When Can Minors Be Charged as Adults?

Over the weekend a teenager in New York city brought a gun to an ice skating rink and shot two people, a 20-year-old man and a 14-year-old boy. The suspect is 16 years old and is being charged as an adult with assault, reckless endangerment, and criminal possession of a weapon. But hold on a minute- how does a teenager get charged as an adult?

How Does it Happen?

In order for a minor to be charged as an adult, a judge must sign a waiver that waives the suspect of any protections that juvenile court provides. Typically judges only do this for serious crimes. Here are some additional requirements that a judge considers before signing a waiver:

  • Is the offender at least 16 years old?

  • What kind of criminal record does the offender already have?

  • Have rehabilitation efforts failed?

  • Would youth services need to work with the offender for a long time?


Being tried in adult court, a minor faces some significant disadvantages, such as the following:

  • More severe sentencing, like life imprisonment, as well as less options for punishments (counseling, establishing a curfew, etcetera).

  • Serving time in adult prisons or jails instead of juvenile detention centers

  • Adult criminal charges are more stigmatized than juvenile criminal charged. In addition, they are more difficult to expunge.


It may also seem like charging a juvenile in adult court only has negative consequences for the minor, but there are actually some advantageous reasons that attorneys may pursue adult charges. Advantages include:

  • The right to a jury in adult court

  • A jury that may be more sympathetic toward a minor

  • A juvenile’s case may get a lighter sentence and can tend to be disposed of faster in busy, full jurisdictions.

Carroll Troberman, PLLC is here to represent you in the court of criminal law. Contact us today for a free consultation with Austin’s criminal defense lawyers.

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