Juveniles Charged as Adults: Understanding Juveniles Crimes and the Adult Charge Process

juvenille crimes

Facing the criminal justice system as a juvenile can be a daunting and life-altering experience, especially when the stakes involve being charged as an adult.


Understanding the intricacies of juvenile crimes, the adult charge process, and how to establish a robust defense is crucial.


This is where Kolsrud Law steps in.

Our experienced team specializes in defending juveniles, ensuring their rights are protected and their futures are safeguarded. 

According to the National Center for Juvenile Justice, approximately 76,000 juveniles are prosecuted as adults in the United States each year, underscoring the importance of robust legal representation in such cases.

charged as an adult

What Constitutes a Juvenile Crime in Arizona?

In Arizona, a juvenile crime refers to any unlawful act committed by a person under the age of 18.


Mandatory Adult Charges: According to the Arizona Constitution

  • Juveniles fifteen years or older and accused of serious offenses must be charged as adults.
    • Serious offenses include:
      • Murder
      • Forcible sexual assault
      • Armed robbery
      • Other violent felonies
  • Juveniles who are chronic felony offenders also fall under this mandatory adult prosecution category.

Statutory Requirements: Arizona statutory law further elaborates on what is required. 

  • Juveniles aged fifteen or older who commit serious offenses must be prosecuted in adult criminal court.
  • The law also allows for the prosecution of juveniles as young as fourteen for certain felonies, depending on the nature of the crime and the prosecutor's discretion.

Relevant Case Law:


Moreover, the juvenile court has the discretion to transfer juveniles to adult court for prosecution if it finds that the juvenile is not responsive to treatment or rehabilitation through available facilities and that public safety or interest requires such a transfer. 


Common Juvenile Offenses:

  • Misdemeanors:
    • Shoplifting
    • Vandalism
    • Underage drinking
  • More Serious Crimes:
    • Assault
    • Robbery
    • Drug offenses


When a juvenile commits a more serious crime, the nature and severity of the crime, along with the juvenile’s age and prior criminal history, play a significant role in determining how the case is processed in the criminal justice system.

juvenile offender

Overview of the Process for Charging Juveniles as Adults

Arizona law allows for charging an individual as an adult when a juvenile commits a serious offense


This process, known as a "direct file" or "transfer," typically occurs for severe crimes, such as violent felonies or repeat offenses. 


The decision to charge a juvenile as an adult is influenced by several factors, including the following: 

  • The juvenile's age
  • The severity of the offense
  • Existence of prior delinquent history
  • The likelihood of rehabilitation within the juvenile justice system.

How Does The Transfer Process Work

  1. The process begins with the prosecutor's petition to transfer the case to adult court.
  2. A judge then evaluates the petition, considering factors such as the juvenile’s mental and emotional maturity, the circumstances of the offense, and any prior interventions.
  3. If the judge agrees with the prosecutor, the juvenile is transferred to adult court, where they face the same legal procedures and potential penalties as an adult offender.

Differences Between Juvenile and Adult Court Systems

Arizona's juvenile and adult court systems differ significantly in their approaches and objectives. 


Juvenile Court System

The juvenile justice system focuses on rehabilitation, aiming to provide education, treatment, and counseling to help young offenders reintegrate into society. 


Juvenile courts emphasize privacy, with proceedings generally closed to the public to protect the minor’s identity and prospects.


Adult Court System

In contrast, the adult court system prioritizes punishment and public safety.


Adult court proceedings are public, and convicted offenders face harsher penalties, including lengthy prison sentences. 


Additionally, adult convictions are part of the public record, potentially impacting the individual’s future opportunities for employment, education, and housing.

Contact us today to schedule a
how we can help you.

Common Juvenile Crimes Charged as Adult Offenses

Certain crimes are more likely to lead to juveniles being charged as adults, particularly those involving violence or severe harm.


Examples include:

  • Violent Felonies

    Crimes such as homicide, aggravated assault, and armed robbery are frequently transferred to adult court due to their serious nature and potential threat to public safety.

  • Sex Offenses

    Juveniles charged with sexual assault or related offenses may face adult charges, especially in cases involving significant harm or repeated conduct.

  • Drug Offenses

    Major drug offenses, including trafficking and distribution, can result in adult charges, particularly if the juvenile has prior convictions or is involved in organized criminal activities.

Statistics and Case Studies on Juveniles Tried as Adults in Arizona

Arizona has seen a notable number of juveniles tried as adults, reflecting a broader trend across the United States.


According to the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections, hundreds of juveniles are transferred to adult court yearly.


Studies indicate that these juveniles often receive harsher sentences than they would in juvenile court, highlighting the importance of skilled legal representation.


For instance, a case study involving a 16-year-old charged with armed robbery illustrates the complexity of such cases.


The juvenile, despite a lack of prior offenses, was transferred to adult court due to the violent nature of the crime.


However, the charges were mitigated with the help of a proficient criminal defense attorney, emphasizing the critical role of experienced legal counsel in such cases.

How a Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help

  • Steps a Defense Attorney Takes to Protect Juvenile Clients

    A criminal defense attorney plays a vital role in protecting the rights and future of juvenile clients.


    From the outset, an attorney thoroughly investigates the case, gathering evidence and identifying weaknesses in the prosecution’s arguments.


    They advocate for keeping the case in juvenile court, emphasizing the minor’s potential for rehabilitation and the benefits of juvenile justice interventions.

  • Importance of Specialized Knowledge in Juvenile Law

    Specialized knowledge in juvenile law is crucial for effective defense.


    Attorneys well-versed in both juvenile and adult legal systems can craft strategic defenses tailored to young clients' unique needs and circumstances.


    This expertise ensures juveniles receive the most favorable outcomes possible through dismissal, reduced charges, or alternative sentencing options.

  • Benefits of Working with a Criminal Defense Attorney from Kolsrud Law

    Choosing a criminal defense attorney from Kolsrud Law offers significant benefits, especially for juvenile cases.


    Our attorneys deeply understand juvenile law's unique aspects, ensuring every detail is handled correctly. We are skilled in negotiating with prosecutors, presenting solid arguments in court, and protecting the rights of our young clients throughout the legal process.


    Our dedicated support can significantly impact the outcome of a case, helping the juvenile move forward and reintegrate into society successfully.

Contact an Arizona Juvenile Defense Attorney

Understanding the complexities of juvenile crimes and the adult charge process is essential for protecting the rights and futures of young offenders.


By working with a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney, juveniles charged with serious offenses can navigate the legal system more effectively, ensuring that they receive fair treatment and opportunities for rehabilitation.


Kolsrud Law is well-equipped to provide comprehensive and dedicated defense services for those needing expert legal representation.


For more details on how Josh Kolsrud can assist with your case, or to schedule a free initial consultation, you can contact him directly at the Kolsrud Law Offices. He is available via phone at (602) 638-3790.

An award-winning criminal defense attorney Since 2006

Why Choose Josh Kolsrud

With over 100 trials to his name, and years of experience as a state and federal prosecutor, Josh understands the law, the legal process, and your rights. Josh is also committed to representing every client with utmost integrity and dedication



Josh has prosecuted major crimes on the state and federal level, led a successful anti-human sex trafficking operation that saved lives, and argued before countless juries and justices for his clients



Josh is an expert in both Arizona and federal criminal law, and is ready to put that expertise to work for you.



As a prosecutor, Josh saw far too many defendants lose their livelihood due to poor representation. Josh will always give every client his complete attention and effort

Get a Free Initial Consultation:

Complete our form below to get a free case review.
or call us at (480) 999-9444.