Juvenile law is a sensitive area of the criminal justice system. It is difficult to strike a balance between handing down a punishment that fits the crime and the idea that juveniles simply might not yet fully recognize right from wrong.
There are times, however, when the Texas courts might charge a juvenile as an adult and leverage the full extent of the law against them. It is important, therefore, for families to understand how the state of Texas differentiates between a juvenile and an adult as well as when a juvenile might appear before the adult courts.
When does a juvenile become an adult according to Texas law?
In terms of the justice system, Texas law defines a juvenile as any person at least 10 years of age, but younger than 17, at the time of committing an act of delinquent conduct. The state takes a stance that children 9 years of age or younger are not capable of harboring criminal intent. When an individual reaches age 17, they are a legal adult in the state of Texas and any criminal charges against them are under the jurisdiction of the adult courts.
Can law enforcement charge a juvenile as an adult?
Texas authorities can charge juveniles as young as 14 as adults for certain felony offenses. This includes alleged acts such as drug-related felonies with aggravating circumstances and other first-degree felonies which pose a serious threat or indicate an undeniable criminal intent even in a juvenile.
When a juvenile appears in adult courts, it means that the law is longer treating them as a child and that their alleged offense is extremely serious. It is essential that juveniles and their families prepare an equally serious defense.