Can Juveniles Be Charged as Adults in Texas?

When a juvenile is charged as an adult in Texas, it is a serious matter. 1,995 juveniles are arrested in the United States each day, and approximately 4% of those are incarcerated in Texas. While the majority of states consider juveniles 18 years and under, Texas is one of five states that prosecutes 17-year-olds as adults. Because of these factors, it is crucial to understand when a juvenile can be charged as an adult and what the potential consequences are.

Which Juveniles Can Be Charged as Adults?

According to state law, children 14 years old can be referred to the adult system if charged with specific offenses. These offenses include capital felonies, first-degree felonies, or aggravated controlled-substance felony charges. State law also states that 15-year-olds can be charged as adults for a second-degree felony, third-degree felony, or state jail felony.

This process begins with the District Attorney’s Office filing a “waiver of jurisdiction” petition with the juvenile court. The petition essentially asks the juvenile court to waive jurisdiction over the juvenile and move the case to an adult criminal court. In order for this to be successful, the District Attorney must show there is probable cause to believe the juvenile committed the crime at issue and sufficient evidence that demonstrates it is impossible to manage this juvenile in the juvenile justice system. The next step is generally a hearing in front of the court where the juvenile can object to the transfer. If the juvenile does not object, they waive any right to object to the jurisdiction of the court because of their age at a later hearing or on appeal. The judge has the final decision to make to determine whether to transfer the case to adult court and will consider the maturity of the child if the child has a prior record, if the child poses a continuing risk to the community, and the likelihood of rehabilitation.

What are the Consequences?

If you or your child is charged as an adult, you could be facing all the same consequences as adults do in the legal system. This includes imprisonment at an adult facility, fines, and probation. In some cases, if the juvenile is under 17 but has been charged and convicted as an adult, the court will allow them to complete a portion of their sentence in the juvenile system. Upon turning 17 years old, they will be transferred to an adult facility with adult offenders. Further, once a juvenile is charged as an adult, in any later case they will again be charged and sentenced as an adult.

Granger and Mueller in Austin Can Help

If you or your child has been charged as an adult, partner with the strongest criminal defense attorney in Travis County since 1993. We will work with you to protect you or your child by helping you understand your rights and advocating on your behalf. Contact us at 512-474-9999 today for a free initial consultation.