Why are Some Juveniles Tried as Adults?

Why are Some Juveniles Tried as Adults?


Juvenile cases that involve serious crimes are sometimes tried in adult criminal court. If a young person has a long history of trouble, he or she may also be tried as an adult. A process called a ‘waiver’ happens when a judge waives the protection offered by a juvenile court.

When are Juveniles Tried as Adults?

Most states require a minimum age requirement of 16 for a juvenile offender to be eligible for a waiver. Some states, however, allow minors as young as 13 to be tried as adults. In jurisdictions with harsher laws, any child can be subjected to a waiver petition into adult court for serious crimes such as homicide.

A judge could decide to grant a waiver petition if the following conditions exist:

  • The offense is very serious.
  • The juvenile charged has a lengthy record.
  • The juvenile is older in age.
  • The minor repeatedly runs into trouble despite rehabilitation efforts.
  • It would take too long and br too much work for youth services to rehabilitate the juvenile offender.

Automatic Transfer to Adult Court

There are states that implement an automatic transfer law. This means that a juvenile case goes straight to adult court. This can happen if:

  • The offender is older (usually 16 years of age), and
  • The case involves a serious and violent crime such as murder or rape.

Reverse Waiver

If a juvenile case is automatically transferred to adult criminal court, the defendant can appeal for a reverse waiver. During a reverse transfer hearing, the defense attorney for the minor will present the case and try to convince the judge to send the case back to juvenile court.

Pros and Cons of Trying a Juvenile in Adult Court

An adult criminal court can provide more constitutional protections to a minor. However, he or she is also likely to receive a harsher sentence to be served at an adult prison. This is why defense attorneys will fight to have the case stay in juvenile court.

Advantages of Trying a Juvenile in Adult Court

  • Juvenile cases in an adult court are offered a jury trial. Most juvenile courts do not provide this.
  • A jury may be more sympathetic if the person charged is a child.
  • Adult courts usually have full dockets and adult correctional facilities are overcrowded. In some situations, the court may be inclined to simply dispose of a juvenile case and hand down a lighter sentence.

Disadvantages of Trying a Juvenile in Adult Court

  • Punishments are more severe in adult courts. A juvenile may even be given a life sentence without parole if perceived to be beyond rehabilitation.
  • Adult court judges have limited options when it comes to penalizing an offender, such as automatic jail time whereas juvenile court judges may opt to just impose a curfew or require the minor to attend counseling instead of prison.
  • Juveniles who are convicted in adult court will have to serve time in an adult correctional facility rather than a juvenile detention center.
  • A juvenile court record can be expunged so it does not become available to the public. An adult court conviction will be harder to seal.

A reliable Broward defense attorney will be able to help defend a juvenile criminal case. Consult with a lawyer who has vast experience with the juvenile justice system. Contact the Broward Criminal Law Firm today.

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