Two kids in Florida, a 10-year-old boy on the left; an 11-year-old girl on the right, stand with their hands up on Interstate 75 in Alachua County, Fla. in September 2023. (Alachua County Sheriff’s Office)
Two Florida children allegedly committed a minor traffic crime late last week – albeit one that resulted in a major, lights-and-sirens-inducing, 200-plus-mile headache for law enforcement and their very worried mother. But the pair won’t be prosecuted or otherwise charged for their decidedly epic late-night joyride, authorities say.
A 10-year-old boy and an 11-year-old girl left North Port, in Sarasota County, on Sept. 21, sometime around midnight, in their mother’s white sedan, according to the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office.
At around 3:50 a.m., the white sedan was pulled over, on Interstate 75. According to the sheriff’s office, the vehicle had been reported stolen and deputies conducted what was termed “a high risk traffic stop.”
Deputies said they were surprised to find the 10-year-old driving – with his 11-year-old sister in the front passenger seat. The two siblings had traveled across some seven or so counties.
“It was learned that the siblings had been reported as missing to the North Port Police Department and that the stolen vehicle belonged to their mother,” the ACSO wrote in a press release on Facebook.
The alleged motive for the dangerous journey apparently had to do with some sort of an issue concerning screen time.
“[B]oth children were upset with their mother because she took away their electronic devices, which is believed to have been done because they were not using them appropriately,” the sheriff’s office wrote.
In interviews while detained, both children spoke with deputies and detectives, the ACSO said. Law enforcement said they were confident that the children were not being “mistreated by their parent or any other person within the home” back in North Port.
According to Sarasota-based ABC affiliate WWSB, the two kids were planning to drive to California when they were pulled over.
While attempting to trade the Sunshine State for the Golden State, they attempted to withdraw $100 using their mom’s CashApp card at an ATM in Tampa, but the charge was declined so they withdrew $20 instead, the TV station reported. The duo also packed some clothes – but were caught, in the end, when law enforcement tracked a cellular phone the kids had in their possession.
The children were able to abscond with around a 20-minute head start on their mother after she allegedly left the keys in her Honda, WWSB reported. Florida Highway Patrol first spotted the vehicle and then left the investigation to locals in Alachua.
Ultimately, the mother decided not to press charges, the sheriff’s office said, so the agency was hamstrung by the relatively minor nature, at least in legal terms, of what the children did.
“[T]he only criminal charge available to the Deputies related to this incident would have be driving without a valid license since the owner of the vehicle did not wish to pursue criminal charges,” the ACSO wrote. “This crime is a criminal traffic violation and a juvenile will not be accepted into the department of juvenile justice for misdemeanor criminal traffic.”
According to the ACSO incident report obtained by Law&Crime, the originally reported crime was classified as grand theft of a motor vehicle, a felony. The report names the mother of the two children, which Law&Crime is declining to publish due to her victim status.
Law&Crime has also filed an open records request for any relevant law enforcement-recorded video of the incident.
The sheriff’s office struck a hopeful tone in their Facebook post.
“Our Detectives did speak with their mother at length who was clearly doing her best to raise two young children and she was very receptive to the recommendations they provided in helping her get assistance,” the ACSO said.
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