Oftentimes we hear about cases where a juvenile will be “tried as an adult.” What does that mean? It means that the juvenile court, which would otherwise have had jurisdiction in the child’s case, waives its jurisdiction and transfers the case to an adult district court, where the child is treated as an adult. Juveniles are only transferred to adult district court in the most serious of cases.
The law governing transfer hearings is Chapter 54 of the Texas Family Code. Three things must be present for a juvenile to be transferred to adult court. First the crime alleged must be a felony, the child must be at least 14 (in some cases, 15), and after a full investigation, the juvenile court must have determined “that there is probable cause to believe that the child…committed the offense alleged and that because of the seriousness of the offense” or the child’s background, adult criminal proceedings are necessary.
Some of the factors the judge will look at in determining whether or not to transfer the case to adult district court are whether the crime was against a person or property (the case is more likely to be transferred if the crime is against a person), the level of maturity of the child, the seriousness of the crime, the child’s prior criminal record (if any), prior attempts to rehabilitate the child, and the court’s beliefs about whether future rehabilitation would work. Only in the most serious cases are juveniles transferred to the adult district court.