Along with being in an accident or becoming addicted to drugs, getting tried as an adult in Texas may be many parents’ worst nightmare.
The Texas juvenile system can be tough enough, requiring offenders to spend time in juvenile detention centers, complete rehabilitation programs, and perform community service. However, for all the harsh consequences doled out by the juvenile system, the Texas adult criminal justice system can be worse.
For many parents, the mere possibility that their minor son or daughter could commit a crime and be tried as an adult come as a shock. Below, we’ve explained situations when this could occur and what to do if your juvenile ends up being transferred from juvenile court to an adult criminal court in Texas.
When Could a Juvenile be Tried as an Adult in Texas?
In many situations, sentencing juveniles as adults may not be ideal — for either the child or the criminal justice system itself. Under special circumstances, however, Texas law does allow a child to be tried as an adult.
A number of factors may influence a court’s decision to try a juvenile as an adult in Texas. According to the Texas juvenile waver, the juvenile court may transfer a minor to an adult court if any of the following apply:
- There exists probable cause to believe the minor has committed a felony, as determined through a full investigation and hearing from the juvenile court
- The offense’s seriousness or child’s background requires a transfer for a criminal proceeding in order to protect the welfare of the community
- The juvenile was 14+ at the time of committing the alleged felony, and the offense was a capital felony, aggravated controlled substance felony, or first-degree felony
- The juvenile was 15+ at the time of committing the alleged felony, and the offense was a second-, third-degree, or state jail felony
- No adjudication hearing has been conducted concerning the alleged felony
- The court believes that the seriousness of the alleged offense or the juvenile’s previous criminal history requires proceeding in a traditional adult justice court
To make matters worse, once your kid has been transferred to an adult court, he or she will automatically be tried as an adult for future offenses. You can talk to an attorney about the very few exceptions to this rule.
The Penalties for Juveniles Tried in Texas Adult Court
As you may have guessed, the consequences associated with getting tried and convicted in adult court are typically much steeper than those assigned by a juvenile court.
Texas Juvenile Justice Processing
When tried in juvenile court, your child may be held in the Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) until age 19, when he or she must be released.
For more violent offenses, your child may or may not be transferred from the TJJD to an adult prison at age 19, if it is determined that he or she has not been rehabilitated.
Transferred and Tried in a Texas Adult Criminal Court
Alternatively, if your child is transferred and tried in an adult criminal court, he or she faces a prison sentence of up to 99 years or life.
Then, if your child is sentenced to prison after being tried in an adult court, he or she may have to start their sentence in an adult prison as early as age 14.
Ultimately, studies have proven keeping children within the juvenile system is better. It is shown that juveniles confined in adult prisons and jails face vastly higher risks of suicide, sexual assault, physical assault, and mental illness.
What’s more, compared to other states, Texas has fewer restrictions when it comes to trying teens as adults. If your child potentially faces a Texas juvenile waiver, contact a Texas juvenile defense attorney sooner than later. Your child’s entire future could be at stake.
About the Author:
After getting his Juris Doctor from the University of Houston Law Center, Jeff Hampton began practicing criminal law in Texas in 2005. Before becoming a defense attorney, he worked as a prosecutor for the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office – experience he uses to anticipate and cast doubt on the arguments that will be used against his clients. Over the course of his career, he has helped countless Texans protect their rights and get the best possible outcome in their criminal cases. His skill has earned him recognition from the National Trial Lawyers (Top 100 Trial Lawyers) and Avvo (Top Attorney in Criminal Defense, Top Attorney in DUI & DWI, 10/10 Superb Rating), and he is Lead Counsel rated.