FAQs About Juvenile Offenders And The Adult Court System

Juvenile crimes are often viewed differently than those that are committed by adults. However, there are some exceptions that could result in a juvenile case being transferred to an adult court. Whether or not a case is transferred depends on the facts of the case. 

Why Is a Case Transferred?

In some states, juvenile cases are not eligible to be transferred to an adult court unless the offender is a certain age. The age allowed varies by state. For instance, in Texas and Georgia, juvenile cases can be transferred at 16 years of age. Most other states, including New Mexico and Montana, set an age minimum of 17. 

In addition to the age of the offender, there are other factors that are considered when assessing whether or not a case should be transferred. The seriousness of the offense is one of the most important. Cases involving homicide are routinely transferred. 

A lengthy juvenile record and how successful past attempts at rehabilitating the offender are also considered. 

Who Requests the Transfer?

In many instances, the prosecutor requests the transfer. However, the judge can make the decision to transfer the case. 

Depending on the state in which the offender lives, it is possible that there are laws in place that require the juvenile to be automatically tried as an adult. For instance, in New York, juveniles are automatically transferred to the adult court if the offender is 16 years of age. 

Should an Offender Fight the Transfer?

Whether or not an offender should fight the transfer depends largely on the case. There are advantages to being transferred that should be factored into the decision. For instance, a minor whose case was transferred gains the right to a jury trial. Many states do not allow jury trials for minors. 

A jury might be more sympathetic to a juvenile offender, which could push the prosecutor to plea bargain or result in a not guilty verdict from the jury. 

However, transferring can sometimes work against an offender. An offender that is convicted could face harsher punishment. There is also the possibility that any confinement ordered would be served in an adult prison or jail. Studies have shown a number of issues from juveniles being imprisoned with adults, including an increased chance of re-offending. 

If you have a loved one who is an accused juvenile offender, work with a criminal defense attorney, such as those at Ewbank & Kramer, to determine whether or not fighting a transfer to an adult court is the best decision.