Making mistakes is simply part of growing up. Some mistakes are minor and serve as a good learning experience. However, sometimes a youth makes a bad choice or is simply hanging with the wrong crowd. At times like this, the youth might be accused of committing a crime. Normally, if a youth is between the ages of eight and 18, they will fall under the jurisdiction of the Juvenile Court. However, there are times when some teenagers in Arizona will be tried as adults.

Per Arizona Revised Statutes section 13-501, if a teen between the ages of 15 and 18 is accused of first- or second-degree murder, forcible sexual assault, robbery with a weapon, aggravated driving or any other violent crime, they will fall under the jurisdiction of the state’s adult criminal court. In addition, if a teen age 14 or above has already received two prior felony convictions in Juvenile Court and is charged with another felony, then that teen will fall under the jurisdiction of the state’s adult criminal court if the County Attorney deems it necessary as a matter of public safety.

If, for any other reason, the County Attorney wants to try the juvenile as an adult, a motion to transfer needs to be submitted to the court. Following that, a Juvenile Court judge will have to determine whether probable cause exists to transfer the case. If so, then the judge will have to determine if it is necessary to transfer the case to protect the public. The seriousness of the reported crime, whether a deadly weapon was reportedly used, whether someone was harmed in the alleged commission of the crime and whether the reported crime was gang related will be considered. The teen’s maturity level, criminal history and physical and mental health will also be considered.

Whether a youth is tried in Juvenile Court or tried as an adult is a serious distinction. The penalties in adult court are much more serious than the penalties the youth will face if tried in Juvenile Court. Teenagers deserve a chance to rehabilitate, so they can grow into productive members of society. Locking them away in an adult prison may not accomplish this. Therefore, if a youth in Arizona is accused of a crime, they will want to do what it takes to ensure their case stays in Juvenile Court. Contacting a juvenile defense attorney can be a great help to those facing charges.