When Can a Minor Be Tried as an Adult in MN?

Generally, minors are subject to the jurisdiction of the juvenile court system. This means children will face different consequences and have access to more programs and rehabilitation than those tried in an adult court. Even so, a juvenile can have their case certified to an adult criminal court in certain situations. Usually, certification is based on the severity of the crime and/or offender history. Moreover, Minnesota state law presumes serious crimes by minors will be certified to adult court. Juveniles at risk of having their case certified to adult court can rebut the presumption by providing clear and convincing evidence that maintaining jurisdiction in juvenile court would not endanger public safety.

To discuss your case with one of our Minneapolis attorneys, call Brockton D. Hunter P.A. at (612) 979-1112 or contact us online today.

An Overview of Minnesota’s Juvenile Justice System

Minnesota's juvenile justice system works a bit differently than the one for adults. The system focuses on helping young offenders learn from their mistakes and return to a better path. Rather than being a criminal prosecution with the goal of punishing the minor, juvenile court cases are civil matters aimed at holding the minor responsible for any wrongful conduct and providing necessary rehabilitation.

Juvenile courts have legal jurisdiction over individuals under 18 when evidence suggests wrongful conduct, allowing minors to receive appropriate help if needed. Both parents and young people must understand how this system works to ensure that their rights are protected.

When Juvenile Cases Can Be Handled by Adult Court

Specific stipulations must be met for an adult court to have jurisdiction over a minor’s case. Per state law, children under 14 years of age are not legally capable of committing crimes and cannot be tried as an adult, no matter what the offense is.

However, for minors over 14 who commit severe offenses or have a history of criminal activity, their case may be sent to adult court. This means that those above this age face steep consequences for their actions because the penalties for adults tend to be harsher than those given to juveniles. One mistake can have lifelong consequences for teenagers.

How Juvenile Cases Are Certified to Adult Court

In Minnesota, a juvenile’s case can be transferred to adult court if certain criteria are met. The prosecutor must make a motion for certification. Then the juvenile court must find sufficient evidence that the minor committed a felony-level offense and that the dispositions allowed in juvenile court would not serve public safety.

When weighing the issue of serving public safety, the judge will consider many factors, including the following:

  • The severity of the offense
  • The child’s involvement
  • The child’s delinquency history
  • The appropriateness of the punishment and programming in juvenile court
  • The child’s past inclination to participate in rehabilitation programming
  • The disposition options available in juvenile court

After reviewing the facts, Minnesota's courts will decide whether to certify the juvenile’s case to adult court.

A Presumption of Certification to Adult Court

In certain situations, a juvenile’s case may be sent to adult court due to certain presumptions under the law.

These circumstances include matters where the juvenile:

  • Was 16 or 17 years of age and committed a felony,
  • Committed a felony carrying a presumptive prison sentence, or
  • Used a firearm while committing a felony.

If the minor were alleged to have committed first-degree murder and were 16 years of age or older at the time of the offense, their case would go straight to adult court.

Possible Outcomes for Minors Tried as Adults

It’s important to be aware of the possible outcomes for minors tried as adults. While the judge in juvenile court may decide upon fines, probation, counseling, home detention, or community service as suitable dispositions for a minor’s case, a matter heard in adult court could result in much more severe punishments. If found guilty, the minor is subject to the same criminal penalties that apply to adults: confinement, fines, and other pertinent forms of punishment.

Rebutting Certification to Adult Court

All is not lost if a minor is in danger of having their case certified to adult court. The juvenile can rebut this presumption by providing strong evidence that it's in the public's best interest for the matter to remain in juvenile court. This evidence must be clear and convincing and demonstrate that the decision would protect the safety of individuals in their community. Though challenging, it's possible to make a compelling argument that shows the betterment of society would be served if the juvenile court took on the case.

If your child has been accused of an offense, reach out to an attorney for help. At Brockton D. Hunter P.A., we handle juvenile cases and protect the rights of those involved.

Contact our Minneapolis team by calling (612) 979-1112 today.