Choosing To Remain Positive

Is There Any Way To Prevent A Juvenile From Being Tried As An Adult?

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, over 7,000 teens are tried as adults for crimes. While criminal court can provide teens with more rights than juvenile court, there's also the risk they will be sentenced to harsher punishment, such as longer jail time and higher fines. Additionally, being placed with adult offenders can result in significant psychological and physical harm to juveniles. If you suspect your child's case will be transferred to adult court, there may be a way to prevent that from happening. Here's what you need to know.

Factors Judges Consider About the Defendant

There are several factors judges consider when deciding whether to refer the juvenile's case to adult criminal court:

  • The juvenile's age
  • Criminal history
  • The severity of the crime
  • State and federal laws
  • Whether the juvenile will be rehabilitated in the juvenile system
  • The juvenile's mental capacity and physical health
  • Whether a weapon was used in the commission of the crime
  • Public sentiment and safety

Some of these factors will be more important than others. The severity of the crime often trumps most other elements in cases involving capital crimes like homicide, for instance. Sometimes the law will take the decision out of the court's hands. In Ohio, for example, 16- and 17-year-old juveniles will automatically be tried as adults in aggravated murder cases.

All in all, though, whether a case will remain in juvenile court or be transferred to criminal court hinges on having as many of these factors in the juvenile's favor as possible.

Keeping the Case in Juvenile Court

One strategy for keeping a case in juvenile court is to offer up compelling reasons why it should stay there. For instance, even if the crime the juvenile committed was severe, criminal court may be inappropriate for him or her if the person doesn't have the mental capacity to fully understand what he or she did wrong. A case involving a juvenile with a record of criminal activity could still be kept in juvenile court if you can tie the activity to issues outside of the teen's control or show the teen can be successfully rehabilitated in the juvenile court system.

Sometimes public sentiment can be used to pressure the judge to avoid moving a juvenile to criminal court. Juveniles being tried as adults have come under increasing scrutiny, and judges who are elected into their positions may be hesitant to jeopardize their careers by inciting public outrage with their decisions.

There may be other things you can do to stop a juvenile from being tried as an adult. Contact a criminal defense attorney like The Gentry Firm for assistance with the case.