When Juveniles Are Tried as Adults

man in handcuffs

It is not just a saying that children have their entire lives before them – it is the truth of the matter. Juveniles are also more likely to make terrible choices and to get into trouble for doing so. This makes the matter of trying juveniles as adults that much more complicated. In fact, Texas takes a harder line than many other states when it comes to trying juveniles as adults, which is why having a dedicated criminal defense lawyer on your team – helping you protect your child’s rights – is so critical. (Read more: Hiring the Right Criminal Lawyer for You)

The Juvenile Waiver

In a process that is called a juvenile waiver, a child who otherwise would be tried in juvenile court in Texas may be tried as an adult if he or she was at least 14 at the time the crime was allegedly committed – and the charge is a capital felony, an aggravated controlled substance felony, or a first-degree felony (for a 15-year-old, however, the bar is even lower). The conditions that must apply include:

  • There must be probable cause to believe the juvenile committed the felony in question.

  • The juvenile court must find that the serious nature of the child’s alleged offense (or something in his or her background) requires that the charge is pursued through the adult court system.

It is important to point out here that the juvenile system is based on rehabilitation, and the adult system is based on punishment.

The U.S. Supreme Court Weighs In

In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it was cruel and unusual to sentence juveniles who are convicted of felony murder to life in prison without the possibility of parole for all of the following reasons:

  • Juveniles must be treated differently than adults due to their diminished capacity and the increased likelihood that they can be successfully reformed.

  • Juveniles are more susceptible to negative pressure from both their families and their peers.

  • Juveniles are far more prone to taking dangerous risks, acting rashly in general, and failing to understand the serious consequences involved.

  • Serious juvenile offenders will not necessarily continue to offend throughout their lives.

All told, juveniles must be sentenced according to different parameters than adults are – even when the crimes for which they are charged are exceptionally serious.

The Juvenile Judge’s Considerations

In determining whether a juvenile who is charged with a crime in Texas should be tried as an adult or a juvenile, the juvenile judge must take all of the following factors into consideration:

  • Whether the crime was against property or another person

  • The juvenile’s overall level of maturity

  • The juvenile’s record of prior criminal activity

  • Whether the juvenile is considered a danger to the community at large

  • The juvenile’s prospects of being rehabilitated by the juvenile system

Call an Experienced Killeen Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

If your child is facing a criminal charge, Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard – proudly serving Killeen, Texas – is a focused criminal defense lawyer who understands the enormity of your situation and is well prepared to help. For more information, please do not wait to contact or call us at 254-501-4040 today.


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