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Charging a Juvenile Offender as an Adult - The Direct File Decision

One of the most difficult decisions a district attorney makes is the decision to charge a juvenile offender as an adult. There are many factors included in the analysis as to whether a youth under the age of 18 should be prosecuted as an adult.

For a juvenile to be statutorily eligible to be charged in the adult system they must commit a class one or a class two felony, or have a prior felony conviction, and then commit a crime of violence. In addition to the statutory requirements, the district attorney considers many other factors, including: 

  • The seriousness of the offense
  • Whether the offense was a violent crime
  • The impact of the offense on the victims
  • Whether the juvenile offender used a deadly weapon in commission of the delinquent act
  • The likelihood of the juvenile’s rehabilitation using sentencing options available in the juvenile system
  • Whether the protection of the community requires consequences greater than the juvenile system allows

In 2016, in the First Judicial District, only one juvenile was charged as an adult. This teen was one of four people involved in a violent home invasion robbery and stabbing in which one of the victims was severely injured and there were children in the home. In the last five years there have been a total of 11 cases filed in which juveniles are prosecuted in the adult system. During that time period, almost 4,000 cases were filed into the Juvenile system. Less than 1% of juveniles are prosecuted in adult court.