If you are accused of a crime as a juvenile in Virginia, you may be tried as a juvenile or adult. If a juvenile is tried and convicted as an adult, they could face the same consequences as someone over the age of 18, even if they are still a minor.
In order to be tried as an adult in court, the juvenile must have been 14 years of age or older at the time of the alleged crime. The alleged juvenile criminal offense must also qualify as a felony if an adult had committed the same crime. Felonies generally fall into six classes, with a Class 1 felony being the most serious and a Class 6 felony being the least serious.
For juveniles over 14 who are accused of committing an offense that is a felony if committed by an adult, there are three main circumstances in which they could be tried as an adult. For a Section A transfer, the Commonwealth attorney will make a motion to transfer the juvenile to adult court. The prosecutor must then prove that the minor should be transferred based on a finding of probable cause. The judge will then make a decision based on a number of factors including the age, criminal history and mental health of the juvenile.
Under a Section B transfer, a juvenile will be transferred to adult court if they are charged with capital murder, first or second degree murder, lynching or aggravated malicious wounding. However, there are many lesser included offenses under these four types. If the judge or prosecutor decides to charge the minor with a lesser included offense instead, the transfer can be avoided.
For a Section C transfer, the minor will be transferred to adult court if they are charged with felony homicide, abduction, malicious wounding, robbery, rape or other severe felonies. Again, if the charges are reduced to a lesser included offense, the transfer may be avoided.
Being tried as an adult can have long-term effects on a minor’s life and result in serious consequences. A criminal defense attorney can work to have minor’s charges reduced to avoid adult court.
Source: Code of Virginia, “16.1-2691. Trial in circuit court; preliminary hearing; direct indictment; remand,” accessed Jan. 22, 2018