When Can A Juvenile Be Sent To Adult Court In Texas?
In Texas, a “juvenile offender” is a person between the ages of 10 and 17 who have engaged in conduct that would be considered a criminal offense for an adult. Juveniles are tried in a separate court system where procedures tend to be less formal while still respecting the constitutional rights of the accused. More importantly, the juvenile system’s focus is on rehabilitation rather than punishment.
However, there are situations where a person accused of committing a crime as a juvenile can still be tried in adult court. Texas law authorizes juvenile courts to “waive its exclusive original jurisdiction” and transfer a person to adult court if certain conditions are met. Basically, these scenarios involve someone who allegedly committed a crime as a juvenile but were not arrested or formally charged until after their 18th birthday.
A recent case from the Texas Eighth District Court of Appeals, In the Matter of D.I.R., provides a helpful illustration. In this case, prosecutors accused the defendant of committing three counts of aggravated sexual assault and two counts of indecency with a child. These offenses allegedly took place when the defendant was under the age of 17, which would normally qualify him as a juvenile offender. But the defendant was not formally charged until after his 18th birthday.
Prosecutors asked the juvenile court to waive its jurisdiction and transfer the defendant to adult criminal court. Since the allegations against the defendant include first-degree felonies, this was permissible. Specifically, the Texas law governing juvenile court waivers states a defendant can be tried in adult court if they are accused of committing a first-degree felony between the ages of 14 and 16, which the prosecution said was the case here.
The law also requires the juvenile court to find there is “probable cause” that the accused person actually committed the alleged offenses. Here, the court found probable cause and waived jurisdiction, primarily based on evidence gathered from the police by two child accusers. These witnesses described their attacker to the police but did not actually identify the defendant in any sort of photographic lineup.
Nevertheless, the Eighth District held on appeal that the evidence was still sufficient to show probable cause. The court noted that in these types of hearings, there was “no requirement” for the accuser to identify an accused juvenile as their attacker. A preliminary hearing of this sort is considered “nonadversary,” and therefore the juvenile court was permitted to “rely upon hearsay as well as written and oral testimony in making its probable-cause findings.”
Contact Pearland Criminal Defense Attorney Keith B. French Today
The lesson here is that just because you were accused of committing a crime as a minor, do not automatically assume that you will actually be tried as a juvenile. An experienced Pearland juvenile defense lawyer can apprise your child of their rights and represent them in any legal proceedings. Contact the offices of Keith B. French Law, PLLC, today to schedule a consultation.