View Full Version : Could an adult be charged or convicted as a juvenile for something they did as a teen?

08-26-2010, 06:25 AM
First of all, this is *theoretical*. I'm mostly interested in the US, though other jurisdictions that have a concept of juvenile delinquency proceedings for criminal offenses would be interesting.

Here's a made up scenario. This did not occur to me or to anyone I know. Joe, a 20 year old college student, reveals at a party that, at age 13, he took his dad's gun and held up a convenience store and used the money to buy video games. One of his friends turns him in and it turns out that the police have been looking to catch this robber, and there is still an available witness and there is interest in moving forward on the case. In the jurisdiction in which the offense took place, the statute of limitations for felonies is 10 years. Could juvenile delinquency proceedings be instituted against Joe, or is charging him as an adult the only way to proceed? It seems a little unfair to force the prosecution as an adult in a case when the "system" might not have sought adult charges if the case had come up when Joe was still a minor.

On a related note, what happens if a child has outstanding juvenile charges that are going through the system (no final adjudication yet) when they become an adult? Do the charges just continue in process, abate unless converted to adult criminal proceedings, or do they automatically become adult criminal proceedings?

08-26-2010, 06:36 AM
It's not obvious from the wikipedia article, but as I recall, Michael Skakel was convicted of the murder of Martha Moxley, allegedly comitted when he was a juvenile, and got a juvenile sentence, while he was well past 40 years old.


08-26-2010, 06:43 AM
It's not obvious from the wikipedia article, but as I recall, Michael Skakel was convicted of the murder of Martha Moxley, allegedly comitted when he was a juvenile, and got a juvenile sentence, while he was well past 40 years old.


Hmm, it says that "In November 2003, Skakel appealed to the Connecticut Supreme Court, arguing that the case should have been heard in Juvenile Court rather than Superior Court, that the statute of limitations had expired on the charges against him, and that there was evidence of prosecutorial misconduct.", so it looks like he may have been charged and convicted as an adult, and he later claimed that that conviction was improper since juvenile court was the proper venue.

I was always taught as a child that a juvenile sentence ends and the record is sealed when you become 18, regardless of the offense, so it seems that convicting an adult in juvenile court would have no effect except to create a record, which in many jurisdictions would be instantly sealed since the person is over 18.

08-26-2010, 09:26 AM
My own jurisdiction it becomes an adult criminal case, the court is however limited in the scope of the penalties it can award.

08-26-2010, 09:31 AM
All I can say is that here in Ontario, Canada, we sometime hear of cases coming to trial where the news report will say that the accused, now 18 cannot be identified because he was 17 at the time of the offense.

Fish Cheer
08-26-2010, 05:38 PM
at age 13, he took his dad's gun and held up a convenience storeIn Germany, Jugendstrafrecht (juvenile criminal law) applies to people who were between 14 and 17 years at the time of the offense. Children younger than 14 cannot be held legally responsible for their actions at all.

http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jugendstrafrecht#Alters-_und_Reifestufen (in German)

08-27-2010, 01:10 AM
in the USA juvenile records are not automatically sealed. Every state has a process for sealing them. You file papers to have a judge look at your case and it's the judge that decides whether or not they are to be sealed. Sealed records are still accessable to some people. For instance the police, social service agencies, probation officers and courts can look at them. Usually a court order is called on to view it.

Destroying a record is called expunging it and what it means in "Common" terms is the record is erased and is gone. Some states have modified this so you have to look at state law to see exactly expunging means.

Sealing a record isn't always a good idea, especially if it's a minor crime. This is because the record can show up as "sealed." I've run background checks when I worked in a bail bonds office. The records shows "sealed" but says nothing else. If it's a minor offense the person will likey assume it's a problem and then what? We had no idea what the record was for and so we'd refuse to put up bail. Since we had no way of actually verifying it, that person, who might have gotten us to bond them out, had to remain in jail.

08-27-2010, 08:57 AM
For the jurisdiction I am in (Germany)

the relevant age is strictly that at the time of the crime, not at the time of the trial - if I'd have done murder at age 17 and were caught at age 77 I'd be tried in juvenile court (and the maximum penalty would be ten years rather than life)
children under age 14 are not criminally liable so the person in the OP would get off scot free (depending on the relevant statute of limitations his dad might still be on the hook for not storing his gun securely). Very occasionally this causes a problem with Faginesque burglary families.
youths age 14-17 are tried in juvenile court (i.e. under juvenile rules and not in public session) and punished according to the tariffs relevent to juveniles.
young adults age 18-21 can be tried as juveniles (but in public session) if they are deemed immature for their age and/or the nature and/or motivation of the crime is typical of youthful immaturity (for grave crimes this finding is made in the vast majority of cases)
an adult accused of a crime against a child or youth under 18 is tried in juvenile court but under adult rules (this is because juvenile courts are there to accomodate the vulnerability of young victims as well as that of young defendants)
there is no such thing as a sealed criminal record - records of convictions are held in a federal register, accessible only for official use or to the convicted person. A juvenile conviction is deleted after between five and twenty years, depending on the sentence.

08-27-2010, 09:09 AM
I recall in the Natalee Holloway case Van Der Sloot was arrested just before his 18th birthday. As a juvenile he was entitled to visits from his parents and other things.

He turns 18 and they really clamped down on him. (they were trying to get a confession).
They are still trying to charge him in the Natalee Holloway case several years later. Although the murder case in Peru is much stronger.

This was in Aruba under Dutch law.

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