Traditionally, if a defendant is under the legal age of 18, they are considered a juvenile and will be tried for their crimes in juvenile court. However, there are circumstances that permit the state to push a youth under the age of 18 through the criminal justice system as an adult. The rules for this are complex, but it is important to note that juveniles are not free from adult prosecution simply because of their age.
How Juvenile Crimes Can be Charged as Adult Crimes
There are three ways in which a case can be transferred from juvenile court to the adult criminal system. These include:
- Direct File – This gives the prosecution the discretion to decide when a case is tried as a juvenile or adult crime.
- Statutory Exclusion – If a juvenile’s crime meets the age and offense criteria of a specific crime, the statutes automatically allow for that crime to be moved from juvenile court into the adult criminal justice system.
- Reverse Waiver – In certain cases, such as homicide, the assumption that a juvenile should be tried as an adult is used, unless the court otherwise determines the child to be tried in juvenile court.
Also, if a juvenile has been tried in the past as an adult, they are typically tried for future crimes as an adult as well. This is because the courts typically take the stance that “once an adult, always an adult” for criminal acts.
What the Law Says
Florida statutes define anyone under the age of 18 as a juvenile. However, Florida prosecutors are allowed to decide if a juvenile is tried as a juvenile or as an adult. For a discretionary waiver, the minimum age is 14 years or older in order for a prosecutor to legally try a juvenile as an adult. Therefore, crimes committed under the 14 year threshold will automatically be seen in juvenile court in regards to discretionary waivers.
For direct filings, however, there is no minimum age. Instead, the age for capital offenses – those punishable by death or life in prison – are left to the sole discretion of the prosecution.
For statutory exclusions, the minimum age is not set, but typically prosecutors will not try individuals under the age of 16 for adult crimes, unless there is reasonable evidence to justify doing so.
The Consequences of Being Transferred to Adult Court
The consequences of a transfer to adult court are extremely serious. A juvenile can be tried as an adult and face the same harsh penalties an adult would – including decades in prison. Additionally, if convicted, a juvenile will have an adult criminal record, which can significantly impact their future in regards to employment, housing, and education.
An adult conviction also means the forfeiture of certain rights – such as the right to vote or own a firearm.
Speaking with a Criminal Attorney
If you are a juvenile being threatened with an adult case, you need an attorney by your side. Due to the serious consequences of being tried as an adult, you need an attorney with experience in the juvenile justice system. Your attorney may be able to assist you in reducing the charges or negotiating to have the case heard in the juvenile court system. Speak with an attorney at the Law Office of Timothy Armstrong, P.A. today by calling 904-356-8618, or by filling out an online contact form.