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When is a juvenile charged as an adult in Philadelphia?

Many people in Philadelphia are charged with various crimes every day. These crimes vary significantly in severity and the punishments vary significantly as well. Also, people of all ages commit crimes. This includes both adults and juveniles. Generally when a juvenile is charged with a crime, the case is handled differently than if the person is an adult though.

Unlike the adult criminal process, the goal of the juvenile system is rehabilitation and doing what is best for the child. So, the punishments reflect that goal. Also, based on this goal, most of the time when a juvenile commits a crime, it is handled in the juvenile system. However, that is not always the case. There are certain situations when a juvenile can be charged as an adult even though they are under 18 years old.

Pennsylvania law states that a juvenile can be charged as an adult if certain conditions are met. The juvenile must be at least 14 years old at the time of the alleged offense and there must be a hearing to determine if the juvenile should be transferred to adult court. At the hearing the judge can transfer the case to criminal court if he or she makes certain findings.

These findings include that there is a prima facie showing that the juvenile committed the crime; that the crime, if committed by an adult, would be a felony; and that it is in the public’s interest to transfer the case to criminal court. In determining this the judge looks to many factors, including, but not limited to, the impact of the alleged offense on the victims; whether the juvenile is a threat to the an individual or the community; how culpable the juvenile is; adequacy of the punishments available in the juvenile system; whether the juvenile could be rehabilitated and others.

If the judge decides to transfer the case to the adult system, the juvenile will be treated as an adult for the rest of the matter, including the determination of innocence or guilt. Experienced attorneys may be able to provide advice to one facing a transfer to adult court.

Source: Pennsylvania State Legislature, “Title 42 § 6355” accessed on December 29, 2014


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