We all know that being prosecuted as an adult is significantly more severe than being prosecuted as a minor. In the case that a minor is involved in a more serious crime, or has had repeated offenses, a judge may waive the protections that a standard juvenile court provides.
So you may be asking, “what are juvenile cases that are eligible for a waiver?” Firstly, we have to realize that juvenile crime is on the rise, and offenders are getting younger and younger. Currently, more and more states are lowering the minimum age of eligibility. Most states require that the minor be at least 16 years of age. But in a number of states across the nation, minors as young as 13 years old could be subjected to a waiver petition. It gets even more severe. In a few states, children of any age can be prosecuted as an adult!
So what are some factors that might lead to a court to grant a waiver petition and transfer a minor to adult court? One factor involves the juvenile being charged with a very serious offense. Others include the minor being older, or the juvenile having a long juvenile record. Sometimes, efforts used to rehabilitate the minor has failed, or youth services have worked with a juvenile for a lengthy amount of time.
Now let’s go over the procedures for a waiver petition.
There are three ways that transfer proceedings can usually begin. Let’s begin with the most common. Transfers are usually initiated through the prosecutor’s request.
But that isn’t the only way. The juvenile court judge can also be the one to initiate transfer proceedings. In certain types of cases, like homicide, some state laws require that juveniles be prosecuted.
So what happens if the prosecutor or judge seeks to transfer the case to an adult court?
In the event that this happens, the minor is entitled to both a hearing and a representation by an attorney. This specific type of hearing is also called a fitness hearing, a waiver hearing, or certification.
Now you may be wondering, what if the prosecutor has established probable cause? Good question! If that’s the case, the judge must then decide on the minor’s chances of rehabilitation as a juvenile. The decision will ultimately be based on a few factors like juvenile court record, overall background, and willingness to get treated in the system.
There is also something called “automatic transfer” laws. What is that, exactly? It’s laws that require juvenile cases to be transferred to adult criminal courts. For this to happen, two things have to be true. One is the offender has to be a certain age. Most of the time that age is at least 16. The second factor is that the charges involve something serious. This is referring to a violent offense, such as rape or murder.
But there is something the juvenile can do on their end. If they are indeed facing an automatic transfer, the subject can request a transfer hearing in court. This hearing is also sometimes called a reverse waiver or reverse transfer. The juvenile can fight to be tried in a juvenile court.
Pros of adult criminal court.
Although it is common for juveniles to aim to be tried in a juvenile court, there are pros to being transferred to an adult criminal court. Strange, right? This is because minors have the right to a jury trial in adult court. You can also argue that juries in adult court may be more sympathetic to a minor. The court may be more likely to dispose of the juvenile’s case more quickly, or even impose a lighter sentence. So it makes you think, what’s the better option in the end?
Cons of adult criminal court.
But then there are the disadvantages of being transferred to an adult criminal court. This includes more severe sentencing because they don’t have as wide of a punishment range as juvenile courts. Things like counseling or curfews simply are not an option. Worst of all, the juvenile can end up spending a jail sentence in an adult prison.
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If you, or someone you know, has any questions or concerns about a minor being prosecuted as an adult, don’t hesitate to contact us today here.