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Just Kids — Until They Are Tried as Adults

Children are growing up faster because they are exposed to so much adult media and have less parental supervision. Or they are maturing more slowly — blame the bad economy and overindulgent parenting. They are having sex and using drugs earlier, but putting off marriage and adulthood until later. Thirty-five is the new 18. Or is 11 the new 21?

In Ohio criminal court, children under the age of 18 who commit criminal acts are generally processed through juvenile court. However, it is possible for someone as young as 14 to be tried as an adult. In fact, if a child who has been in an Ohio Department of Youth Services (DYS) facility is charged with murder or aggravated murder, the state must waive their right to be tried as a juvenile and treat them as an adult. The same goes for 16- or 17-year-olds facing murder charges. A 16-year-old must also be tried as an adult if they have committed other serious felony crimes using a gun.

In cases where adult status is not mandatory, the juvenile court still has the option of waiving the right of the juvenile and sending him or her to adult court for trial, an option usually reserved for recalcitrant youth offenders with repeat criminal records who have not responded positively to previous rehabilitation attempts. While mandatory treatment as an adult is followed by sentencing to an adult facility, discretionary waivers mean that after the child is tried and sentenced in adult court, the juvenile court once again reasserts authority.

Children have different legal rights in juvenile or adult court, and the outcomes of serving a sentence in an adult versus juvenile facility or program are enormous. Getting help from a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible is a good first step to take in working towards the best outcome for your child in this tough situation.

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