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Criminal Law Blog

When Can Minors Be Charged As Adults?

May 25, 2018

It seems counterintuitive, but not every minor under age 18 is charged as a juvenile. Criminal law in Arizona allows—and in some cases, requires—juveniles to be tried as adults. The differences between juvenile court and regular criminal court are significant. If convicted as an adult, a minor faces a more severe sentence in a regular jail or prison, rather than in a juvenile detention facility. It’s also harder to seal adult criminal records. If your child is facing any sort of criminal charges, contact a criminal defense attorney immediately.

Juvenile Court Jurisdiction

The standard rule established in the state criminal code is that any offense allegedly committed prior to a child’s 18th birthday falls under the jurisdiction of juvenile court. Children younger than eight cannot be adjudicated delinquent. Additionally, it’s possible for juvenile court to continue to handle a youth’s case up to 21 years of age under certain circumstances. However, there are still plenty of pathways for juveniles to be tried as adults.

Statutory Exclusion

Arizona law mandates that juveniles be tried as adults if they are 15, 16, or 17 years of age at the time of the alleged offense, and the alleged offense was any of the following:

  • First-degree murder
  • Second-degree murder
  • Forcible sexual assault
  • Armed robbery
  • Any other violent offense
  • Any felony, if the defendant is a chronic felony offender
  • Any other offense that is joined to one of these offenses

As you can see, the list of offenses is quite broad. Note that Arizona law prohibits the use of the death penalty when the offense was committed prior to the defendant’s 18th birthday. However, the juvenile could still be sentenced to life or natural life in prison.

Discretionary Judicial Waiver

Even if a minor has allegedly committed an offense that isn’t on the above list, it’s still possible for the state to transfer the case to adult court. If the offense is a felony, the prosecutor may request that the juvenile court judge execute the transfer. This decision is made after a hearing.

Minors and their parents need vigorous legal representation to facilitate the best possible outcome. Contact Janet Altschuler, attorney at law, at (520) 247-1789 any time of the day or night to request an in-custody or in-jail appointment in the Tucson, AZ area.

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