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When do Juveniles Stand Trial as Adults?

Recently, it is becoming more common to hear reports of minors, individuals under the age of 18, engaging in very serious crimes. These crimes may include sexual assault, robbery, and murder. In some cases, the minor is charged as a juvenile, while in other cases the minor may be charged as an adult. There are certain factors that the legal system must take into consideration when deciding whether or not to charge them as a minor as an adult.

Criminal defense attorney Robert Phillips advises those charged with a youth crime to not speak to law enforcement before speaking to a lawyer. 

A few of the factors that are taken into consideration is the crime committed, the criminal history of the juvenile, the intent with which they committed the crime, the age that they were when they committed the crime, and their mental capacity when they committed the crime. The U.S. Department of Justice released a bulletin, Trying Juveniles as Adults: An Analysis of State Transfer Laws and Reporting, for a more comprehensive look at statistical problems of juvenile crimes. 

One of the first things that a judge will look at is a criminal history of the minor who was accused of committing the crime. If the juvenile has a history of being sent to juvenile detention centers, this will be taken into consideration when determining whether or not the juvenile should stand trial as an adult. 

Juvenile detention centers are designed not to as a form of punishment but instead as a form of rehabilitation. The hope is that if a juvenile gets involved in criminal activities, they can be rehabilitated and as they grow into adulthood not continue to commit criminal acts. However, if it is apparent that a minor is on a path that makes it likely that even with the juvenile rehabilitation they will still commit crimes after their 18th birthday, a judge may choose to charge them as an adult.

Obviously, the age of the juvenile when they commit a crime is a factor. It is more likely that a 17-year-old is going to be tried as an adult, as opposed to a 10-year-old child. However, there are exceptions. For example, if a 10-year-old child commits a serious crime such as homicide or rape, this is something that the judge will seriously take into consideration when deciding how the minor should be charged. For more information on how the juvenile court system works, visit the Texas Juvenile Justice Department site. 

Additionally, the intent that the minor had in committing the crime is something that will be carefully examined by a judge prior to deciding whether to charge the minor as an adult. If it is clear that the intent of the minor was to cause harm, they may be charged as an adult. Conversely, if a minor committed a crime out of ignorance, or with no real understanding of the harm that the crime that they committed would cause, the judge may decide to charge them as a minor.

Mental capacity includes examining whether or not the minor is of an age, and of an IQ, that allows him to comprehend what they did, the charges being leveled against them, and the potential consequences of their actions.

There are a lot of things a judge must take into consideration when deciding whether or not they will charge a minor as an adult. Obviously, they will receive input from the minor's criminal defense attorney. For this reason, having a good criminal defense attorney defend you or your child when they are accused of a crime is essential.

Remember, being charged as a minor or being charged as an adult can mean the difference between a stay in juvenile detention or a stay in a state run facility. It is clear to see why taking the time to speak to a well-trained criminal defense attorney is worth it.

Robert M. Phillips is a criminal defense attorney based in Central Texas. If you have a criminal defense case pertaining to juvenile delinquency, you can connect with him here

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