Adult Runaway from Juvenile Court System

An 18 year old from southern Utah had been listed as a runaway from the Juvenile Court System despite the fact that he is technically an adult.

Adult runaway

Photo by: James Burrage

Social media is sadly inundated with reports of teens who have gone missing or who have runaway. If someone is missing, the online public is quick to share posts in an effort to find the lost and ensure their safety. Often people are missing because they left on their own accord. If the runaway is under the age of 18 but left on their own, everyone is quick to help find them. Once a person reaches the age of 18 however, many assume they are adults and should be left alone to make their own decisions. While this can be true in many cases, if the runaway is leaving a juvenile detention they have not been officially released from, they may not have the right to make the decision on leaving yet.

Extended juvenile court

Many Utah residents think teens who have been in a juvenile system will only remain there until they reach the age of 18. According to the Salt Lake County Division of Youth Services, “The Juvenile Court has the authority to deal with cases involving persons under 18 years of age, persons 18 years or older whose offenses occurred when the person was under the age of 18 and are under the continued jurisdiction of the Court. The Juvenile Court can maintain jurisdiction over any person up to the age of 21. The Juvenile Court can retain jurisdiction concerning persons over the age of 21, who has failed to comply with an order of the court to pay fines/restitution if the order was imposed prior to the person’s 21st birthday.”

Young is good

While most teens are itching to grow up and be adults so they can make all their own decisions, those who are facing criminal charges should be relieved when their cases can stay in juvenile court. Through the Juvenile Court system, teens and young adults may have more of an opportunity for education, rehabilitation, and restitution without the fear of spending time behind bars or ending up with a criminal record. For more information on the Juvenile Court System or for charges that may constitute an adult offense, contact a reputable criminal and juvenile defense attorney.

Students Arrested for Vehicle Theft after Police Pursuit Ends at Utah School

Two Utah students were arrested for vehicle theft after a police pursuit came to an end at their West Jordan high school.

Stealing a ride to school

Photo by: Mark Walker

While many high school students have a hard time waking up in time for class, two teens in West Jordan were up early enough to steal a vehicle. A few hours before Monday morning classes began, two teens found an unattended truck a couple miles away from Copper Hills High School and decided to take it for a spin. The teens were caught on camera speeding through the neighborhood and damaging some nearby landscaping. Eventually the teens eventually made their way to school where there were spotted by police. Instead of finding a parking spot along with other fellow students, the teens took off at a high rate of speed across the parking lot and into the football field. The teens then fled on foot and were apprehended while trying to hide from police.

Vehicle theft

The 17 year old boy and 16 year old girl who started their Monday morning off with some real life ‘Grand Theft Auto’ were taken to a nearby juvenile detention for evading police and vehicle theft. The penalty for theft in Utah varies depending on the value of the item stolen. When that item is an “operable motor vehicle” as stated in Section 76-6-412, the theft is punishable as a second degree felony. This is the case even if the car is a junker with very low monetary value.

Juvenile defense

Photo by: North Charlston

Unless the charges are serious felonies as listed in Utah’s Serious Youth Offender Law (78A-6-702), most cases involving minors will stay within the juvenile court’s jurisdiction. The juvenile court tends to be more lenient than the district court as they take into account what is best for the minor as well as the public. It is still best to consult with a juvenile defense attorney concerning any charges brought against minors, regardless of the severity of those charges.

When Juveniles are Charged as Adults

When a teenager commits a crime, their family may be shocked to discover the minor could be charged as an adult.

Juvenile court

Photo by: Francois Marcotte

Most charges brought against minors will be dealt with in juvenile court, where through education, rehabilitation, and treatment there may be a greater chance of earlier reintroduction to the public without extended time under house arrest or in juvenile detention. There are some instances when charges against minors are taken out of juvenile court however, leaving young teens to face similar penalties that adults would.

Serious felonies

Utah Courts states “There are several circumstances under which a juvenile may be tried in adult court. These include cases where the juvenile is fourteen years or older and has been charged with a serious felony.” Utah Code 78A-6-702 lists some of these serious felonies as:

i. “Aggravated arson
ii. Aggravated assault resulting in serious bodily injury to another;
iii. Aggravated kidnapping;
iv. Aggravated burglary;
v. Aggravated robbery;
vi. Aggravated sexual assault;
vii. Felony discharge of a firearm;
viii. Attempted aggravated murder; or
ix. Attempted murder; or
(b) [a felony offense with a dangerous weapon when there is a prior incident involving a felony offense with a dangerous weapon].”

Charged as an adult

Once it has been determined that the minor is facing one of these serious felonies, the “judge shall consider only the following:

i. Whether the minor [is repeat felony offender with a dangerous weapon];
ii. [if more than one person is involved], whether the minor appears to have a greater or lesser degree of culpability than the co-defendants;
iii. [if the minor’s role in the offense] was committed in a violent, aggressive, or premeditated manner;
iv. [prior legal trouble];
v. Whether public safety and the interests of the minor are better served by adjudicating the minor in the juvenile court or in the district court [and where they are best able to be rehabilitated].

Legal help for families of minors

Many Utah families expect leniency in court for their children and are surprised when teenagers ends up facing charges in district court where there is the possibility of years in prison. For this reason it is imperative to never assume the system will work in the favor of a minor and instead obtain the legal aid of a qualified defense attorney with experience in handling juvenile and district court cases.

Once an Adult, Always an Adult – Juveniles in the Adult Court System

Once an adult, always an adult. This phrase is used to describe what happens to juveniles in Utah when they are convicted in the adult court system.

Serious Youth Offender Act

Photo by: PRSA-NY
Photo by: PRSA-NY

When a teenager 16 years of age or older (and sometimes younger) is charged with serious offenses listed in the serious youth offender act, there case can be transferred to the adult district court. The crimes which can send a juvenile to adult court are found in Utah Code 78A-6-702 and include:

“(a) Any felony violation of:

(i) aggravated arson;

(ii) aggravated assault resulting in serious bodily injury to another;

(iii) aggravated kidnapping;

(iv) aggravated burglary;

(v) aggravated robbery;

(vi) aggravated sexual assault;

(vii) felony discharge of a firearm;

(viii) attempted aggravated murder; or

(ix) attempted murder; or”

(b) any subsequent felony offense involving the use of a dangerous weapon.

Charged as an adult…and then what?

So what happens to those under the age of 18 years old once they’ve been charged as an adult for one of the above crimes? Well, according to the state of Utah and 33 other states, they are no longer considered minors. Utah Code 78A-6-703 states “when a minor has been [found guilty] to the district court ( . . . ), the jurisdiction of the Division of Juvenile Justice Services and the jurisdiction of the juvenile court over the minor is terminated regarding that offense, any other offenses arising from the same criminal episode, and any subsequent misdemeanors or felonies charged against the minor ( . . . ) the district court retains jurisdiction over the minor for all purposes, including sentencing.”

Once an adult, always an adult

Once an adult, always an adult
Photo by: meesh

The above statute is known informally as “ once an adult, always an adult  “. This means that once a juvenile case has been transferred to adult district court, if the juvenile is found guilty, they will from there on out be considered adults for any other crime committed. According to a bulletin posted by the U.S. Department of Justice, once an adult, always an adult laws “are a special form of exclusion requiring criminal prosecution of any juvenile who has been criminally prosecuted in the past-usually without regard to the seriousness of the current offense.”

Keep things in juvenile court

An attorney who has experience in both juvenile court and adult district court knows how differently sentencing is carried out by each court and how drastically crimes are handled from that point out. This knowledge is why so many juvenile defenders fight to keep cases in juvenile court if possible. For more information regarding serious offenses by minors and how to keep kids out of adult court, contact a reputable juvenile defense attorney.

Differences between Juvenile Court and Adult Court in Utah

When a teenager in Utah is charged with a crime, it can be handled by either the juvenile court or the adult court and it is important to know the differences between the two.

Juvenile court

Juvenile Court or Adult Court
Photo by: State Farm

Although the juvenile court handles cases of criminal activity by minors, it is a civil court where the goal is not to punish kids but to teach and rehabilitate them while also ensuring that they are not a danger to the community. Utah Code 78A-6-102 states: “The purpose of the [juvenile] court is to:

(a) promote public safety and individual accountability by the imposition of appropriate sanctions on persons who have committed acts in violation of law;

(b) order appropriate measures to promote guidance and control, preferably in the minor’s own home, as an aid in the prevention of future unlawful conduct and the development of responsible citizenship;

(c) where appropriate, order rehabilitation, reeducation, and treatment for persons who have committed acts bringing them within the court’s jurisdiction;

(d) adjudicate matters that relate to minors who are beyond parental or adult control and to establish appropriate authority over these minors by means of placement and control orders;

(e) adjudicate matters that relate to abused, neglected, and dependent children and to provide care and protection for minors by placement, protection, and custody orders;

(f) remove a minor from parental custody only where the minor’s safety or welfare, or the public safety, may not otherwise be adequately safeguarded; and

(g) consistent with the ends of justice, act in the best interests of the minor in all cases and preserve and strengthen family ties.”

Adult criminal court

If a teenager is charged with a felony listed under Utah’s Serious Youth Offender Act (78A-6-7), their case can be transferred to adult court where they can face serious repercussions including hefty fines and lengthy imprisonment. Offenses that are included in the Serious Youth Offender Act include:

• aggravated cases of arson;
• assault;
• kidnapping;
• burglary;
• robbery; and
• sexual assault; as well as
• felony discharge of a firearm;
• attempted aggravated murder; or
• attempted murder; or
• any subsequent offense involving the use of a dangerous weapon;

Juvenile defense attorney

Unfortunately in adult court, it is less lenient that juvenile court and those facing adult criminal charges should expect their sentencing to include more punishment without so much focus on education and rehabilitation. Additionally, once a case goes to adult court, those records which include the juvenile’s name are released to the public. For these reasons, it is imperative that juveniles and their parents and/or guardians seek counsel from a criminal defense attorney who has dealings with both the juvenile court as well as the adult court, and who will try diligently to keep all cases against minors within the juvenile court jurisdiction.