When a minor commits a crime, the justice system must decide whether to try them as an adult or a juvenile. It’s a difficult decision with serious consequences. In Texas, specific laws and regulations determine when minors will be treated as adults in criminal court. It is not an arbitrary decision.
If you're concerned about how your child might be impacted by these regulations, this article is for you. We'll discuss the rules governing when minors can be tried as adults, and we’ll examine steps you can take if your child has been charged with a crime.
The Basics of Juvenile Justice in Texas
For adults, criminal justice is usually meant to penalize. Juvenile justice in Texas aims to help young people avoid the harsh adult criminal system later.
Children ages 10 – 16 are subject to a range of sanctions from attending counseling sessions to placement in a juvenile detention facility.
Texas takes a tough stance on juvenile crime, but it also recognizes that young people need guidance and rehabilitative measures. The goal is to steer kids away from a criminal lifestyle.
When Can a Minor Be Tried as an Adult in Texas?
- They must be at least 14 years old.
- They must have committed a qualifying offense, including:
- Some drug offenses
- Aggravated robbery
- Aggravated kidnapping
- Aggravated sexual assault
Even if a child is accused of these crimes, the court decides to try them as an adult is made on a case-by-case basis. This generally takes place during a transfer hearing.
A judge considers factors such as:
- The seriousness of the offense
- The likelihood of rehabilitation
- The minor's level of maturity and mental development
Even if a minor is transferred to adult court, they are still subject to the juvenile justice system until their 18th birthday. They can still receive many of the rehabilitative services available to their age group, which could help with parole, early release, and so forth.
Different Types of Juvenile Delinquency Cases in Texas
Juvenile delinquency cases refer to misconduct committed by someone under the age of 18.
Common juvenile crimes in the state include:
- Drug abuse
- Breaking and entering
The Texas Juvenile Justice Department handles these cases. It is responsible for rehabilitating and educating offenders. Generally, the department prioritizes early intervention and treatment for juvenile offenders.
How Age Affects the Likelihood of Being Tried as an Adult in Texas
As we’ve stated, the state will try only those who are 14 or older as adults. From there, it is more concerned about the child’s maturity level, development, and mental competence.
Anyone who works with children knows they are not all the same. A room full of 14-year-old ninth graders can have opposite extremes. One can be childlike, behaving more like a 9-year-old. The kid right next to them could behave like a serious, small adult.
Therefore, the actual, numbered age isn’t that important in cases where kids are tried as adults. An immature minor is more likely to receive lighter sentencing. A minor who clearly understands their actions may be treated as an adult.
The Consequences for Minors Who Are Found Guilty as Adults in Texas
Essentially, if your child is tried as an adult, they can be sentenced as one.
Upon conviction, they could:
- Lose the right to vote
- Serve time in an adult correctional facility
- Be prohibited from owning firearms after release
Additionally, a criminal record can hinder their future employment prospects and limit access to education, housing, and public benefits.
Texas does have provisions for reviewing cases and transferring minors to the juvenile justice system. If your child is facing adult charges, or even if they’ve already been convicted as an adult, Law Offices Of Mark M. Childress may be able to step in and help.
Hiring an Attorney for Juvenile Offenses
No matter your age, you have the right to a criminal defense the U.S. This is especially true when someone is tried as an adult. They deserve the same representation as any grown-up.
Juvenile cases (where the child is not tried as an adult) are not the same as adult cases. The procedures and penalties are vastly different. A competent attorney can assess the circumstances surrounding the charges and develop a strategy that will protect the child's rights and best interests.
An attorney can provide legal counsel, represent the child during court proceedings, and negotiate with prosecutors to lessen charges and penalties. In some cases, a good attorney can help convince the court to leave the case outside of the adult justice system.
If your child has been accused of a crime, act quickly. Make sure that the attorney you choose has experience handling juvenile cases in Texas. Investing in quality legal representation can make all the difference to your child's future.