Whether your child is facing criminal charges or you're simply interested in how juvenile delinquency laws work in Virginia, understanding how courts handle criminal charges for minors can be helpful for parents.
Can a Minor Be Tried as an Adult?
Yes. In Virginia, minors as young as 14 years of age can be tried as adults.
If a minor commits a criminal act, the manner falls under the jurisdiction of a juvenile court. If a juvenile court has probable cause to believe that a minor 14 years of age or older committed a crime that would be a felony if committed by an adult, the court can transfer jurisdiction of the case over to a circuit court, which can then try the child as an adult.
The court must notify the juvenile, their parents or whatever individual is acting as their guardian or legal custodian, and the juvenile's attorney of the decision to try the child as an adult.
Before transferring the case to the jurisdiction of a circuit court and having a minor tried as an adult, the court must evaluate a wide range of factors, including:
- The competency of the juvenile - in other words, their mental and physical health, and their awareness of their actions. The juvenile must be competent to be tried as an adult;
- Whether remaining in the juvenile system would enhance the juvenile's chances of rehabilitation. If so, the court may choose to keep them in the juvenile system;
- The severity of the crime. The court has a greater chance of transferring jurisdiction to a circuit court if the crime was committed in an aggressive, violent, or premeditated manner. The severity of the crime and who or what it was carried out against also play a role in the case;
- Whether the juvenile has already had the opportunity to be rehabilitated through the juvenile justice system;
- Whether the juvenile has any previous criminal history;
- Whether the juvenile has a condition, such as a mental illness, that could factor into the case, as well as their emotional and physical maturity;
- The juvenile's life prior to the crime, including their academic background.
Having an attorney who understands the ins and outs of the Virginia juvenile system is vital if you want to obtain the best results in your juvenile defense case.
To schedule a consultation with an attorney who will fight fiercely for your child's rights, contact us online or via phone at (757) 517-2942.