When Can a Juvenile be Charged in Adult Court?

When someone under the age of 17 is accused of a crime in the Lone Star State, their case is often overseen by the Juvenile Justice System in Texas. This system focuses on rehabilitation and treatment of a juvenile offender to avoid future criminal conduct, while the adult justice system focuses on punishment and preserving public safety.

There are times, however, when a juvenile can face criminal charges in the adult justice system alongside defendants age 17 and older. If you or your child faces adult criminal charges, you need a Texas criminal defense lawyer handling your case immediately.

When Adult Charges Apply

Texas has guidelines for when the juvenile court can transfer a case to the adult system. If a case meets certain conditions, the juvenile system can waive its jurisdiction over the case, allowing charges to be filed in adult court. This is often referred to as certification or a transfer hearing.

If a juvenile is 14 years old, they can be transferred to adult court for:

  • Felony charges for aggravated drug offenses
  • First-degree felony offenses
  • Capital felony offenses (murder)

If a juvenile is 15 years old, they could face charges in adult court for any felony offense, including state jail felonies.

In order to have a case successfully transferred, a prosecutor must show that there is probable cause to believe that the juvenile committed the offense and that evidence management in the case requires the resources of the adult justice system.

Why Adult Charges are Concerning

The juvenile justice system is in place for many reasons. First, juveniles often make mistakes or misjudgments as part of growing up, resulting in trouble with the law. Many offenses are relatively minor, stemming from alcohol or drug possession, fighting, stealing, and similar conduct. The juvenile system provides programs that help rehabilitate a juvenile so they can begin their adult lives aware of their mistakes and without the long-term consequences of a public criminal record.

In addition, juveniles convicted of crimes in adult court face the same penalties as adult defendants. If your child faces adult criminal charges, they might have to do the following if convicted:

  • Serve time in county jail or state prison
  • Complete probation with strict conditions
  • Pay costly fines
  • Deal with the fallout of having a criminal record for years to come

Young teenagers have no place in jail or state prisons alongside adult offenders. They can be at risk of harm, and imprisonment can damage their mental and emotional well-being, as well. As a parent, it is critical to do everything you can to keep your child from facing these serious and damaging consequences.

Speak with a Texas Juvenile Defense Attorney Right Away

If your child is detained by authorities, you should immediately contact the Law Office of Brent D. Bowen, PLLC. We help keep cases in juvenile court whenever possible, and we also aggressively defend against charges in both juvenile and adult court. Contact us for more information today.