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When can a juvenile be tried as an adult in Pennsylvania?

The American criminal justice strives to penalize offenders with punishments that fit the crimes. In order to do this fairly, the court system separates out juvenile offenders to avoid applying the same harsh penalties an adult would face. These courts focus on giving offenders a second chance through rehabilitation and education.

However, the court system has identified some offenses and situations that warrant giving minors the same treatment as adults under the law. Each state has its own criteria for trying juveniles as adults. Pennsylvania statutes outline several offenses and conditions that can result in a trial in adult court.

Pennsylvania juvenile offense statutes

According to the National Juvenile Defender Center, Pennsylvania enforces the following conditions in which a juvenile can be tried as an adult:

If the transfer benefits public safety in some way – Pennsylvania’s criminal justice system includes a Discretionary and Presumptive Waiver used to try minors in adult courts. Courts employ these waivers after the initial hearing if they determine that the alleged crime posed a risk to the public. For youths 14 years old or older, a deadly weapon offense can warrant a Discretionary and Presumptive Waiver. For youths 15 years or older, an existing felony on their record can initiate this waiver.

If the individual is on trial for murder – Pennsylvania tries murder cases in adult court for individuals of any age.

If the individual is on trial for another serious offense – These offenses include:

  • Rape
  • Aggravated assault and aggravated indecent assault
  • Robbery, including robbery of a motor vehicle
  • Kidnapping
  • Voluntary manslaughter
  • Attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder

If an adult court has already rendered a guilty verdict – Pennsylvania courts will not transfer a case to juvenile court if an adult court has already ruled the individual guilty.

Regardless of which court system is involved, everyone who goes through the criminal justice system has a right to a defense. If your child is facing criminal charges, contact an experienced juvenile criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.


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