Protect Yourself, Protect Your Rights. It Isn’t Just a Misdemeanor.

Criminal Law Blog

When Can a Minor Really Be Charged as an Adult in Arizona?

June 21, 2024

In the realm of juvenile justice in Arizona, the question of when a minor can be charged as an adult is a critical one, carrying profound implications for both the individual and their family. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the criteria and circumstances that determine when such charges may apply, offering clarity on this often intricate aspect of the legal system. For those facing this challenging situation, Janet Altschuler, an experienced criminal defense attorney in Tucson, AZ, stands ready to provide expert guidance and representation. Reach out to us today to explore your options and secure the best possible outcome for your case.

Key Terms

Understanding key terms in juvenile justice is essential for navigating the legal system when minors are involved. Here are some important terms and their definitions according to Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS § 8-201):

  • Incorrigible Youth – An incorrigible youth is one who exhibits behaviors such as truancy, running away from home, refusing to obey parental authority, violating curfew laws, or engaging in underage smoking. These behaviors, while not necessarily criminal offenses on their own, may indicate challenges in the minor’s home or community environment.
  • Delinquent Youth – A delinquent youth is one who, if they were an adult, could be charged with any crime listed in Title 13 of the Arizona Revised Statutes. This includes a wide range of criminal offenses, from misdemeanors to felonies, indicating behavior that violates the law and warrants legal intervention. Identifying and addressing the underlying factors contributing to delinquent behavior is crucial for rehabilitation and preventing future offenses.

Common Cases

Here are two key provisions outlined in ARS § 13-501, shedding light on when minors are likely to face adult criminal court proceedings in the state:

  • Certain circumstances mandate that a minor, aged between 15 and 18, who perpetrates serious offenses such as first-degree murder, second-degree murder, forcible sexual assault, armed robbery, aggravated driving, or any other violent offense, will automatically face trial in adult criminal court. This provision, outlined in ARS § 13-501, underscores the gravity of these crimes and the legal system’s response to ensure accountability and public safety. 
  • For minors aged at least 14 years old, who have a history of two prior felony convictions adjudicated in Juvenile Court, and subsequently are apprehended for another felony offense, the County Attorney holds the discretion, under the same statute, to pursue trial in adult criminal court. This discretion is exercised with the primary objective of safeguarding the public from further harm posed by persistent offenders, emphasizing the significant consequences minors may face when repeatedly engaging in serious criminal conduct.

Other Cases

If the County Attorney seeks to transfer any other juvenile to adult criminal court, they must submit a motion for transfer. Subsequently, a Juvenile Court judge is tasked with making two critical determinations: firstly, whether there is sufficient probable cause to proceed with the transfer, and secondly, whether transferring the juvenile to adult court is necessary to safeguard the community. This decision hinges on various factors, including the severity of the alleged offense, whether a deadly weapon was involved, whether there was any harm caused, whether the offense was gang-related, the juvenile’s level of maturity and past court history, and the potential for rehabilitation through available court services and facilities. These considerations, outlined in Rule 14 of the Rules of Procedure for the Juvenile Court, guide the judicial process in determining the appropriate course of action for juvenile offenders facing transfer to adult court.

Contact Janet Altschuler Today

Understanding the nuances of when a minor can face adult charges in Arizona is crucial for anyone navigating the complexities of the legal system. With the potential consequences looming large, it’s essential to have a knowledgeable and experienced legal advocate by your side. Janet Altschuler, a trusted criminal defense attorney in Tucson, AZ, provides expert guidance and representation for individuals and families facing these challenging situations. If you or a loved one are grappling with the possibility of adult charges for a minor, don’t hesitate to reach out. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and take the first step towards protecting your rights and securing the best possible outcome for your case.

Schedule a Free Initial Consultation to Discuss Your Situation.

Complete our online contact form
or call us at 520-247-1789

(24 hours a day / 7 days a week)