We understand, as a society, that children need to be protected from certain experiences. One of the big ones that we protect them from is the adult legal system. When a child breaks the law, they are typically dealt with as juvenile offenders. This means that they will still be punished for their crimes, but the punishment takes into account their age and the effect that had on the crime in general.
But we’ve all heard of a case where a minor was charged as an adult. For most of us, we hear about them through television shows or on the nightly news. This can keep the concept of a minor charged as an adult seeming like something that could never touch you and your family. Yet even your minor children could be charged as adults depending on the circumstances of what they are accused of.
To understand more, we are going to look at what crimes could see a minor charged as an adult in Arizona. Then we’ll discuss what differences there are between a minor tried as an adult and an adult being tried for the same crime. Finally, we’ll look at how a minor may avoid being tried as an adult.
What Crimes Could See a Minor Charged as an Adult in Arizona?
The best way to answer this question is to turn our attention to Article 3 Part 2 Section 22 of the Arizona Constitution. This section of the Arizona constitution informs us that in order for a minor to be tried as an adult, several things must be true.
The first is that the minor in question is at least 15 years of age. This is one way that minors are protected, even when they commit bad crimes. A minor who is 13, for example, would still be tried as a minor even if they had committed one of the crimes that could see them charged as an adult if they were a couple of years older.
Crimes that could see a minor charged as an adult in Arizona include:
- Forcible sexual assault
- Armed robbery
- Any other violent felony offense
- Any felony offense committed by a chronic felony offender
The law becomes a little vague when it comes to those last two, so let’s discuss them a little more.
While murder, forcible sexual assault, and armed robbery are all mentioned directly, there are a number of violent felony offenses that just get swept up together in a broad statement. Crimes that fall into this category include aggravated assault, assault with a deadly weapon, drive-by shooting, discharging a firearm at a structure, and a number of other crimes of a violent nature. Basically, if a crime is both violent and a felony charge, then it may be used to charge a minor as an adult.
In addition, if a minor has a history of felony offenses, then they could be charged as an adult whenever they commit another felony.
What are the Differences Between an Adult and a Minor Tried as an Adult?
There are almost no differences between a trial that sees an adult sentenced and one that sees a minor tried as an adult. The sentencing guidelines are the same. This means that a minor may face some extreme jail time, just like any adult charged with serious crimes could. Of course, this also means that a minor may be falsely convicted, the same as any adult, too, so it is important to seek qualified representation to help fight against whatever charge has been leveled against them.
There is one major difference between an adult, and a minor tried as an adult, however. When a minor is tried as an adult for first-degree murder, they will receive a different sentence compared to an adult.
If somebody is under the age of 18 at the time that they commit first-degree murder, they are not eligible for the death penalty. Only an adult can be punished with the death penalty. A minor charged as an adult would be punished either with a life sentence or a natural life sentence. Despite sounding the same, these two punishments are quite different.
- A life sentence means that the guilty individual would be eligible for parole after serving 25 years of a life sentence.
- A natural life sentence means that the guilty individual will be kept in prison until they die or for all of their natural life.
So while the death penalty cannot be given to a minor charged as an adult, a natural life sentence would mean the end of their life as a free American.
How Can a Minor Avoid Being Tried as an Adult?
If a minor of at least 15 years of age commits a felony of the type described above, then the prosecution may choose to try them as an adult. However, the minor’s legal team or even the court itself can choose to file a motion to transfer the case to a juvenile court.
For this to happen, it needs to be shown or suggested that the minor stands a better chance at rehabilitation through the juvenile court. There are a number of different factors that are considered to decide if this is the case, but the general idea is that juvenile offenders have a better chance of changing their ways since they are still young compared to adult offenders.
Different elements that go into the decision to transfer include:
- How serious the crime was
- The mental and emotional condition of the offender
- The offender’s criminal record and previous history
- How the victim views the offense
- Any history the offender has with juvenile residential placements or secure institutions
- Whether or not the offense had anything to do with a gang
- Any history the offender has with juvenile corrections
How Can I Protect My Child?
If your child is being tried as an adult in Arizona, then you need to speak to an experienced and dedicated defense attorney today. The sooner you reach out for help, the sooner you can have professional support on your side to answer your questions, file motions, and fight for your child’s freedom.