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When Virginian juveniles are arrested and face allegations of juvenile crimes in Virginia, it might come as a shock if they wind up facing adult charges. There is a significant difference between being charged and tried in juvenile court and adult court. Those who are confronted with this possibility need to understand how the decision is made as to whether there it will be in the adult law system or the juvenile law system.

The court will take into consideration numerous factors when deciding. The juvenile's age will be looked at. Taken into accounts will also be: the seriousness of the allegations and if it was willfully committed, aggressive, violent or premeditated; if it was committed against persons or property with crimes against persons viewed as more serious; if the maximum penalty that the offense can yield is more than 20 years in jail if it had been committed by an adult; if the alleged act involved a firearm or some other dangerous weapon; and to what extent the juvenile participated in the crime.

Other factors that are important include: if the juvenile can be treated and rehabilitated by the juvenile justice system; if it is appropriate and available to provide the juvenile with possible alternatives in the juvenile system and the criminal justice system to help; what the juvenile's prior record was in any jurisdiction, if other penalties were levied, and the level of the previous crimes; if the juvenile had escaped from legal custody in the juvenile correctional system; whether or not the juvenile has intellectual disabilities or mental illness; what the juvenile's records in school are; and the physical condition of the juvenile.

A juvenile being arrested and charged with criminal acts is bad enough, but if there is the possibility that it will land in adult court, it can be significantly worse and affect the person's life for an extended period, if not for the rest of his or her life. With accusations that are so serious that they will lead to adult charges for a juvenile, speaking to a legal professional experienced in handling a juvenile criminal offense and adult offenses is the most important call that a juvenile and his or her family can make.

Source:, "16.1-269.1 Trial in circuit court; preliminary hearing; direct indictment; remand," accessed on Nov. 9, 2015

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