Can a Minor Be Tried as an Adult in California?


One of the most nerve-wracking things for parents and teens alike is wondering whether or not a juvenile can be accused of and tried as an adult criminal — accused of an adult crime and tried as an adult criminal in the justice system.  In many cases, when a minor is accused of committing a crime, the minor is adjudicated through the state’s juvenile delinquency system.

In serious cases, however, the law allows for the minor to be tried as an adult in adult criminal court.  In the event that a prosecutor intends to charge a minor as an adult, whether or not the minor can stay in juvenile court comes down to the fitness hearing. The judge will evaluate whether or not the minor is fit for the juvenile system. And if the judge determines that this is the case then the minor will stay in juvenile court.  If the judge determines that the minor is not appropriate for the juvenile system, the minor is transferred to adult court. A minor that is tried in adult court must be aware of the significant consequences.

Being behind bars, serving a long sentence in an adult prison with adult offenders can be very overwhelming for the parents as well.  The fitness hearing is a crucial component of this process and is one that should be handled by an experienced criminal defense attorney. A fitness hearing is an official legal proceeding in which a juvenile court judge determines whether or not a minor who has been accused of violating the criminal law should be charged at the juvenile or the adult level.  A fitness hearing can be initiated by the prosecutor when the minor is 16 years old and accused of any crime. If the minor is 16 years or older and is accused of committing a felony or when the minor is over age 14 and is alleged to have committed an offense in which the minor is presumed to be unfit for juvenile court. You need to respond quickly by retaining an experienced criminal defense lawyer.