Juvenile Tried As An Adult in Colorado Springs
Colorado's criminal laws generally define a person under 18 years of age as a "juvenile." In most cases, juveniles who are arrested on suspicion of a crime, even a serious felony offense, will face the Colorado juvenile courts and the laws that govern juvenile crime, rather than the standard courts and criminal code.
Colorado law generally gives the juvenile justice system the power to try any case in which a juvenile is suspected of breaking a Colorado state criminal law or a municipal ordinance in which the juvenile may face more than 10 days in jail.
Some charges, however, are so serious that Colorado law allows the juvenile court to transfer the case to the district court, even if the young person involved is still under 18 years of age. In these cases, the young person will be "tried as an adult," under the same laws, standards, and court rules used to try individuals (aged 18 years old or older) who are charged with breaking the same law.
Some juvenile felony cases may be transferred to the district courts if the district attorney believes the juvenile involved in the case should be tried as an adult. In order to be tried as an adult, a young person must be at least 12 years old and be charged with committing a Class 4 or higher felony. Often, a case will not be transferred unless the juvenile charged also has a prior record of cases appearing in the juvenile or district courts. The National Juvenile Justice Center notes that about two-thirds of the juvenile cases transferred to district court involve violent crimes, such as robbery or aggravated assault.
Juveniles who are at least 16 years old and who are charged with committing a Class 1 or Class 2 felony, certain violent felonies, and/or a felony involving a weapon may see their cases filed directly in the district court, instead of beginning in the juvenile court and transferring at a later date. These cases will also involve having the juvenile charged tried as an adult, even if they are only 16 or 17 years old.
In most cases, the decision whether or not to try a particular juvenile as an adult rests with the prosecutor. The factors that may influence the prosecutor's decision include:
- The age of the juvenile. Colorado law requires a juvenile to be at least 12 years of age in order to be tried as an adult.
- The type of offense charged. More serious offenses are more likely to be sent to the district court.
- The extent of the juvenile's past history with the juvenile justice system, if any. Juveniles who have been found "delinquent" multiple times or tried several different reform options without success have a higher chance of being tried as an adult.
- Whether the district attorney originally filed the case with the district court or is transferring the case from the juvenile court to the district court.
The district attorney may also choose to file charges directly with the district court, which means the juvenile will be tried as an adult from the start of the case. However, these charges can only be filed if:
- The juvenile was 16 years old or older when the alleged crime was committed,
- The juvenile is charged with a Class 1 or Class 2 felony, a crime of violence, a felony involving a weapon, or possessing or threatening to use a weapon, or
- The juvenile is charged with vehicular homicide, vehicular theft, or arson, or
- The juvenile is charged with a Class 3 felony, or a sexual assault, or
- The juvenile has at least one prior juvenile delinquency or adult conviction within the past 2 years for committing a felony, or is a habitual juvenile offender.
A juvenile who faces being tried as an adult needs the assistance of an experienced defense lawyer that has experience with both the juvenile and adult justice systems. Attorney Timothy Bussey has experience as a El Paso and Teller County Deputy District Attorney and has handled serious felony cases in both the juvenile and district courts. He can help you build an aggressive defense based on the facts of the individual case, one that protects the charged young person's rights while seeking the best possible outcome. To learn more, contact The Bussey Law Firm, P.C. today for a free and confidential consultation.