JUVENILES CAN BE TRIED AS ADULTS
Most people understand that juveniles and adults are treated differently in the criminal justice system. However, there are a variety of situations in which juveniles can be tried as adults, even if they have absolutely no criminal record. Further, while many people might suspect that older teenagers, such as sixteen or seventeen year olds, would be most likely to be tried as adults, in fact Virginia law allows teens as young as fourteen years old to be tried as an adult.
Even when the Commonwealth seeks to try a juvenile as an adult, there are still some differences in the process for kids under the age of eighteen. Regardless of whether a juvenile is being tried as an adult, a case against a child under eighteen will always begin in the local Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court. For instance, if a crime is alleged to have bene committed by a juvenile in Newport News, the juvenile will first be brought before the Newport News Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. Likewise, a crime alleged to have been committed in Williamsburg will be first heard in the Williamsburg-James City Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court.
WHO DECIDES TO TRY THE CHILD AS AN ADULT?
Many people are surprised to learn that the Commonwealth’s Attorney has absolute discretion about whether to try a juvenile as an adult when a juvenile is charged with certain serious felonies, such as robbery, malicious wounding, abduction, many sexual offenses, and certain drug distribution offenses. In cases of murder or aggravated malicious wounding, a juvenile fourteen years old or older must be tried as an adult regardless of whether the Commonwealth would be willing to try the person as a juvenile.
For all other cases, the juvenile court determines whether to certify a juvenile as an adult. The court looks at the factors set forth in Va. Code Sec. 16.1-269.1, such as the seriousness of the alleged offense, the juvenile’s record, whether a weapon was used, and the extent of the juvenile’s participation in the offense. The juvenile also has the right to have a social history done before a hearing is held on the Commonwealth’s motion to try the juvenile as an adult.
CALL THE ATTORNEYS OF GOFF VOLTIN, PLLC TO DEFEND YOUR JUVENILE
If you have an underage family member who faces trial as an adult, it is imperative to seek an attorney with an intimate familiarity with Virginia juvenile law. The attorneys at Goff Voltin have handled dozens of cases where juveniles faced trial as an adult and they have successfully argued that juveniles should remain in the juvenile system. Contact our office today for a free consultation!