As a criminal defense attorney located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, I have experience providing counsel to parents whose child has been charged with a criminal offense. Depending on the nature of the criminal charges, it is possible that your child may be tried as an adult in the state of Pennsylvania. In this article, I will explain discretionary, presumptive and statutory waivers, statutory exclusion, provide examples of children being charged as adults and the recidivism rate for juveniles in adult prisons.

What are Discretion, Presumptive, and Statutory Waivers and How Do They Affect Juvenile Sentencing in Pennsylvania?

A waiver occurs when a juvenile court judge transfers the case from juvenile to adult court. To issue a waiver, the alleged offense must be particularly egregious or has a history of offenses.

Discretional Waiver. When a child is at least 14 years old and is accused of a felony, the juvenile court may transfer the case to the adult court system if it finds that the public interest would be better protected. The law specifies several factors that must be considered in making the public interest determination.

These factors include:

  • The minor shows a willingness for treatment, supervision, and rehabilitation.
  • The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania must provide evidence proving the public interest would be better served by a transfer to the adult court system and that the child is not agreeable to treatment, supervision, and rehabilitation.

Presumptive Waiver. If the minor is 14 years old or older and uses a deadly weapon in the commission of the felony or if the minor is 15 years old or older and commits any serious offense such as rape or assault, then there is a presumption that the public interest would be better served by having the minor face criminal prosecution.

What is Statutory Exclusion in Pennsylvania?

Statutory Exclusion. There are situations in which a minor will always be charged as an adult. This known as statutory exclusion and happens in cases involving:

  • Murder. A minor will be charged as an adult for murder. Anyone charged with murder, no matter how young, will be charged as an adult in the state of Pennsylvania.
  • Voluntary manslaughter.A minor 15 years old or older can face voluntary manslaughter charges if a weapon was used in the commission of the crime or if the minor was previously adjudicated for one of several felonious offenses such as rape or robbery.
  • Crimes with a deadly weapon. A minor 15 years old or older can be charged as an adult for rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated assault, robbery, robbery of a motor vehicle, aggravated indecent assault, kidnapping, if the minor uses a deadly weapon.

What are Examples of Minors Facing the Adult Court System in Pennsylvania?

Leigh High Valley New – Allentown, Pennsylvania

Exzavier Scales, who was 17 when he was charged but is 18 now, was one of five teens charged as an adult in the Oct. 25 attack that hospitalized two teen boys.

Javien Sabater, who was 15 at the time, previously had his adult charges sent to juvenile court. On Tuesday, Lehigh County Judge James Anthony did the same thing for Scales; he remains free on 10 percent of $100,000 bail.

The other three adult defendants — Brian Pearsall, Isaiah Alarcon and Joushten Rodriguez — are all 18 and still awaiting trial in their cases.

Prosecutors allege the teens were part of an attack after school that involved a mob of 50 Dieruff High School students, 20 of whom attacked two teen boys.

The students charged as juveniles in the attack all reached agreements with prosecutors in juvenile court, where they admitted to charges of a felony count of riot and a misdemeanor count of simple assault.

Oren, who is a home-schooled 11th grader with a full-time job in the landscaping trade, is being charged as an adult because a weapon was used in the crime, authorities said.

Dingle and Oren are charged with robbery, conspiracy, theft and receiving stolen property. Dingle faces the additional charge of committing a crime with a firearm.

The Local Daily News – West Chester, Pennsylvania.

The woman detailed the ordeal suffered by her mother-in-law on the stand before Common Pleas Judge John Hall at the start of the three-hour-long preliminary hearing in the case of the 17-year-old teen.

On her head was duct taped a reusable cloth grocery bag. She had been without food or water for four days.

At the conclusion of the hearing, Judge Hall ordered the teen held on charges of attempted homicide, robbery, burglary, aggravated assault, strangulation, and related counts. The juvenile, whose name is being withheld by the Daily Local News, as are the identities of the victim and her daughter-in-law, was returned to the Chester County Youth Center at the conclusion of the hearing at the county Justice Center.

In addition to the attack on the woman, the teen is believed to have stolen credit cards, a laptop computer, cell home and the victim’s car, a Fiat 500. Dressed in a charcoal gray suit and a royal blue dress shirt but in shackles, the teen did not testify during the proceeding and made no statement to the court.

Pennsylvania’s second-degree murder law lets the jury convict anyone involved in a conspiracy to commit a felony crime that results in the death of the victim, regardless of whether they used the weapon.

What is the Recidivism Rate for Minors in Adult Prisons in Pennsylvania?

In adult prisons, minors are far less likely to receive important rehabilitative services they need. In addition, minors confined to adult prisons are more likely to be abused or attacked by adult prisoners.

Several studies in Pennsylvania have found that the recidivism rate for juveniles who served in adult prisons is significantly higher than those who remained in the juvenile system. In one Pennsylvania study, the rate of reoffense was reported to be 30% higher than the usual juvenile recidivism rate. The recidivism rate drops when juveniles are placed in community-based centers as an alternative to traditional residential facilities.

If your child is facing felony charges that can or will be tried in the adult court system, it is imperative that you have an experienced criminal defense attorney by your side. Contact the Fishman Law Firm for the experience needed to defend your child.