When can a juvenile be tried as an adult?

On Behalf of | Oct 21, 2022 | Criminal defense

When a child faces accusations of criminal conduct, parents fear the outcome. A conviction can have repercussions that last into adulthood. Generally speaking, courts only classify criminal defendants as adults if they are 18.

There are, though, exceptions to this rule. In Minnesota, children as young as 14 may wind up in the adult justice system. Here are some of the reasons why a juvenile might face an adult charge.

Statutory exclusions

Many states have laws that require the court to treat a defendant as an adult for specific categories of crime. Examples of such crimes include violent felonies. Statutory exclusions revolve around relevant variables such as the nature of the crime and whether the defendant is a repeat offender.

Prosecutorial discretion

Another name for this principle is direct file. Prosecutors sometimes have the discretion to decide whether a minor deserves adult treatment. The expectation is that prosecutors use this power wisely. That said, there is no guarantee on what influences a determination.

Judicial waivers

Under certain circumstances, judges elect to transfer juveniles to criminal courts. Whether this happens is sometimes entirely at the discretion of the justice in charge. Personal biases and perspectives often play a role. This ruling may occur when a judge believes that the defendant should face harsher penalties.

If a minor is facing adult charges, the charges are likely very serious. An adult conviction will generally carry much heavier penalties than a juvenile conviction. A strong case may be necessary to avoid the worst of these consequences.