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When Can a Juvenile be Tried as an Adult in Ohio?

We have written many articles on juvenile law in Ohio.  Anyone under the age of 18 in Ohio (or any other state) is considered a juvenile.  Typically, when a juvenile is alleged to have committed an illegal act, the case is handled in juvenile court.  These cases are known as delinquency cases, and they are considered civil matters even though they would be criminal cases if they were dealing with adults.  We go more in depth in our last article on juvenile defense, Differences Between Juvenile Court and Adult Court.  With all of that being said, juvenile cases can sometimes be tried in an adult criminal court under some circumstances.  While there are some specific requirements, it is possible.

How Young Can a Juvenile be Tried as an Adult?

14 years of age is the youngest that a juvenile’s delinquency case can be transferred to an adult criminal court.  This can happen for two reasons.  Either the Court is required to transfer the case or the facts in the case give the Court the right to transfer the case and they choose to do so.  When it comes to transferring juvenile cases to adult court, the rules are the same for 14 and 15 year olds.  Juvenile cases involving 16 and 17 year olds have a different set of rules.  13 years of age is too young for a juvenile’s case to be transferred to adult court, and at 18, the case would automatically be in adult court as 18-year-olds are no longer considered juveniles.

When MUST Juveniles 14 or 15 Years of Age be Transferred to Adult Court?

As laid out in The Ohio Revised Code (ORC) Section 2152.12 and 2152.10, there are three main circumstances that make the transfer to adult court mandatory when the alleged delinquent is 14 or 15 years old.  First, the juvenile is alleged to have committed a category one offense.  This means the juvenile is alleged to have committed an act such as aggravated murder, murder, attempted aggravated murder, or attempted murder.  Secondly, the juvenile must have previously been adjudicated delinquent (which is essentially the juvenile version of being found guilty) of a category one or category two offense, and been committed to the legal custody of the department of youth services as a result.  So basically, for the transfer of a 14 or 15-year-old’s case to be mandatory, the offense not only has to be a category one offense, but it must be at least the second time the juvenile is charged with a serious offense, and they must have been adjudicated delinquent the first time.  The third thing needed to make the transfer to adult court mandatory is probable cause.

Now, there may be special rules for special circumstances, such as juveniles who have previously been convicted in adult court or who are being charged in another state.

When CAN a Court Choose to Transfer a Case Involving a 14 or 15 Year Old?

Sometimes, a transfer to adult court may not be mandatory, but the court may have the right to transfer if certain conditions are met.  As stated above, the child must be at least 14 years of age or older and there  must be probable cause.  Furthermore, the court must deem that the rehabilitation within the juvenile system will not work on this specific child and that the safety of the community may depend on the child being subject to adult sanctions.  In order to make this determination, Ohio law requires that the Court launch an investigation to determine if there is a reason why the juvenile in question meets these conditions.  ORC 2152.12(D) and (E) list many factors the court is required to consider for and against the transfer of the case, in addition to any other factors that may be relevant.

For Juveniles Over the Age of 15

As we said before, the rules about transferring a case from juvenile court to adult court are slightly different depending on the age of the alleged delinquent.  Juveniles 13 years of age and younger are too young for their cases to be transferred to adult court.  Juveniles 14 or 15 years of age can have their delinquency cases transferred to adult court under the circumstances we described in the previous section.  Lastly, we need to discuss juveniles 16 or 17 years of age, who have a slightly different set of rules when it comes to the transfer of juvenile cases to adult court.  Again, once a person turns 18, that person is an adult and any criminal charges will automatically be brought in adult court.

When MUST Juveniles 16 or 17 years of Age be transferred to Adult Court?

Whether or not a delinquency case against a juvenile over 16 years of age must be transferred to adult court depends on whether the alleged offense is a category one or category two offense.  For a category one offense, probable cause can result in mandatory transfer to adult court.  For a category two offense, there are two things that can cause mandatory transfer.

For one thing, the juvenile could have been adjudicated delinquent for a category one or two offense previously and been committed to the custody of the department of youth services as a result.  This is similar to the requirement for mandatory transfers  of 14 or 15 year old defendants.  However, for 14 and 15 year olds, the requirement of a previous adjudication exists even if they are currently charged with a category one offense, whereas juveniles over 16 years of age only have this requirement when charged with category two offenses.

Secondly, if a juvenile over 16 years of age is alleged to have used or otherwise involved a firearm in committing a category two offense, this can result in the mandatory transfer of the case to adult court.

Once again, there are other special circumstances that may result in the mandatory transfer of the juvenile case to adult court, but above is a pretty good overview.

When CAN a Court Choose to Transfer a Case Involving a 16 or 17 Year Old?

The rules for an Ohio court to transfer a juvenile case to an adult court when the transfer is not mandatory are the same for all juveniles over the age of 14.  To recap, the child must be at least 14 years of age or older and there  must be probable cause.  Furthermore, the court must deem that the rehabilitation within the juvenile system will not work on this specific child and that the safety of the community may depend on the child being subject to adult sanctions.  In order to make this determination, Ohio law requires that the Court launch an investigation to determine if there is a reason why the juvenile in question meets these conditions.  ORC 2152.12(D) and (E) list many factors the court is required to consider for and against the transfer of the case, in addition to any other factors that may be relevant.

Conclusion

At Dearie, Fischer & Mathews, our attorneys have been handling juvenile cases in the greater Cincinnati and Dayton areas for over twenty years, and we rarely see this type of transfer happen.  However, it is possible.  Our attorneys have handled all kinds of issues in the juvenile court systems and have dealt with many unusual circumstances over the years.  If you have any questions or legal needs involving juvenile or adult cases in Southwest Ohio, do not hesitate to contact the attorneys at Dearie, Fischer & Mathews.

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