality legal defense to get your charges lessened or dropped. Contact Pumphrey Law Firm today at (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message on our website.

Written by Karissa Key

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