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The penalties juveniles can face after an arrest are generally not as severe as those for adults. However, potential consequences will differ if the crime is deemed so severe that they may be tried as an adult.

For serious crimes, juveniles might be tried as adults

It is important to know when a juvenile may be charged as an adult. Starting at age 14, adult charges can be lodged against a child who:

  • Commits murder or attempted murder
  • Is charged with arson
  • Commits armed robbery
  • Commits a carjacking
  • Kidnaps someone
  • Uses a gun to commit a crime
  • Escapes from custody

This is crucial as the state’s three-strike law generally applies to adults, and will apply to juveniles who are convicted as adults. In addition, the juvenile will be sent to an adult prison at age 18 after serving the initial years of the sentence at a juvenile facility. Although the criminal allegation itself will determine whether there are adult charges, the juvenile retains certain rights, including the right to remain silent when questioned and the right to legal representation.

Juveniles should have full legal protection after an arrest

Juveniles can be charged with low-level criminal law violations like vandalism, shoplifting or fighting. They might even be arrested for driving under the influence. These are problematic but are not on the level of crimes where they might be tried as an adult. For parents, if a child is charged as an adult, it is wise to know the available options. Consulting with professionals experienced in representing juveniles might help.

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