FORT LAUDERDALE, FL – April 16, 2020 – According to an online news report published on PalmBeachDailyNews.com, three teenagers were arrested for burglarizing automobiles and violating Palm Beach County's stay-at-home order. The three teenagers' are facing enhanced charges because they committed burglary during Palm Beach County's emergency order. In the state of Florida, if crimes such as burglary are committed during a "state of emergency," and the prosecution is able to prove that the suspects knowingly took advantage of the state of emergency to commit a burglary, the criminal charges can be increased to second-degree felonies. In the state of Florida, a second-degree felony carries a punishment of up to 15 years in prison and severe fines. Palm Beach County was under a coronavirus stay-at-home order during the time of the car burglaries and subsequent arrest.
The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Department stated that they successfully broke up another auto burglary ring in Palm Beach County, Florida. The automobile burglary ring targeted high-value automobiles. The suspects' ages are 18, 17, and 17 years of age. The 18-year-old suspect is from Lauderhill, Florida, and the other two minors' address was not disclosed to the public. The 18-year-old suspect has been booked and process in at the Palm Beach County Jail located in the city of Belle Glade, Florida. As of Wednesday, the suspect remains in jail without bond.
The 18-year-old suspect has been charged with one count of grand theft during an emergency, two counts of burglary to a vehicle during an emergency, and two counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. No charges have been brought against the two 17-year-old suspects. However, a report states that the two 17-year-old suspects will likely receive criminal charges as well. No other identifying information about the two 17-year-old suspects was released because the two are under the age of 18, and the two minors were not charged as adults at this time.
The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Department arrested the suspects a few days after three teenagers were caught and charged with breaking into 15 or more motor vehicles in the suburban neighborhoods of Palm Beach Gardens and West Palm Beach. The news article claims that the previous arrests of the teens may also include enhanced charges as the alleged crimes the teens previously committed during the state of emergency.
According to the new report, the Palm Beach County State Attorney's office stated that if their prosecutors can prove that an individual was aware of the coronavirus emergency and attempted to exploit the emergency in order to commit a crime, the criminal charges may be upgraded. The difference between a felony in the third-degree versus a felony in the second-degree is up to 10 more years in prison.
According to the Palm Beach County Sheriff's arrest report, a regional task force was established, and the law enforcement teams performed a collective stakeout in Broward County, Florida. At approximately 3 a.m. on Tuesday, April 14, 2020, the regional auto-theft and car burglary task force were following a stolen Toyota Corolla. The driver of the Toyota Corolla headed northbound on the Florida Turnpike, exited at Lake Worth Road, and then turned into a neighborhood. Law enforcement watched the three teenagers burglarize a black Audi Q5. The arrest report also stated that the teens drove into two other neighborhoods and broke into a 2016 BMW X6 and cased several other vehicles in the Wellington and Lantana areas.
Law enforcement agents followed the Toyota Corolla onto State Road 7 just west of Boca Raton and near the Broward County line. That is where law enforcement agents used their undercover vehicles to box in the Toyota Corolla. The 18-year-old suspect was the driver of the Toyota Corolla. He attempted to flee the police and struck an officer during his apprehension. All three teens were arrested at that time, according to the police report.
One of the 17-year-old suspects confessed one of the car break-ins. The 18-year-old suspect did not admit to committing a crime, but told police that he "should have stayed home."