Can Juveniles Be Charged as Adults?
15 August 2023IN: Criminal Law
In Tennessee, juveniles can be charged as adults under certain circumstances
The idea behind having separate courts, with lighter judgments, for juveniles goes along with both the science and sentiment of our culture and the belief that juveniles do not always make the best decisions and, when they commit crimes, it is ideal to provide them with a chance at rehabilitation, especially since our brains are still developing and forming until age 26.
However, there are some crimes within the state of Tennessee under which juveniles can be charged as adults, and these crimes typically carry a more serious or violent nature. Often, it is within the discretion of the prosecutor, which can be especially frightening if you are a young defendant, or the family of a young defendant accused of one of these crimes.
If this is the case, it is absolutely imperative to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney who has defended juveniles in order to ensure that the young person not only has the best defense possible but receives a fair trial and a chance at justice.
Tennessee Transfer Laws
In Tennessee, 18 years of age is the threshold when a juvenile can be charged as an adult. However, under state law, a minor can be tried as an adult if they were at least 16 years old at the time of the offense or they were under the age of 16 and committed:
- Aggravated or especially aggravated kidnapping;
- Aggravated rape;
- Aggravated or especially aggravated robbery;
- First or second-degree murder;
- Rape; or
- The attempt to commit any of these offenses.
Tennessee state law currently dictates that reasonable grounds will be used to determine whether a child who commits one of the above-mentioned crimes is transferred to the adult criminal court. Following a hearing, a child who meets the age qualifications may be transferred to adult criminal court if the juvenile court finds that there are reasonable grounds to believe that:
- The child committed the offense alleged;
- The child is not compatible with a mental institution; and
- The interests of the community require that the child be placed under legal restraint.
Does This Happen? Yes, and TN Lawmakers Want to Go Even Farther
Not only have a number of juveniles been charged as adults in Tennessee for certain crimes, but in the spring 2023 legislative session, Tennessee legislators considered a bill aimed at sending teens straight to criminal court. In other words, in circumstances involving certain serious crimes, the juvenile would not first come before a juvenile court judge to weigh the circumstances involved on a case-by-case basis but would instead be automatically treated as an adult. The bill was introduced after a group of teens was charged with shooting the victim of a carjacking in Memphis in Summer 2022.
Contact Rutherford County Criminal Defense Attorney David L. Scott
At the Law Office of David L. Scott, we have successfully represented a number of juveniles against a wide range of charges in criminal defense cases and provided assistance during criminal proceedings, as well as providing assistance and representation in other hearings initiated by other entities, such as colleges or universities. Contact us today for a free consultation to find out more.