Children under the age of 18 years are minors in Louisiana and usually face trial in a juvenile court if they commit a crime. However, there are cases where a child under 18 years can be tried as an adult. Adult courts usually have stringent penalties, longer sentences, and a permanent record that can follow your child for the rest of their life.
If your child has been arrested, you may be concerned about whether they could be tried and sentenced as adults. In this article, our team at John D. & Eric G. Johnson Law Firm can help you understand the circumstances under which a minor can face trial as an adult.
Who Decides When a Minor Can Face Trial as an Adult?
Louisiana law dictates the circumstances under which a minor may face adult trial. However, the decision to transfer a minor to adult court is at the discretion of the juvenile court judge. The judge can only hear cases in which the court has jurisdiction. That’s why an adult court cannot handle cases involving child defendants unless the juvenile court transfers jurisdiction to them.
Whether under the prosecutor’s request or not, a juvenile judge can consider various factors before transferring a minor defendant to an adult court. Some of the factors that can make a court grant a waiver petition and transfer a child to an adult court include the following:
- The juvenile committed a serious offense
- The minor has a lengthy juvenile record
- The age of the juvenile
- Past rehabilitation and counseling efforts have been unsuccessful, showing that the juvenile is not amenable to treatment in the juvenile system.
In most cases, the prosecutor will request the case transfer to an adult court. However, the judge is also allowed by Louisiana’s law to transfer the case even without the prosecution’s request.
What Crimes Could Lead Juveniles to Be Charged as Adults?
Louisiana’s juvenile courts are responsible for handling most cases involving minors. However, some offenses may lead to a minor facing trial as an adult. These crimes include:
- First-degree murder
- Second-degree murder
- Aggravated kidnapping
- Aggravated first-degree rape
- Aggravated battery when committed by the discharge of a firearm
- Armed robbery when executed with a firearm
- Forcible or second-degree rape if it’s committed upon a child at least two years younger than the offender
When facing these charges, the prosecutor may request a transfer, and the child will face trial as an adult. If your child is at least 15 years of age, there are other crimes as well that may get them transferred to an adult criminal court.
Differences Between Louisiana’s Juvenile and Adult Criminal Justice Systems
Louisiana’s juvenile and adult systems are different in terms of their goals and penalties. Typically, the juvenile justice system focuses on rehabilitation and treatment. The aim is to reintegrate the juvenile offender into society as a law-abiding citizen. This means that the sentencing process of juvenile courts may include community service, counseling, and ways of addressing the underlying issues that contributed to the juvenile’s criminal behavior.
On the other hand, the adult system focuses on punishing the offender for their criminal behavior. Therefore, the adult system may punish offenders through heavy fines and jail time. It may also offer other options, such as probation or parole, depending on the nature of the charges.
In Louisiana, juvenile records are confidential and unavailable to the public, unlike adult criminal records, which are public and available to anyone who requests them. It’s crucial to hire a skilled criminal defense attorney to help your child with their case.
Consequences of Facing Trial as an Adult
When a child is tried in an adult criminal court, they will have the right to a jury trial, and some juries may be more sympathetic to a minor. However, the disadvantages for juveniles in adult courts outweigh the pros. Therefore, transferring a child to an adult court is a huge step that should not be taken lightly. Some of the challenges a minor may face when transferred to an adult court include the following:
- They may face significantly harsher penalties, including incarceration in an adult prison
- An adult criminal record may prevent them from accessing various services, including employment and educational opportunities
- Adult criminal records are harder to seal or expunge than juvenile court records
- Children lose access to some alternative sentencing options available in juvenile courts
Being tried in an adult court is disadvantageous to a minor. That’s why criminal defense attorneys usually fight to keep the case in juvenile court.
Contact an Experience Juvenile Criminal Defense Attorney
While Louisiana’s juvenile system is designed to give young offenders a second chance to turn their lives around, the adult system exerts severe punishments. Therefore, seeing a child getting transferred to an adult criminal court can be any parent’s worst nightmare. If your child has been charged with a crime, it’s important to consult an experienced lawyer familiar with Louisiana’s juvenile court system and laws regarding trying minors as adults.
At John D. & Eric G. Johnson Law Firm, our skilled lawyers are more than willing to provide legal representation in juvenile or criminal court. Utilizing our extensive knowledge and experience with Louisiana’s criminal justice system, we can prepare and present a solid defense against your child’s charges. Call us at (318) 377-1555 or schedule a free online consultation to discuss your family’s rights and legal options.