When Will a Juvenile Be Tried as an Adult?

Interviewer: What’s an example of a crime where a juvenile will be tried as an adult?

Gary Churak: A juvenile that will be tried as an adult would be a scenario when the teenager is 15 years old and he’s been involved in an armed robbery and somebody get shot. They want to say since the nature of the offense is so serious that we’re going to certify you. We think you’re mature enough to be certified, to be tried as an adult.

Instead of being in the juvenile court system, you are now being tried as an adult in the adult court system and you’re subject to the same punishments and penalties that just as like you were an adult. They can send a 15 year old to prison.

Interviewer: Is this a common occurrence?

Gary Churak: It doesn’t happen a lot, but it does happen that a juvenile is certified as an adult for the purposes of a trial. It’s usually a fairly heinous offense.  Most of the time, they’ll go ahead and seek a determinative sentence, which is basically to keep you in the juvenile system until such time as they feel until their jurisdiction ends at 18. Then they send you to prison.

Or if you’re on probation they will actually switch your probation over from juvenile probation to adult probation. It happened that way. This happens with sex offenses and offenses of that nature.

There is a ton of gang activity in our country. The gangs are all over the place, especially in the major cities. You will see 15 or 16 year old kids that go and shoot and kill people as part of their gang rituals. It’s not something that’s unusual.

Do Most Juveniles Comprehend the Seriousness of a Situation?

Interviewer: What’s the attitude that these kids have once they’re working with you? Do they understand the severity of the situation?

Gary Churak: It depends on the individual. There are some kids that are afraid and they’re looking at some serious allegations and there are kids there that don’t care at all. They don’t care. They’re criminal and they’re going to be a criminal regardless of their age.

Interviewer: Is drug possession considered a minor offense?

Gary Churak: That’s minor offenses. A lot of times, they’ll be handled through the municipal court or the JP court which has the juvenile case docket. On those cases, we try to get them a deferred prosecution. So they come back on a later date and do an expungement and take that case off their record. That’s quite prevalent.

I see many juveniles pick up DUIs or MIPs, which are minor in possession charges. It could affect them in the future. What we do is we try to just negotiate it out to a deferred adjudication. They’ll have to take an alcohol awareness class, pay a fine, perform some community service and then the case will be dismissed. Then once the case is dismissed, you’ll be able to have it expunged.