When Can a Juvenile Be Charged in Adult Court?

The criminal court considers all 17-year-olds adults, but defendants ages 15 and up can be charged in adult court if they are accused of felonies, and 14-year-olds can also face adult criminal charges for the most serious crimes.

Minors in Texas have fewer protections against criminal prosecution as adults than minors in most other states. For example, even though 17-year-olds are not old enough to vote or to serve in the military, they always face charges in criminal court if accused of a crime, even when the crime in question is a misdemeanor. Under certain circumstances, teens younger than 17 can be charged in adult criminal court. Nearly one out of every 25 teens aged 16 or younger who are serving prison sentences are in Texas, meaning that Texas ranks fourth for the number of incarcerated juveniles. (Florida is way ahead of the other states with a high percentage of incarcerated minors; 14% of all incarcerated youth are in Florida.) The courts decide on a case-by-case basis whether to send a teen who is accused of a crime to adult court or to the juvenile justice system. The Austin criminal defense lawyers at Granger and Mueller can help you if your teen is being accused of a crime for which transfer to adult criminal court is an option.

If You are Old Enough for High School, You Could Face Charges in Adult Criminal Court

Whether a minor is at risk of having their case transferred to adult criminal court depends on the teen’s age and the alleged crime. Judges can transfer 15-year-olds and 16-year-olds to adult court when they are accused of felonies, whether they are first-degree, second-degree, third-degree, or state jail felonies. They can only transfer 14-year-old defendants when the allegations are for first-degree felonies, capital felonies (murder), or aggravated controlled substance felonies (drug trafficking).The minimum age for children to be adjudicated in juvenile court is 10; younger children are not considered mature enough to have criminal intent.

Adult Criminal Convictions are Forever, Even for Kids

If your teen is being accused of a crime and is in danger of having her case transferred to adult court, you have every reason to hire a criminal defense lawyer. Not all felonies have mandatory minimum sentences involving prison time, but there is a big difference between juvenile probation and adult probation. Juvenile adjudications and sentences do not stay on your permanent record, but adult criminal charges and convictions do. Furthermore, if you get charged with another crime before you turn 17, you will automatically be charged as an adult because of the “once an adult, always an adult” rule.

An Austin TX Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help Teens Stay Out of Adult Criminal Court

A criminal defense lawyer can help you avoid being charged as an adult when you are 16 or younger. Contact Granger and Mueller in Austin, Texas, or call (512)474-9999.