“You’re under 18, so you’ll only go to juvie.” This kind of statement is commonly bandied about among teens who are in legal trouble — or thinking about the potential of legal trouble. It’s also not necessarily true.
Every state handles juvenile defendants in different ways. In Texas, the law says that:
- No child under 10 years of age can be tried in court and declared delinquent.
- Children and teens under 17 years of age who break the law are under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court.
- Young people over 18 may also be under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court if their crime was committed prior to their 17th birthday or there’s an appellate order remanding the case to the juvenile court.
However, laws often have exceptions. Texas still prosecutes both children and teenagers as adults often. A child as young as 14 can be tried as an adult if they have been charged with a capital felony (like first-degree murder), a first-degree felony or an aggravated controlled substance felony.
For 15-year-olds and older teens, the danger of being tried as an adult is even greater. Their cases can be moved to the adult court system whenever they’re accused of a second-degree felony, a third-degree felony or a state jail felony. Texas courts have been known to give kids who weren’t even old enough to drive at the time of their offense what amount to life sentences.
If your child or teen has been charged with an offense, don’t assume that they’ll automatically be treated as a juvenile. An experienced defense attorney can help you fight to keep your child’s case in juvenile court.