Juvenile defendants being tried as adults?

Suspects have now been arrested for the recent murder of Tessa Majors, and there is speculation as to whether any/all of them might be tried as adults.

I have some questions.

What does it mean for a juvenile to be tried as an adult? Are the rules of evidence/guilt different? Are the penalties (if convicted) more severe? How is the decision to try a juvenile as an adult made? Who makes the decision? If the rules of justice are different for juveniles and adults, why is it even possible for a juvenile to be tried as an adult? Are there cases in which adults have been tried as children?

Generally, juveniles who are convicted are released when they turn 18 and their records sealed.
Being tried as an adult means they face the same consequences as actual adults.

Yes and no. Rather than type it all out I’ll just give a cite. Bottom line the sentences are shorter than adults but can go well past age 18. It varies greatly from state to state.

I seem to remember a couple of cases where an adult was tried as a juvenile because the perp was a juvenile when the crime was committed. I don’t think that can happen now, the laws in most states have changed (IANAL, so I don’t know for sure) to prevent this from happening, but if the crime was committed before the laws changed, then the adult is tried in juvenile court. I don’t remember how sentences were carried out or even if the person was convicted.

One of the reasons why it is possible to try a juveniles as an adult is that the rules of evidence are different. When you are trying somebody for a crime with a life sentence or death penalty, you also are requiring the formal rules required by a formal court. Including a jury, and live evidence.

I don’t think an adult could be tried in a juvenile court, but in an adult court the rules can be adjusted for someone without the capacity to understand. Including admissible self-incrimination.

It’s very rare, but there have been cases where an adult was tried as a juvenile because he was a juvenile when he committed the crime.

I don’t see an issue - you are tried as a juvenile if you committed the crime as a juvenile. The theory is that juveniles are more lacking in judgement, in understanding the consequences and seriousness of their actions, and stupid actions as a child should not mar the rest of their life and the punishment should be lesser. In a world with our wonderful North American justice system, where it can take a year or two for a case to get to court, why would anyone be surprised about an adult tried as a juvenile? Not just a 52-year-old finally caught for something he did stupidly at 15; recall the recent case of the 15-year-old held in Rikers for 3 years because he wouldn’t take a plea deal on a case with essentially no evidence (and nobody in the NYC prosecutors’ department was held responsible). If he’d been 17 when arrested and they actually had evidence against him, they would have been charging a 20-year-old for a theft in juvenile court.

How are the rules of evidence different?

In my state, it depends on the type of crime. Our juvenile court has original jurisdiction over all juvenile criminal cases except those that involve capital crimes. Effectively, if a juvenile is charged with armed robbery, murder, and maybe rape (not sure), the case is handled in adult court from the outset. However, for other serious felony cases, or repeated offenses after exhausting the various possible sentences in juvenile court, it is possible for a juvenile offender to be “certified” for trial as an adult.

This requires a separate hearing, where the juvenile is represented by counsel–appointed counsel if the juvenile does not have a private attorney–where the court will review the juvenile’s prior record along with the current charge and determine whether to send the case to adult court.

Other states likely do things differently.

It’s a horrible practice and should never happen in my opinion. My wife and I do volunteer work with incarcerated youth and have seen it ruin lives.

Consequences for charges received as a juvenile can and do continue after turning 18. Trying kids as adults is just a way to bypass their normal protections and hit them with an extra-severe sentence.

What are we supposed to do with a 17 year old armed robber? Murderer? Or the kids that have a list as long as my arm of “delinquent acts” that would be felonies for adults, have already done multiple stints in juvenile detention, and that keep committing felonies?

I’ve been a public defender in Youth Court. Kids today are very different than we were when I was young. For the most part, in my day, kids didn’t commit felonies very often. Shoplifting, underage drinking, possession, vandalism…that was about as bad as it got in my day. Today’s kids are committing felonies…sometimes violent felonies. I’ve defended car thieves, car burglaries, drug cases–not just weed. Meth. (always fucking meth)–assaults, etc.

Some kids are just bad. Nature or nurture is a debate, but the reality is I know way too many teenagers that are already hardened criminals. They’re bound and determined to throw their lives away, sometimes in misguided “service” to the fucking Vice Lords or the goddamn MS 13, or the dumbass Gangsta Disciples, etc.

There are protections in the system for kids that just fuck up once in a while…but the hardcore ones generally deserve what they get in big boy court.

Moderator Note

Please remember we are in General Questions. Please stick to the legal questions in the OP, not on your personal opinions on the matter. If you wish to debate the justice of the practice, please open a new thread in Great Debates.

This goes for everyone.

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