A recent situation in north Philadelphia involving three teenage boys firing a gun at a crowd of people raises important questions about when minors are prosecuted as juveniles or adults.
Three Armed Boys Fire Into Philadelphia Crowd
The incident happened on the evening of May 10, 2019, and was captured on surveillance video.
According to the police reports so far, three armed boys fired guns from an alleyway in North Philadelphia on a passing crowd of people. Five of the ten people in the crowd were hit. One of them was hit by multiple bullets, including once in the back of the head.
That person is in critical condition in the hospital.
Police have not released the surveillance video because of the apparent ages of the boys, none of whom has been found, yet.
Police have said that the attack appears to have been premeditated: “They were obviously waiting” for the crowd, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross stated.
Pennsylvania's Exceptions to Trying Minors in Juvenile Court
While it is still unclear exactly how old the teenage boys were, it sounds like there will likely be a question about whether they will be tried as adults or juveniles.
The general rule is that people under the age of 18 who have been accused of committing a crime will be treated as a juvenile, rather than as an adult. However, there are three major exceptions to that rule in Pennsylvania.
One of the most important exceptions is for murder charges. If prosecutors decide to pursue murder charges – which claim that the killing was done intentionally – then the defendant will always be tried as an adult. This can become an important situation if the man that was shot in the head does not recover from his injuries.
2. Use of a Deadly Weapon
Another exception that could also become implicated in this case involves assaults with a deadly weapon. Teens over the age of 15 can be charged as adults if they used a deadly weapon during the alleged crime.
3. Prior Convictions
Finally, Pennsylvania allows prosecutors to file adult criminal charges against people over the age of 15 if they have already been convicted of any of the following charges:
- Aggravated assault
- Aggravated indecent assault
- Robbery, including a motor vehicle
- Involuntary deviate sexual intercourse
- Voluntary manslaughter
- An attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit any of these offenses
Joseph D. Lento: Criminal Defense in Philadelphia
The difference between facing a criminal allegation as an adult and as a juvenile cannot be overstated. The whole point of the adult and juvenile justice system is different: While the goal is to punish adults for their conduct, it is to rehabilitate juveniles.
Keeping a case in juvenile court can, in the end, be the most important part of a criminal defense strategy and the most important decision in an accused teenager's life.