When Will a Juvenile Be Charged as an Adult in Tennessee?Kids don’t always show the best judgement. It’s why we have specific crimes and courts established to go a little lighter on younger members of our society who are still learning from their mistakes. The general idea is that they shouldn’t have to throw their lives away so early if they can turn things around and get back on the right track. Their minds are still developing and there are exceptions made for that fact.

Some crimes just cannot be overlooked from the standpoint of being treated as an adult. These are typically crimes of a more serious or violent nature. Because of the harm inflicted on the victim or due to what’s in the public’s best interest, a juvenile crime may be upgraded to adult charges with grown up consequences. While sometimes the charges may fit, others may be instances of playing hardball as a strategic career move by prosecutors. Neither instance means you should be considered guilty. No matter the crime, you are still entitled to a criminal defense that provides you with a fair outcome.

Are there crimes when age is no longer a factor?

Generally, 18 years of age is the threshold in Tennessee when a child can be charged as an adult. That said, there are situations where the state is permitted to overlook a child’s tender age suddenly thrusting him or her into the adult criminal justice system. If the crime falls under the right category, there is no minimum age that would bar a child from being subjected to the same penalties as an adult:

  • A child who is at least 16 years old may be transferred for committing any crime.
  • A child of any age may be transferred for crimes against the person, such as rape, aggravated robbery, aggravated kidnapping, or the attempt.
  • A child of any age may be transferred for first or second degree murder, or the attempt.

The reasonable grounds used to determine whether a child who commits a qualifying crime may be transferred to adult criminal court includes the belief that:

  • The child committed the offense alleged
  • The child is not committable to a mental institution
  • It serves the interests of the community to place the child under legal restraint

Do kids in Tennessee really end up in adult criminal court?

Yes, they do.

In Nashville, five teens were accused of killing musician, Kyle Yorlets, in 2019. Two of the defendants who were 15 and 16 years old at the time, will be tried as adults for first degree murder, robbery and theft. A 12 year old was also charged in the crime.

In October 2019, two Knoxville teens were sentenced in adult criminal court for their participation in killing two men and injuring another. One teen was convicted of two felony murder counts and attempted second-degree murder for which he received a life sentence. The other teen was convicted of facilitation to commit felony murder and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

What happens if my child is convicted in adult criminal court?

Something to keep in mind is that a child who has been transferred to adult court for disposition of his or her crime is now considered an adult under the law when it comes to being charged and tried for criminal acts.

While awaiting trial, if your child is ordered to be held in a detention facility, he or she will be held in an area of an adult facility separate from the adult inmates. However, your child will be required to follow all policies and rules as they apply to adult inmates.

If your child is convicted, his or her sentence will be served out in a juvenile correction facility until the age of 16, at which point he or she may be transferred to an adult correctional facility.

Being charged as an adult when you’re just beginning your life holds heavy consequences most children don’t fully grasp at the time they’ve been arrested. If you are innocent, you may not be worried at all because you believe that you won’t be punished once they realize they have the wrong person. Unfortunately too many times law enforcement builds cases on what they think they can prove rather than based on actual guilt. That means you could end up going to prison.

Even if a minor is involved in a crime, there may be mitigating circumstances that take an adult charge and penalty off the table. To fully understand your legal options you need an attorney who recognizes what’s at stake with a juvenile crime. The Knoxville criminal defense attorneys at Banks & Jones fight hard to give your child the chance at life that you wanted him or her to have. To arrange for an informative consultation today call 865.290.2663 or we invite you to reach out to us through our contact form.