Depending on your age and the severity of your crime, your case can get transferred to adult criminal court even if you are a minor. Most minors are tried in juvenile court, as it is meant to rehabilitate minors as opposed to punishing them severely for their crimes. However, a judge can wave a minor’s right to a trial in juvenile court through a waiver. At this point, the minor can be tried in an adult criminal court.
Reasons for Transfer
Juveniles who are transferred to adult court are generally repeat offenders or juveniles who have committed a serious crime. In some cases where the minor’s case is sent to adult court, past rehabilitation has not worked for the minor or the minor might be older. If the minor is close to 18 years of age, a case could be made for a trial in adult court.
Adult court can provide some advantages, as this trial allows the juvenile to have more constitutional protections. However, there are serious disadvantages to adult court as well. Some of the worst disadvantages are the fact that juveniles can receive more severe sentences and they might have to serve time in an adult prison instead of a juvenile detention facility.
Age Requirements for Transfer
In order for a juvenile to be sent to adult court, he or she has to be at least 16 years old. Most states do not transfer juvenile cases to adult court until the offender is 17 years old. The waiver petition process usually begins at the request of the prosecutor. In some cases, the juvenile court judge can also request that the case be transferred to the adult docket.
A Way to Deny the Transfer
If a request is made to transfer the case to the adult court, the defendant has a right to a hearing in order to challenge this move. An attorney can speak on the behalf of the defendant, making a case for why the defendant should stay in juvenile court. This hearing, oftentimes referred to as a fitness hearing, a waiver hearing, or a certification hearing, will usually allow both the prosecution and the defense to make a case for the transfer to adult court.
Probable cause indicating that the minor did commit the crime he or she is charged of is usually introduced at the hearing. Once hearing all of the evidence, the judge will decide if the minor is better suited in rehabilitation or if a punishment from the adult court is more appropriate.
If you are a minor whose case might be transferred to the adult court, you need to have strong representation at your waiver hearing. Transfer to adult court is not in your best interest. In most cases you will be better off in juvenile court. For this reason, you need an experienced juvenile defense lawyer to present a solid case for you and make sure that your case is tried in the appropriate court.