When Can a Juvenile Be Charged as an Adult in Texas?

Juveniles as young as 14 can be charged as adults for certain felony offenses. About 9% of juvenile arrests are for violent crimes.

According to 2017 statistics, about 4.5% of the nation’s imprisoned juveniles are in Texas. The Lone Star State ranks No. 4 in this dubious category.

States with the highest percentage of juveniles in adult prisons:

  • Florida: 14.2%
  • Georgia: 6.6%
  • Arizona: 5.8%
  • Texas: 4.5%
  • Michigan: 4.3%

Texas, like all states, has specific guidelines for when a juvenile can face criminal charges in the adult system.

Age Ranges of a Juvenile

A youth from the ages of 10 to 16 can be charged in juvenile court for criminal offenses in Texas.

If a child is determined to have “engaged in delinquent conduct” then the child will either be given probation or put in a juvenile facility in most cases.

Once a person turns 17 in Texas, he is legally considered an adult, and any criminal charges would be handled in adult court.

Children 9 years old and younger are considered to lack the capacity to have criminal intent. The minimum age to be prosecuted as a juvenile varies throughout the U.S. Florida has the youngest stated legal age – 7 years – but half of the states have no minimum age for prosecuting children.

Prosecuting a Juvenile

A prosecuting attorney may file a petition with the juvenile court only under sufficient legal grounds. When a petition is not filed, the case is dismissed or sent to the juvenile probation department. The prosecuting lawyer can also recommend deferred prosecution.

Only about one-third of juveniles referred to juvenile court is formally charged with and prosecuted for an offense.

For very serious or violent offenses, a juvenile may have a transfer hearing to be charged as an adult.

Certification of a Juvenile as an Adult

Juvenile court can waive its jurisdiction over a youth in a transfer hearing. The court has the authority to transfer the case to adult criminal court.

A 14-year-old can be transferred to the adult justice system in any of the following:

  • Allegedly committed a capital felony
  • Allegedly committed an aggravated controlled substance felony
  • Allegedly committed a first-degree felony

A 15-year-old can be transferred to the adult justice system in any of the following:

  • Allegedly committed a second-degree felony
  • Allegedly committed a third-degree felony
  • Allegedly committed a state jail felony

Juveniles face the same punishment as adults.

Juvenile court evaluates factors in addition to age before determining whether to certify the juvenile for the adult criminal justice system.

The juvenile court must also consider the following factors:

  • the sophistication and maturity of the child
  • the previous record of the child
  • the continuing danger the child poses to the public
  • the likelihood of the child’s rehabilitation with the resources available to the juvenile
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Once an Adult, Always an Adult

The prosecuting attorney must still seek an indictment against the offender from a grand jury. The case is dismissed if the grand jury does not return an indictment. The case is not returned to juvenile court.

Texas follows the “once an adult, always an adult” policy for juveniles convicted of a felony in adult court. They are then always presumed to be under the jurisdiction of the adult court for any subsequent violations.

Fight Against Adult Criminal Charges

A child facing adult criminal charges can have their entire future derailed. They must have a seasoned and skilled attorney to fight to keep them out of the adult prison system.

If your child is potentially being transferred to the adult criminal justice system, contact the Law Offices of Mark M. Childress, PLLC. We offer a free case evaluation. Schedule by calling (817) 497-8148.

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