As a rule, minor criminal offenders are tried in juvenile criminal courts, but there are exceptions to this rule. If your child is facing a criminal offense, you should be prepared for the possibility of him or her being tried as an adult. Here are some of the laws that may make this possible:
In some states, criminal court judges have the power to refer juvenile offenses to adult criminal courts. This is called a judicial waiver. Judges who invoke this power do it to deny the offenders the protections of juvenile courts, such as the automatic sealing of criminal records.
If your child is being tried in a jurisdiction that allows judicial waiver, then the judge is likely to send him or her to an adult court if his or her offense is particularly egregious. For example, a child accused of attempted murder is more likely to be sent to an adult court than another one charged with shoplifting.
Discretionary Direct File
Just like judges, prosecutors also have the discretion to try juvenile offenders as adults. This is called discretionary direct file, and a prosecutor can invoke it if he or she feels it is in the public's interest to have your child tried as an adult. Discretionary direct file applies to children above certain ages, for example, the state of Florida uses it on children of at least 14 years. There are also specific offenses that attract the discretionary direct file action.
Other states exclude specific cases from juvenile courts in a system known as statutory exclusion. Therefore, your child will be automatically tried in an adult criminal case if his or her case meets the specified criteria. How do states decide which cases to exclude from juvenile courts? The common factors used include the age of the offender, nature of the crime and prior criminal records.
Once an Adult, Always an Adult
Lastly, there are also states that hold that a juvenile who has been tried as an adult should be tried as an adult for all subsequent criminal cases. There are 31 states who uphold this principle of "once an adult, always an adult." If you live in any of these states, your child will be tried as an adult if he or she has a prior criminal case in which he or she was tried as an adult.
Is your child facing a criminal case? Consult a criminal lawyer at Dimeo Law Offices to walk you through the pros and cons of trying a minor in an adult court. With the lawyer's help, you may also succeed in getting the child tried as a juvenile, if that is what you decide to do.Share