Being Tried as an Adult
There is already a tremendous amount of stress when a child has been arrested and faces criminal charges, but every concern may be amplified if that alleged juvenile offender is tried as an adult. In cases involving certain felony offenses, a prosecutor may petition the juvenile court to waive its jurisdiction and transfer cases to criminal court.
Juvenile courts offer several rights and protections that alleged offenders are not afforded in traditional criminal courts. It is important for any child who has allegedly committed a crime to make sure that he or she has skilled legal representation in order to have the best chance at obtaining the most favorable outcome to his or her case.
Dallas Lawyer for Juveniles Tried as Adults
If your child has been charged with any type of sex crime in Texas, you will want to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Stuckle & Associates PLLC defends alleged juvenile offenders all over Dallas and surrounding areas like Arlington, Plano, Fort Worth, and Garland as well as many other communities in the Lone Star State.
Paul Stuckle has spent more than a quarter-century in various aspects of the criminal justice system, giving him a unique insight into how cases are handled from multiple perspectives. He can provide an honest and thorough evaluation of your case when you call (972) 423-4405 or send us an online message to take advantage of a free, confidential consultation.
Overview of Juvenile Cases Tried In Texas Criminal Courts
- Which types of juvenile sex crime cases may be tried in adult criminal courts?
- What happens at the different hearings in juvenile courts?
- Why is it disadvantageous for these cases to be tried in traditional criminal courts?
Under Texas Family Code § 54.02, a child under the age of 18 may have his or her case transferred to a criminal court if any of the following applies:
- He or she is alleged to have violated a penal law of the grade of felony
- He or she was 14 years of age or older at the time he or she is alleged to have committed the offense and the offense is a capital felony, an aggravated controlled substance felony, or a first-degree felony, and no adjudication hearing has been conducted concerning that offense
- He or she was 15 years of age or older at the time he or she is alleged to have committed the offense and the offense is a second-degree felony, third-degree felony, or a state jail felony, and no adjudication hearing has been conducted concerning that offense
- After a full investigation and a hearing, the juvenile court determines that there is probable cause to believe that the child before the court committed the offense alleged and that because of the seriousness of the offense alleged or the background of the child the welfare of the community requires criminal proceedings
Sex crimes that are considered felony offenses in Texas include:
- Aggravated Kidnapping (with intent to abuse victim sexually) — First-degree felony
- Aggravated Sexual Assault — First-degree felony
- Indecency with a Child — May be a third-degree felony or second-degree felony, depending on specific conduct of alleged offender
- Obscenity — Second-degree felony if alleged obscene material is child pornography
- Online Solicitation of a Minor — May be a third-degree felony or second-degree felony, depending on whether the age of the minor solicited is younger than 14 years of age
- Prostitution — Second-degree felony if person solicited is younger than 18 years of age
- Sexual Assault — Second-degree felony
- Sexual Performance by a Child— May be a third-degree felony, second-degree felony, or first-degree felony depending on specific role of alleged offender and age of alleged victim
The juvenile court process often involves several different hearings. Some of the different hearings that your child may have to attend include:
- Detention Hearing — Texas Family Code § 54.01 states that this hearing should be held promptly, but not later than the second working day after the child is taken into custody (except when a child is detained on a Friday or Saturday). The purpose of this hearing is to decide whether the alleged juvenile offender should be detained or released to his or her parents or legal guardians.
- Initial Hearing — Also known as the first appearance, this is where there is a judicial determination of probable cause and an alleged juvenile offender’s lawyer gets the first opportunity to review the prosecutor’s evidence.
- Transfer Hearing — If the alleged juvenile offender’s case satisfies the legal requirements to be tried as an adult, then the prosecutor will schedule this hearing—also known as a Certification Hearing—to transfer the case to a criminal court.
- Competency Hearing — Also known as Fitness to Proceed, the court will use this hearing to determine whether an alleged juvenile offender with a history of mental illness or handicap is competent to stand trial.
- Adjudication Hearing — During this hearing, a judge or jury decides if the alleged juvenile offender committed a delinquent act or conduct indicating a need for supervision. Under Texas Family Code § 54.03, if the court or jury finds that the child did not engage in delinquent conduct or conduct indicating a need for supervision, the case is dismissed with prejudice. If the finding is that the child did engage in delinquent conduct or conduct indicating a need for supervision, the court or jury shall state which of the allegations in the petition were found to be established by the evidence and set a date and time for the disposition hearing.
- Disposition Hearing —Texas Family Code § 54.04 states that this hearing should be separate, distinct, and subsequent to the adjudication hearing. At the disposition hearing, an alleged juvenile offender may be either placed on probation, placed a residential facility, or committed to the Texas Youth Commission.
Aside from more constitutional protections, there are generally very few advantages for an alleged juvenile offender to be tried in an adult court. There are, however, a multitude of potential drawbacks to having a case tried in criminal court. Some of these disadvantages include:
- Convictions result in adult criminal records that are more difficult to seal or expunge than juvenile criminal records
- Convicted offenders are sentenced to state jails or prisons rather than juvenile facilities
- Judges have less sentencing discretion
- Juveniles tried and convicted as adults are more likely to reoffend and commit future crimes than those who are tried in juvenile courts
- Juveniles who are sentenced to adult jail or prisons are more likely to commit suicide or be victims of sexual assault or physical violence
A skilled criminal defense attorney can work to help make sure that your child’s case does not get transferred to an adult criminal court. Additionally, having knowledgeable legal representation will give your child the best chance at obtaining the most favorable outcome to his or her case.
Find a Lawyer in Dallas for Juveniles Being Tried as Adults
Has your child been charged with a potentially serious criminal offense that is at risk of being transferred to an adult criminal court? You should not delay in contacting a dedicated criminal defense attorney.
Stuckle & Associates PLLC defends alleged juvenile offenders all over the greater Dallas-Fort Worth area as well as communities all over Texas, including Austin, San Antonio, and Houston. Call (972) 423-4405 or send our firm an online message to have Paul Stuckle review your case during a free consultation.