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Circumstances when juveniles are treated as adults

Many juveniles commit crimes every year in Philadelphia. Most of the time, these juveniles go through the juvenile law system after being charged with a crime. The juvenile system differs from the adult system in some respects. The biggest difference is that the punishments are given after looking into what is the best way to rehabilitate the juvenile. It is not simply to punish; however, the goal is try and prevent juveniles from committing crimes later on as adults.

While most of the time juveniles will be treated as juveniles, there are a number of situations when the juvenile may be treated as an adult and go through the criminal justice system instead.

The court can send a juvenile who is at least 14-years-old and committed a felony to the adult system. However, this is not presumptive. The court must find that there was prima facie showing that the juvenile committed the crime and public interest is served best by transferring the juvenile to criminal court. The prosecutor will have to prove this though.

Sending a juvenile to adult court becomes presumptive if the juvenile is at least 14 and commits a felony with a deadly weapon or is at least 15 and commits murder, rape, aggravated assault, robbery, kidnapping and other serious felony offenses. This means that in these matters, a juvenile must prove that the case should stay in the juvenile system.

When determining whether to send the case to adult court or to keep it in juvenile court the judge will look to a variety of factors. These include, but are not limited to, the juvenile’s ability to supervision, rehabilitation and treatment.

So, when a juvenile commits a crime in Philadelphia, it does not automatically mean the case will be in juvenile court. However, regardless of whether the case is in juvenile or adult court, the accused is still innocent until proven guilty and may have defenses available. No matter what charges a juvenile faces, he or she is entitled to a criminal defense. This could help the accused avoid serious penalties and even help them reduce or dismiss the charges against them.

Source: U.S. Office Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, “Trying Juveniles as Adults – Pennsylvania” accessed on May 16, 2016


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