Minors Tried in Adult Court
In California, those below the age of 18 are considered minors. Unfortunately, minors can become involved in criminal cases, which result in charges. The law states that minors can go through juvenile court and face potential sentencing that is more lenient as the defendant is a minor (a child or teenager). However, in some cases, the minor can be tried as an adult in an adult court. This means that the minor can face the same legal punishment as an adult who commits the crime.
When Does a Minor Go to Adult Court?
Minors who are at least 14 years old can be tried as an adult. Any defendant younger than 14 years will not face adult court. Furthermore, adult court is not an option for all 14-year-old and older offenders. The child will face adult court in the case of serious crimes. A serious crime includes, but is not limited to, murder, rape, gun charges, and certain robbery crimes. In these situations, the state can choose to try the minor in an adult court, with the possibility of serving a sentence in an adult jail or prison facility.
How Does the Change from Juvenile to Adult Court Occur?
The prosecutor on the case must first petition for a juvenile court fitness hearing, during which the prosecutor will argue that juvenile rehabilitation/services will not be sufficient. Furthermore, the judge at the hearing will consider the minor’s past criminal history and the context of the crime in question, among other issues. However, in the case of murder and specific sex crimes, a minor who is at least 14 years old will face adult court even without a fitness hearing. Once the judge determines the minor must go to adult court (or the crime necessitates it), the minor goes through the criminal process like all other adults.