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When may a juvenile be tried as an adult in Pennsylvania?

Whenever a young person is charged with committing a serious crime in Lackawanna County, a common question is whether the defendant will be tried as an adult or as a juvenile. This post will review the rules that determine whether a juvenile who faces serious criminal charges will be tried as an adult.

Except as noted below, a child who is found guilty of committing an act that would be considered a crime if committed by an adult will be adjudicated delinquent, which is not the same as being convicted of committing a crime. The juvenile court will then oversee the juvenile's imprisonment, if any, and rehabilitation. Juveniles may also be convicted of committing a summary offense, which is a lesser degree of criminal culpability. A juvenile may not be imprisoned for committing a summary offense.

All persons who are accused of committing murder in Pennsylvania, including juveniles, must be charged and tried as an adult. In addition, a juvenile who is at least 15 years old will be tried as an adult if a deadly weapon was used or if the juvenile has been previously adjudicated delinquent for committing any of the following offenses:

  • Rape
  • Involuntary deviate sexual intercourse
  • Aggravated assault
  • Robbery
  • Robbery of a motor vehicle
  • Aggravated indecent assault
  • Kidnapping
  • Voluntary manslaughter
  • Attempt, conspiracy or solicitation to commit one of the above offenses

A juvenile who is tried as an adult is subject to the rules of the criminal justice system and, if convicted, the same penalties as convicted adults face. Juveniles who face trial as adults may wish to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney. Such a consultation can provide a helpful overview of the facts and law of the case and an estimate of the likelihood of returning the case to juvenile court and obtaining a favorable plea agreement or outright acquittal.

Source: Juvenile Law Center, "Types of Juvenile Offenses in Pennsylvania," accessed on Jan. 2, 2017

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