Philadelphia Criminal Law News

When Can a Minor Be Charged as an Adult in Pennsylvania?

You will sometimes hear of a minor being charged as an adult for certain crimes. But the rules for the transfer of juvenile cases to the criminal system may not always seem clear.

Here is an overview of the laws for when a juvenile can be charged as an adult in Pennsylvania:

Discretionary Waiver

If a child is 14 years of age or older and is accused of a felony, the juvenile court may in its discretion transfer the case for criminal prosecution, provides the Office of Juvenile Justice.

Typically, the juvenile court will have a hearing and determine if the public interest is served by transferring the child to an adult court. The juvenile court is required to consider certain factors like the child's amenability to treatment and possibility for rehabilitation.

Presumptive Waiver

If the child is 14 years of age or older and uses a deadly weapon in the commission of the felony or if the child is 15 years of age or older and commits any serious offense like rape or assault, then there is a presumption that the public interest would be served by having the child face criminal prosecution.

In this case, the child has the burden of proving that he is amenable to treatment, supervision, and rehabilitation.

Statutory Exclusion

In some situations, a minor will always be charged as an adult. This happens in cases involving:

  • Murder. A minor can be charged as an adult for murder, regardless of age.

  • Voluntary manslaughter. If the child is 15 years of age or older, he can face voluntary manslaughter charges if a weapon was used, or if the the child was previously adjudicated for one of several enumerated offenses such as rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, robbery, robbery of a motor vehicle, etc.

  • Crimes with a deadly weapon. A child 15 years of age or older can be charged as an adult for rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated assault, robbery, robbery of a motor vehicle, aggravated indecent assault, kidnapping, so long as the minor uses a deadly weapon.

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