Generally, Texas Criminal Law, under the auspices of a state criminal court, applies to offenders over the age of 17. Offenders under the age of 17 are referred to the Texas Juvenile Courts, which run a concurrent system to the Texas criminal justice system.
Unlike the criminal justice system that apply legal interpretations and punish offenders, the Juvenile courts focus on soft rehabilitation and providing services for children to place them into the mainstream. There are circumstances, however, in which juvenile offenders are tried as adults and will be transferred from the juvenile court to the Texas criminal justice system.
Note that this is applicable for juvenile offenders between the ages of 10 and 17.
Transfer of a Juvenile
In the 2014 case of Moon v. State, the Texas Criminal Appellate court provided the procedure for transferring a juvenile offender from the juvenile system to the criminal justice system. The court stated: “For prosecution as an adult should be regarded as the exception, not the rule; the operative principle is that, whenever feasible, children and adolescents below a certain age should be ‘protected and rehabilitated rather than subjected to the harshness of the criminal system[.]’ Because the waiver of juvenile-court jurisdiction means the loss of that protected status, in Kent v. United States, the United States Supreme Court characterized the statutory transfer proceedings . . . as “critically important,” and held that any statutory mechanism for waiving juvenile court jurisdiction must at least ‘measure up to the essentials of due process and fair treatment.’”
As such, transferring a juvenile falls requires that the reason for the transfer be “critically important.” This standard goes very much to the reason for a transfer. It can also impact the defendant’s ability to obtain a fair trial.
Showing its Work
If a juvenile court opts to transfer a juvenile from juvenile court to criminal court, it must show its work. That is to say, it must present a reasonable purpose for such a transfer. This can be challenged.
Juvenile in Criminal Court
When a minor stands before a judge and is outside the juvenile justice system, there are questions why the minor is there. While not stated, many will assume guilt simply because the juvenile is outside of where a juvenile generally goes. To that end, it is crucial to have an advocate who will speak on behalf of the juvenile. Unlike the average adult going on trial, there is a thought that this is an uncontrollable juvenile who needs to be off the streets. Strong representation by a competent lawyer can help.
As mentioned, the juvenile court’s decision to transfer the juvenile to the criminal justice system can be challenged. This means that the juvenile can claim that the juvenile court abused its discretion when referring him or her for a transfer.
In addition, the juvenile is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, just like any other defendant.
Are you a juvenile accused of a crime? Contact the law firm of Christopher Abel, a board-certified criminal defense attorney.