Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

Full Bio →

Written by

UPDATED: Feb 20, 2013

Advertiser Disclosure

It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right legal decisions.

We strive to help you make confident insurance and legal decisions. Finding trusted and reliable insurance quotes and legal advice should be easy. This doesn’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own.

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about legal topics and insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything legal and insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by experts.

If you are arrested as an adult for an offense you committed when you were a juvenile, the court venue and overall procedural path the case takes will depend on the severity of the alleged crime, your age at the time of the alleged crime, and your current age.

Do Juvenile Courts Handle Only Juvenile Cases?

In most states, juvenile courts have jurisdiction only over delinquent acts, meaning offenses committed by an individual under 18 that, if committed by an adult, would be considered crimes. If a juvenile under 18 years of age is convicted of a delinquent act and placed under court supervision, but is not rehabilitated by the age of 18, the court’s jurisdiction continues until the individual’s 21st birthday.

Most states do not, however, give juvenile courts jurisdiction over serious offenses, such as rape and armed robbery, when alleged against juveniles over 15 or 16. Thus, if the individual is 17, these severe offenses are not deemed to be delinquent acts, but are instead filed in a regular criminal court as a crime committed by an adult. This severe crime exception to the general rule of delinquent acts being handled in juvenile courts is what is referred to as a juvenile being “tried as an adult.” The age limitations for these severe crime exceptions can differ from state to state.

Get Legal Help Today

Find the right lawyer for your legal issue.

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

How These Cases Are Treated

If you are currently an adult but have been arrested for a crime you allegedly committed when you were a juvenile, various possibilities exist for how your case might be handled. Much depends on state law and the severity of the alleged act. In most states, for example, if you were 17 when you allegedly committed murder, your case will automatically go to adult court even though you were a minor at the time, due to the aforementioned exception for severe crimes.

However, if you committed a non-serious offense at the age of 16 or younger, and are arrested after reaching 18, your case will most likely go through juvenile court as long as you are not older than 21. However, if you have been arrested at the age of 22 or above, most juvenile courts would lack jurisdiction over the case, no matter what the alleged crime was or how old you were at the time.

But you should also note that if you are over 21 and are arrested for a crime you allegedly committed as a minor, there could be a statute of limitations issue. Depending on the type of crime and how long ago the alleged crime occurred, you might even be able to have the case dismissed because the statute of limitations for filing has expired. You can discuss the statute of limitations issue as well as others with a criminal defense lawyer who has experience with juvenile cases.