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Juveniled Justice System Structure & Process
Juveniles Tried as Adults
Q: How do prosecutorial discretion (concurrent jurisdiction) provisions vary by state?
A: Prosecutor discretion provisions vary considerably with respect to minimum age and offense criteria.

Prosecutor discretion offense and minimum age criteria, 2016

State Minimum
age
Any
criminal
offense
Certain
felonies
Capital
crimes
Murder Certain
person
offenses
Certain
property
offenses
Certain
drug
offenses
Certain
weapon
offenses
Arizona 14 14
Arkansas 14 14 14 14 14
Colorado 16 16 16 16
District of Columbia 16 16 16 16 16 16
Florida 14 16 16 14 14 14 14
Georgia NS 13 NS 13 13
Louisiana 15 15 15 15 15
Michigan 14 14 14 14 14 14
Montana 12 12 12 16 16 16
Nebraska NS NS 14
Oklahoma 15 15 15 15 15 16 15
Vermont 16 16
Virginia 14 14 14 14
Wyoming 13 13 14 14 14 14

Note: Ages in the minimum age column may not apply to all offense restrictions, but represent the youngest possible age at which a juvenile matter may be filed directly in criminal court. "NS" indicates that no minimum age is specified.

  • Prosecutor discretion (aka concurrent jurisdiction) statutes generally give juvenile and criminal court shared jurisdiction over particular age and alleged offense combinations. These specified law violations could either result in a minor being adjudicated “delinquent” in juvenile court or convicted of a “crime” in criminal court, typically depending on which court the prosecutor initially selects.
  • For qualifying allegations (and when there is no grand jury indictment), the prosecutor has discretion to select whether to charge the minor in juvenile or criminal court without prior judicial involvement about the decision. Some states list statutory criteria the prosecutor must consider when making the decision.
  • Since filing charges is considered an executive branch function, there is no formal opportunity for other parties to review or evaluate whether reasons are valid before the initial decision is made. Many, but not all, states have mitigating provisions, such as reverse waiver, to direct how and when the respective court can transfer the matter to the other for trial or to resolve dispositions or sentences.
  • Offense categories shown above do not encompass when there is shared jurisdiction with juvenile court and other courts over child-only violations that could be labeled a status offense like truancy or running away; and do not include law violations under the original jurisdiction of a municipal court regardless of age, such as traffic, watercraft, or hunting license violations, etc.
  • The “any criminal” category includes misdemeanors plus felonious acts when all delinquent acts apply. All other offense categories include felonious acts.
  • As of the end of the 2016 legislative session, 14 states including the District of Columbia had prosecutor discretion (concurrent jurisdiction) provisions.

Internet citation: OJJDP Statistical Briefing Book. Online. Available: https://www.ojjdp.gov/ojstatbb/structure_process/qa04111.asp?qaDate=2016. Released on March 27, 2018.

 

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