Will My Child Be Tried as a Juvenile or an Adult?

Having a child who finds themselves in trouble with the law is a difficult experience for any parent. While the prospects of the criminal justice system and punishment may be overwhelming, it is important for parents to understand the process ahead, how criminal allegations against juveniles are handled, and what they can do to take the most appropriate steps moving forward.

At Joey Gilbert Law, our Reno criminal defense attorneys work with clients throughout Northern Nevada after they have been charged with a range of criminal offenses. This includes minors under the age of 18 who have been charged with various juvenile crimes, including common offenses such as:

  • Driving under the influence
  • Drug crimes, including possession
  • Vandalism
  • Shoplifting and burglary
  • Assault

When it comes to prosecuting and penalizing juveniles, it is important to remember that our criminal justice system is much more lenient on minors than it is on adults. This is due in part to the understanding that youthful mistakes should not always have lifelong consequences, and because our judiciary recognizes that juveniles are more likely to be rehabilitated than adults. Still, there are circumstances when juveniles can be charged with crimes as an adult, which makes the stakes all the more higher in a criminal case.

While many minors under the age of 18 are processed within the juvenile court system, which has different rules and procedures than those used in adult courts (for example, there are no jury trials in juvenile courts), children can be charged as adults in Nevada when there are serious circumstances involved.

  • Murder – Minors 13 and older can be tried as adults for murder and attempted murder charges, and will always be charged as adults for murder and attempted murder once they become 16.
  • Felonies – Minors 14 and older can be tried as adults for most felony crimes, based on the discretion of prosecutors.
  • Sex Crimes – Adult courts must hear cases involving sexual assault crimes, or attempted sexual assault, if a minor is 16 or older and has a previous adjudication for an offense that would be considered a felony for an adult.

It is important to note that while Nevada law does stipulate when cases must be handled by adult courts, there is often discretion that can be applied in other cases. For example, prosecutors who handle felony allegations against a minor have a choice over whether or not to file a motion requesting certification for a minor to be transferred to adult court. Factors such as the nature of the offense and criminal history will play a large role in their decisions, as can arguments raised by defense attorneys.

By reaching out to an experienced criminal defense lawyer who has experience representing both minors in juvenile court and adults as soon as possible after an arrest, you can gain the support of proven advocates who can walk you step by step through the process. At Joey Gilbert Law, our award-winning lawyers are standing by 24/7 to help. Contact us to get started.


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