When are Juveniles Charged as Adults in Pittsburgh, PA | Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC

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When are Juveniles Charged as Adults in Pittsburgh, PA

In Pennsylvania, the juvenile and adult criminal justice systems are very different. The juvenile system helps young offenders learn and change, while the adult system focuses on punishment.

Sometimes, juveniles in PA can be charged as adults. This usually happens in severe cases. It’s important to know when this can happen because it means the young person could get a permanent criminal record, which can affect their future a lot.

At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC, our Pittsburgh criminal defense attorneys know the Pennsylvania juvenile system well. We work hard to make sure young clients get the best possible outcome in court. If you have questions or need help, contact us for a free case evaluation.

The Juvenile Justice System in Pennsylvania

The juvenile system in Pennsylvania is different from the adult criminal justice system. It helps young offenders learn and grow through age-appropriate programs that consider their emotions and development.

When are Juveniles Charged as Adults in PA?

Some serious crimes can lead to juveniles being charged as adults in Pennsylvania. These include murder, rape, aggravated assault, and robbery. When a juvenile commits such serious crimes, the court might decide that the juvenile system can’t help enough.

For example, if a group of teenagers plans an attack on their school with deadly weapons, they might be charged as adults because of the serious nature of the crime.

Was a Deadly Weapon Involved?

Using a deadly weapon during a crime can lead to a juvenile being charged as an adult. Pennsylvania law says that juveniles aged 15 or older who use a deadly weapon during certain felonies, like robbery or assault, must be transferred to adult court.

Does the Juvenile Have a Criminal History?

A juvenile’s past crimes are important in deciding if they should be tried as an adult. Repeat offenders, especially those with serious or violent crimes, are more likely to be charged as adults. The court usually thinks it’s better for the public if these cases are handled in adult court unless the defense can prove otherwise.

The Age of the Juvenile

Pennsylvania law sets age limits for transferring cases to adult court. Juveniles aged 14 or older who commit certain felonies might face a discretionary waiver. Those aged 15 and older who commit serious crimes with deadly weapons are automatically transferred to adult court.

The court also considers the juvenile’s maturity, mental state, and ability to change. Younger offenders usually receive more lenient treatment focused on rehabilitation.

What’s the Process for Transferring Juveniles to Adult Court in PA?

Transferring a juvenile case to adult court in Pennsylvania involves several legal steps.

A discretionary waiver lets the prosecutor ask for a transfer. The judge then considers the nature of the offense, the impact on the victim, the juvenile’s age, and criminal history before deciding. The presumptive waiver is for juveniles aged 15 or older who commit certain felonies. The defense can argue that the juvenile can still change and doesn’t need to be in adult court.

Direct file means automatic transfer for severe crimes like murder or armed robbery. A hearing can be requested to argue that the case should stay in juvenile court, focusing on the juvenile’s potential for change.

What Rights Do Juveniles Have?

In the juvenile system, minors have the right to a lawyer and a fair hearing with a judge who specializes in juvenile cases. The goal is to support the juvenile’s growth and prevent future crimes, not to punish them harshly like in the adult system.

Pittsburgh’s Juvenile System: Local Courts & Facilities

When a juvenile is arrested in Pittsburgh, they are usually taken to the Shuman Juvenile Detention Center.

When they arrive, a probation officer looks at the details of the arrest, the juvenile’s background, and any past crimes. Depending on the offense’s severity and the juvenile’s risk level, they might be released to their guardians or held in the detention center until a detention hearing.

The Detention Hearing

A detention hearing must occur within 72 hours. This hearing decides whether the juvenile should stay in detention or be released until their adjudication hearing. The judge considers factors like the nature of the offense, the juvenile’s past behavior, and the risk to the community.

The judge can order the juvenile to stay in detention, release them to their guardians with conditions like electronic monitoring, or set other rules to make sure the juvenile follows the law and shows up for future court dates.

Adjudication & Disposition Hearings

The adjudication hearing is like a trial in the adult system. The court decides if the juvenile did the alleged crime. Both sides present evidence and witnesses, and the juvenile has the right to a lawyer. If the judge finds the juvenile delinquent, a disposition hearing is set to decide the consequences.

The disposition hearing is where the court decides on penalties or rehabilitation. Possible outcomes include probation, court-ordered counseling, substance abuse treatment, or placement in a residential treatment facility, residential school, foster care, or group home. In severe cases, the juvenile may be placed in detention.

Impact of Juveniles in the Adult Criminal System

Being tried as an adult can seriously affect a juvenile’s future. They face harsher penalties, longer prison sentences, and a permanent criminal record. This can make it hard to get an education, find a job, or get housing. It also makes it harder for young people to reform and reintegrate into society.

The Importance of Legal Representation for All Juveniles

Given the serious consequences of being tried as an adult, it is crucial for any juvenile to have a good lawyer. A skilled juvenile defense attorney can argue for the case to stay in juvenile court, showing the juvenile’s potential for change and positive qualities.

Having a lawyer ensures that the juvenile’s rights are protected and that they get the best possible outcome. At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC, we are dedicated to defending young offenders’ rights and futures.

Contact us today for a free case evaluation to discuss how we can help navigate the Pennsylvania juvenile justice system.