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Can Juveniles Be Charged as an Adult?

Young people can get themselves into serious trouble. In some cases, a minor may even face a criminal allegation. Our state has a specialized legal process for juvenile offenders. In most cases, juvenile charges are handled through the juvenile justice system—which is focused on rehabilitation and is far more forgiving. However, in some cases, a juvenile may be charged as an adult. Here, our Fort Worth juvenile justice lawyer provides a comprehensive overview of the scenarios when a juvenile can be charged as an adult in Texas.

Background: Texas has a Specialized Justice Process for Juveniles

As a starting point, it is important to understand that the overwhelming majority of juvenile cases in Texas—those being criminal charges for youthful offenders between the ages of 10 and 16—are not handled by the adult criminal system. Texas recognizes the significant differences between juveniles and adults, particularly in their capacities to comprehend the consequences of their actions. Therefore, the state has implemented a specialized justice process for juvenile offenders. The Texas Juvenile Justice Department explains that this system is more rehabilitative in nature and focuses on correcting delinquent behavior, preventing future offenses, and providing services.

A 14, 15, or 16 Year Old Could Be Charged as an Adult if Facing a “Serious Felony”

Despite the rehabilitative focus of the juvenile system, Texas law maintains a provision to try certain young offenders as adults under specific circumstances. Generally, if a juvenile aged 14, 15, or 16 commits a grave crime, such as a “serious felony,” they may be certified and transferred to stand trial in the adult criminal justice system. This is not a decision made lightly. Factors such as the nature of the crime, the juvenile’s past criminal history, and the potential threat they pose to society are considered. If convicted in an adult court, the consequences are severe and can result in a full-length prison sentence in an adult facility.

Texas Criminal Law Does Not Consider 17-Year-Olds to Be Juveniles

In most U.S. states, a 17-year-old is considered to be a juvenile. However, for the purposes of the Texas criminal justice system, that is simply not the case. A 17-year-old is not covered by juvenile justice laws in Texas. In other words, this means that if a 17-year-old commits a crime, they are automatically processed, tried, and potentially sentenced as an adult. They do not benefit from the protective shield of the juvenile justice system.

Speak to Our Fort Worth Juvenile Defense Attorney Today

At The Law Office of Kyle Whitaker, our Fort Worth criminal defense lawyer has the skills and experience to handle the full range of juvenile justice cases. If you have any specific questions or concerns about a juvenile being charged as an adult, we can help. Contact us today to set up your confidential case review. From our Fort Worth law office, our firm represents juveniles across North Texas, including Tarrant County, Dallas County, Denton County, and Collin County.