When an adult commits an offense, they are tried as adults. Minors are often tried with differing expectations and criteria, because they are minors. However, this is not always the case. If a minor, or a person younger than your state's “age of majority,” commits a more serious or adult offense, how should they stand trial?
The differences between the juvenile and adult criminal justice systems depend upon the salient fact that youths are still developing — and, according to this PBS resource, that “their behavior is malleable.” Unfortunately, there exist certain exceptionally severe crimes that merit consequences beyond those typically administered in juvenile justice systems.
In these cases — for example, in juvenile murder trials — the perpetrator may face punitive measures unusual for their age bracket.
A 13-Year-Old Murderer: Juvenile or Adult Justice?
In one Pennsylvania county, a 13-year-old boy faced charges for the death of his own younger brother. The culprit used a loaded gun from his family home to commit the act. According to local news, the 13-year-old thought he and his brother were playing a game. Heartbreakingly, the same source notes that the young criminal placed the 911 call that drew attention to his offense.
Even though the 13-year-old is a minor under Pennsylvania law, the boy's actions may qualify him as an adult for these proceedings. Since the crime was severe, he may face adult charges of criminal homicide. This is a very general charge which could carry with it any of several potential consequences.
Pennsylvania law allows for anyone over the age of 18 who commits murder to be imprisoned for life. Less serious charges, such as involuntary manslaughter or third-degree murder, generally result in 10-20 year sentences. Since the young perpetrator in this case was 13, but may face adult charges, what will happen to him?
What Does Precedent Say?
In one similar Pennsylvania case, a teenage boy shot a friend to death. The perpetrator was 15 at the time. After an initial adult charge of criminal homicide and a diagnostic evaluation, the boy's case transferred to juvenile court. At the time of transfer, the court sealed the boy's case.
It is possible that, in this new teenage shooting case, the 13-year-old's defense lawyer will argue that the boy should serve his sentence in a juvenile detention facility. This may result in a reduced sentence and a sealed record. In nuanced cases like these, working with a good defense lawyer can make all the difference in terms of outcome.
If you stand accused of a crime and are wondering what will happen, how courts may charge you, and if there is anything you can do to alleviate potential consequences, talk to an experienced defense lawyer. You may be able to work towards a more favorable outcome. For more information, call attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm right away at 888-535-3686. We can help you protect your rights.