Usually, when people under the age of 18 commit a crime, they are tried as juveniles. The juvenile system has significant penalties, but they do not tend to be as severe as the punishments that adults would face.

Sometimes, juveniles can be tried as adults if they have committed specific kinds of crimes. When can that happen? Here are a few things to know.

Judicial waiver may result in juveniles being tried as adults

A juvenile waiver, which is permitted in nearly every state, allows a judge to determine, at their discretion, if a minor should be tried as an adult. Usually, those tried as adults have to be at least 17. The offense also has to be severe, and the teenager typically has a long history of violating the law.

Sometimes, egregious offenses such as rape or first-degree murder will be tried in adult court. Other times, prosecutors have some discretion to determine if a child should be tried as an adult.

It is not typical for very young children or younger teens to be tried as adults. It is well-recognized that these minors are still developing and learning, so to try them as adults could be unfair and devastating to their futures.

Are there times when minors can’t be tried as adults?

In the majority of the United States, minors cannot be tried as adults if they are under 13. Sometimes, states will try older teens in adult courts if the crimes are heinous. For example, in Washington, some youth between the ages of 16 and 17 can be pushed into the adult criminal justice system if they commit certain felonies. This is a result of a law passed in the mid-90s.

Minors are still learning and growing

It’s important to remember that minors, juveniles under 18, are still learning and changing. They may not understand the full implications of what they’ve done or what they’re accused of. This is why a juvenile justice system is in place. If your child is facing charges and may be passed on to the adult courts, it’s essential to know your rights and how to protect them.