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Trying Juveniles as Adults

Minors in the Criminal Justice System

Juveniles may be tried as adults under different circumstances, and these circumstances vary from state-to-state. A criminal defense attorney can explain the laws in your state regarding trying juveniles as adults and see how they apply to your child’s case and defense.

To connect with a criminal defense attorney in your area, simply fill out the free online evaluation form on this page or call 877-445-1059 today.

When Does a Minor Become an Adult?

Many states limit juvenile courts to a certain age, most often 17. Some states have limited the juvenile courts to minors 16 and under, while others have even gone to 15 and below.

In those states where a minor is considered to be 15 or under, 16- and 17-year-olds are tried as adults. A criminal defense attorney in your area can explain your state’s juvenile cutoff age in more detail.

Juvenile Courts in Violent or Serious Charges

Many states have laws that do not allow juvenile courts to take cases involving very serious or violent crimes, such as murder or armed robbery.

Generally, juveniles are charged with delinquent acts, not crimes. However, the nature of some offenses may result in a minor being charged with a crime in the regular court system. In these instances, the child’s age does not matter. He or she will be tried in the adult criminal system, unless transferred to juvenile courts by the judge.

Juvenile Trials held in Adult Court

Many states allow prosecutors to file a juvenile delinquency petition in an adult criminal court if the juvenile is of a certain age or committed a certain type of juvenile crime. These cases are different than being tried as an adult, but may have similar consequences.

A local criminal defense attorney can explain whether your state employs any of these direct filing provisions.

Juvenile Cases moved to Adult Court

In some juvenile cases filed in juvenile court, a judge may decide that the issues at hand would be best answered in an adult court. In this situation, the case may be transferred from the juvenile system into an adult court. The defendant may be tried as a juvenile or an adult.

Some states do place age restrictions on waivers into adult court. Many states allow “reverse waivers,” in which an adult criminal court judge may transfer a juvenile if the issues would be better addressed by the juvenile court system.

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Juvenile Trial as Adult ‒ Lasting Effects

In some states, a juvenile whose case was heard in adult courts may have all future cases heard in adult courts.

Even if a juvenile who has been previously tried as an adult commits a minor offense typically treated in a juvenile court, he or she will be tried for that offense as an adult, and may face more serious penalties as a result.

Connect with a Criminal Defense Attorney

If your child has been arrested and is facing criminal charges, remember that he or she may be tried as an adult and that the consequences can be severe. Schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with a criminal defense attorney in your area who can assess your situation, clarify your child’s rights and help you move forward with confidence. Simply fill out our free online evaluation form or call 877-445-1059.

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The above summary of trying juveniles as adults is by no means all-inclusive and is not legal advice. Laws may have changed since our last update. For the latest information on these laws, speak to a criminal defense attorney in your area.


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