In Pennsylvania, the juvenile courts have jurisdiction over people under 18 years old who are suspected of criminal conduct. A minor who is determined to be a juvenile delinquent faces probation and sometimes stiffer punishment like detention in a juvenile facility. No criminal charges are brought and no criminal record results. However, there are situations where a minor can be tried and sentenced in an adult court. This can occur when a youth is suspected of committing a violent crime, such as a sexual assault.

A transfer of a juvenile case to adult court requires a finding that the public interest would be better protected by doing so. The juvenile court judge will consider a number of factors, including whether the youth shows a willingness to undergo supervision, treatment and rehabilitation. But for a serious crime such as rape, when the youth is 15 years of age or older, there is a legal presumption that the public interest would be served by prosecution as an adult.

Even if the public interest is deemed to warrant prosecution as an adult, the affected youth suffers enormously from that decision. Your child’s life could be permanently scarred if they are convicted of a sex crime and sentenced to an adult prison and if their names are added to the state’s sex offender registry. The chance of receiving proper rehabilitation is extremely low compared to the available treatment under juvenile court supervision. In fact, minors who undergo adult legal proceedings and are sentenced to serve time in an adult prison have a significantly lower rate of being able to normally adapt to society after being released.

Because of the extreme consequences faced, it is essential to get your child effective legal representation as soon as a juvenile case is begun. A strong argument might be made for keeping the case in juvenile court, especially for first-time offenders. According to research from the National Juvenile Justice Network, minors who commit sex crimes are highly unlikely to commit additional ones. Because youth are still developing and evolving, they can make changes in their lives and they often respond very well to treatment. Statistical evidence indicates there is an advantage for minors being tried in juvenile court, so that they can receive the rehabilitation they need to make positive changes in their lives and to avoid repeat offenses.

Attorney Matthew R. Zatko in Somerset, PA understands the sensitive nature of juvenile cases. I represent minors in juvenile and criminal proceedings throughout Somerset, Indiana, Bedford and Cambria counties. If you are the parent of a youth suspected of a sex crime, I will take all appropriate steps to keep the case in juvenile court. If your child is being tried as an adult, I will provide the most vigorous defense possible. For a consultation, call 814-443-1631 or contact me online.