If you are the parent of a child who has recently been arrested, you understand the stress and fear that can accompany a tough situation. While having a son or daughter in trouble with the law can be a difficult matter regardless of the charges, there are situations when concerns about the future and serious stakes take precedence over everything else. This is especially true when your child is charged as an adult.
In a previous blog, we discussed how minors under the age of 18 can be charged with felony level offenses. These charges commonly include crimes such as burglary, certain drug crimes, and theft. While felonies are certainly serious offenses that pose serious penalties – including incarceration – they can be handled in juvenile courts, depending on the circumstances. Just because a minor has been charged with a felony does not always mean they will be charged as an adult.
Rather than look at the level of a crime itself, Minnesota law and prosecutors weigh the nature of the crime, age of the child, and criminal past when determining how charges should be filed and what penalties a minor will face. Per Minnesota law, there are three ways a juvenile can be prosecuted as an adult:
- Murder – Minors 16 and older accused of murder must be charged as adults per statutory law.
- Previous Adult Convictions – If a minor has been convicted of a crime in adult court at any time in their past, any future criminal case will be handled under the jurisdiction of the adult court. This is Minnesota’s “Once an Adult, Always an Adult” rule.
- Discretionary and presumptive waiver – Prosecutors may request hearings to certify a minor as an adult through the filing of a discretionary waiver (for minors 14 and older who commit any offense) and presumptive waivers (for minors 16 and older for any serious offense).
As the procedures make clear, prosecutors and courts have discretion over charging minors as adults, and carefully weigh out the individuals circumstances of a case when making this decision. While all juvenile crime cases are different, prosecutors may pursue certification of a minor as an adult when serious crimes have been committed, including serious sex crimes, violent crimes, felonies involving firearms, and other offenses that would result in prison sentences had the child been charged as an adult. Still, minors have the right to a certification hearing, which is separate from a criminal trial, in order to determine if they should be tried as adults.
Certification trials are unique in that they eliminate the presumption of innocence so critical to criminal cases. In certification hearings, minors are essentially presumed to have committed the offense for which they are being charged. Certification hearings are closed to the public and open only to those with an interest in the case, including victims. Minors also have the right to representation during a certification hearing, where they can present evidence and witnesses, present arguments, and cross-examine the state’s witnesses in defense of keeping a case in the juvenile court system.
At Caplan & Tamburino Law Firm, P.A., our Minneapolis juvenile crime attorneys have more than a century of combined legal experience fighting for youth and adults who have been charged with all types of crimes across the state of Minnesota. With experience in the juvenile court system, we can help guide youth and their parents through each step of the legal journey ahead, and provide representation during hearings in order to fight certification as adults.
Because the stakes are high in juvenile cases involving serious crimes, we encourage you to waste no time in making the most important call you can make. Request a free consultation by contacting us today.