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Juveniled Justice System Structure & Process
Juveniles Tried as Adults
Q: Are transfer (waiver) laws the only laws that enable states to impose adult sanctions on juvenile offenders?
A: Most states have multiple ways to impose adult sanctions on offenders of juvenile age.

Provisions for imposing adult sanctions on juvenile offenders, 2015

State Transfer pathways Mitigating provisions
Juvenile court petition Criminal court petition
Discretionary Presumptive Mandatory Staturory
exclusion
Once/
always
adult
Prosecutor
discretion
Reverse
waiver
Juvenile
blended
sentencing
Criminal
blended
sentencing
Number of states 47 15 14 29 36 15 26 14 23
Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware
District of Columbia
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Vermont
Virginia
Washington
West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wyoming

Note: Table information is as of the end of the 2015 legislative session.

    All states have statutory exceptions to the age boundaries of delinquency known as “transfer laws.” Transfer laws set criteria and procedures involving a minor who may or must be tried as an adult.

    Transfer pathways: Mechanisms for initial charging decisions.

    Juvenile court petition: When the matter begins in juvenile court. There are three types of juvenile court waiver of jurisdiction and transfer for (adult) criminal court.
    • Discretionary waiver - Statutes specify when the juvenile court judge has discretion to transfer upon its own motion or at the request of the prosecutor.
    • Presumptive waiver - Statutes specify conditions appropriate for criminal court, but permit the juvenile (defense) to argue to stay under juvenile court jurisdiction.
    • Mandatory waiver - Statutes specify when the matter must be transferred by the juvenile court judge after verifying certain conditions are met.

    Criminal court petition: When a minor may or must initially face charges in (adult) criminal court.
    • Statutory exclusion - The legislature sets qualifying age, alleged offense, and/or other conditions that exclude minors from juvenile court jurisdiction.
    • Once an adult, always an adult - Once a juvenile-aged person has been convicted or had sanctions imposed by criminal court, these legislative exclusions require that any future delinquent allegations be brought instead before the (adult) criminal court.
    • Prosecutor discretion - Also known as “direct file” in some states. Prosecutors can bring charges in (adult) criminal court as an executive branch decision.

    Mitigating provisions: Balances initial transfer pathways.

    • Reverse Waiver (Remand) - Statutes set when criminal court may or must transfer the case to juvenile court for adjudication and/or to resolve the disposition.
    • Juvenile Blended Sentence - Juvenile court can impose juvenile dispositions and/or adult criminal sentences while retaining jurisdiction.
    • Criminal Blended Sentence - Criminal court can impose adult criminal sentences and/or juvenile dispositions while retaining jurisdiction.

Internet citation: OJJDP Statistical Briefing Book. Online. Available: https://www.ojjdp.gov/ojstatbb/structure_process/qa04115.asp?qaDate=2015. Released on March 27, 2017.

 

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