When someone is accused of a juvenile crime, there are certain instances in which the case can be transferred to an adult court. In Texas, this is a two-part process.
The first part of a transfer is an evaluation of the case against Texas criminal law. The second is a more subjective evaluation of the circumstances and the juvenile party involved in the case.
If your child is facing juvenile crime charges, and you are unsure about whether or why their case may be under consideration for transfer into the adult court system, a knowledgeable Texas criminal defense attorney will be about to review the case and offer advice.
In this post, we will review how the transfer of a juvenile crime case to an adult court works in this state – as well as what it can mean for any future offenses if your child is tried as an adult.
Trying a Juvenile in Adult Court
Upon first hearing that the juvenile court system will consider transferring their child’s case to an adult court, most parents are shocked. The first question juvenile attorneys often get from parents in response to the news is an exasperated, “Can they do that?!”
The short answer is yes, they can. If you have a child under 18 years of age and older than 10 (that’s right, 10), there are several scenarios in which they can be tried as an adult.
SCENARIO 1: The juvenile is between the ages of 10 and 17 when they are alleged to have committed a capital felony or any offense under Section 19.02 of the Texas Penal Code.
SCENARIO 2: The juvenile is between the ages of 14 and 17 when they are alleged to have committed an aggravated first-degree felony involving a controlled substance or any other felony offense not covered under Section 19.02.
SCENARIO 3: The juvenile is between the ages of 15 and 17 when they are alleged to have committed any second- or third-degree felony or a state jail felony.
Additionally, there must have been no adjudication or hearing for adjudication yet conducted, the preponderance of evidence must suggest it was not possible to manage the case within the juvenile system, and the juvenile court must determine there is probable cause to believe that the child has, in fact, committed the alleged offense.
When a case meets any of the requirements outlined above, the juvenile court has an opportunity to investigate further on whether it would like to waive its exclusive jurisdiction and transfer the minor’s case to the appropriate district court or criminal district court proceedings.
Apart from meeting the general requirements for a juvenile to be tried as an adult, a prehearing investigation must also be conducted in order to determine whether it is appropriate for the minor to be certified, or jurisdictionally transferred away from the juvenile court system.
This investigation includes a diagnostic study, a social evaluation, and an investigation of the child’s well-being, his or her personal circumstances, and the circumstances surrounding the offense in question.
Other Jurisdictional Transfer Requirements
If the Texas Juvenile Justice Department does ultimately decide to transfer (or retain) jurisdiction over a single offense, it must also transfer (or retain) jurisdiction over any other offense arising from the same criminal incident.
Additionally, once the juvenile court makes the decision to transfer jurisdiction of a case, the adult criminal court is not allowed to remand it.
Only in cases where the minor was acquitted or not indicted, won a dismissal with prejudice, or had the conviction reversed on final appeal in the previous case can the juvenile court system possibly oversee future cases for that child.
In any case, a juvenile crime being transferred to adult court jurisdiction is a serious matter. Although the majority of certified juveniles (those who are ultimately transferred to adult court) receive only probation or a sentence of less than 10 years imprisonment, research shows that even processing through the adult court system can be damaging.
In terms of criminality, certified youth are nearly identical to those who remain in the juvenile system, many being first-time offenders with no prior violent criminal history and are charged with non-violent crimes. If you want to stop this from happening, collaboration among parents, the courts, and expert evaluators and your legal representation are imperative at the outset.
About the Author:
Brandon Fulgham has an in-depth understanding of both Texas law and Texans themselves. Before practicing law here, he received his undergraduate degree from TCU, and his law degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston. After graduation, he worked in District Attorneys’ offices as a prosecutor, building cases designed to put people behind bars. Now, he uses that knowledge to protect the rights of people in and around Fort Worth, making sure they receive the strongest possible defense when they find themselves on the wrong side of the law. He has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, Fort Worth Magazine, and others.