There are some cases involving juvenile offenders that are serious enough to be transferred to adult criminal court.
In most states, a youth offender must be at least 17 years of age to be tried as an adult. There are a number of states in which minors as young as 13 years old. A few states, such as Kansas, Arkansas, and Washington, allow any minor who has committed a serious crime like murder to be tried as an adult, no matter what age.
The following are common factors to determine under which court system to try a minor defendant:
- The age of the minor (if he or she is close to reaching adulthood)
- The serious nature of the crime
- The criminal history of the minor
- Have past rehabilitation efforts proven to be unsuccessful?
- How much time would youth services need to work with the minor?
Some juvenile cases get transferred to an adult criminal court through a process known as a “waiver.” This is when a judge waives the protections that juvenile court provides, which often happens when cases involve more serious crimes or minors who have committed crimes before.
The most common way that transfer proceedings begin is through the prosecutor’s request. However, the juvenile court judge can also initiate transfer proceedings. If the prosecutor or judge seeks to transfer the case to adult court, the minor is entitled to a waiver hearing and legal representation.
On the other hand, some states have “automatic transfer” laws which make it mandatory for certain juvenile cases to be transferred to adult criminal court. So if the minor is a specific age or older (typically 16) and the charges involve a serious or violent offense, such as homicide or rape, then an automatic transfer could occur.