Lara Bracamonte Davila

Doing What Is Right For You

When can juveniles be charged as adults?

On Behalf of | Sep 30, 2021 | Criminal Defense

The Texas juvenile justice system differs significantly from its counterpart for adults. Whereas the adult system is primarily directed toward a punitive result, the juvenile system includes a stated concern for the well-being and rehabilitation of the minor. As a result, it would appear that pushing a juvenile into the adult system is at odds with the goal of rehabilitation. And yet, there are circumstances where this is exactly what happens.

Still a teenager, but treated like an adult

Texas automatically directs any minor between the ages of 10 and 17 into the juvenile system. So long as the minor is at least 10 years old when they commit an offense, but not yet 17, their case is handled by the juvenile courts. Unlike most states, Texas treats 17-year-olds as adults and they go straight to the primary justice system.

However, if the minor is at least 14 years old, they can be referred to the adult system under specific circumstances. The Texas Family Code states that a 14-year-old can only be certified as an adult for serious offenses, such as murder or aggravated felonies. But if the minor is at least 15 years old, they can be certified as an adult for any felony committed.

When prosecutors seek to have a minor charged as an adult, it is not a foregone conclusion that it will happen. There is a process which must be conducted by the courts, to determine if the offense and the minor are suitable for the adult system. But if the court concludes they are suitable, and the minor is convicted, they are subject to the full range of punishments available to adults.