When is a Juvenile Charged as an Adult?

When someone commits a crime below the age of 18, they are considered a juvenile by the criminal justice system. As such, juveniles are afforded certain rights because no judge wants to see a young person end up in an adult prison or have their whole life ruined by a crime they committed likely by having poor judgment. In that affect, young people will be tried in juvenile court which, if convicted, will subject them to more rehabilitative punishments rather that punitive ones. While juvenile court can result in detainment in a juvenile detention facility, it is not the same as adult incarceration. Due to the old adage that locking someone up with criminals makes them a better criminal, many judges are now more reserved with their juvenile detention sentences as well.

However, there are certain situations in which a person below the age of majority will still be charged as an adult. This means very adult punishments and a very adult criminal record that can follow them for the rest of their still-long life. If your child has committed a crime and you are concerned they may be charged as an adult, there are only certain circumstances where this is a result.

Juveniles can be charged as an adult if:

  • The crime is very serious. For example, if your child is charged with murder, they may be charged as an adult if preliminary evidence makes it appear very violent and not at all accidental. Sometimes children can have very violent outbursts that result in serious injury. However, being tried as an adult is typically only reserved for premeditated acts of extreme violence, or in other words, if it was planned.
  • They have a long juvenile criminal record. After a certain point of committing crime, a judge will no longer see a child as simply a child who made a mistake, but rather as a criminal. The reason juvenile court focuses on rehabilitative punishments is in hopes of steering the child away from a lifetime as a criminal. However, after enough crimes have been committed, the courts may see it as the child essentially flaunting their disrespect of the legal system. In this respect, it may be decided that it is time to throw the book at them.
  • They on the older age of minority. If a judge feels a crime is serious and the child should have known better at their age, they may be charged as an adult. For first-time offenders, even if they are 17 and 11 months old, being charged as an adult isn’t likely unless it was a truly heinous crime. Often this circumstance happens because of a combination of a long history as a juvenile offender combined with age.

Typically, trial as an adult will begin at the prosecutor’s request, but a judge can also look at the case and waive juvenile rights as well if they think it is merited. Once this happens, you should find a talented criminal defense attorney to make sure that your child does not have to endure adult punishments. As juvenile punishments are often more rehabilitative and their record is sealed when they become an adult, parents might rather their children be punish so they learn a lesson to guide them on the right path later. However, with adult sentencing, it isn’t rehabilitative. It is a life ruiner and parents need to take every step possible to prevent it.

If your child has committed a juvenile crime, whether they are charged as an adult or not, contact us to see what we can do to help limit their punishments.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Please contact attorney Kirk Anderson for an initial consultation.