When Can a Minor Be Tried as an Adult in Las Vegas?

Most of us recognize that when children make mistakes or break the law, they should be treated differently than adults because they do not always know what they are doing or understand the consequences of their actions. Nevertheless, Nevada law recognizes a few circumstances under which a child can be tried as an adult. If your child is accused of a crime or you are under 18 years old and facing criminal charges, it is crucial to know what Nevada’s rules are for trying children as adults.

If you or your child are facing the possibility of being tried as an adult in Las Vegas, I can help. I am a Nevada criminal defense attorney with more than 16 years of experience.  I have won cases before the Nevada Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Defending the rights of juvenile defendants is part of my job. I have direct experience with juveniles tried as adults cases and juvenile felony charge cases. I will work diligently to try to prevent you from being tried as an adult. Being charged with a crime is a scary experience, but I will be by your side until the end of your case. For more information, contact the Law Office of Joel M. Mann today.

When Can a Juvenile Be Charged as an Adult?

The rules for trying children as adults in Nevada are found in Section 62B.390 of the Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS). According to the law, judges may certify that a child can be tried as an adult in the following circumstances:

  • Children ages 13-15 may be certified as adults if they are accused of murder or attempted murder
  • Children age 14 and older may be certified as adults if they are accused of a crime that would be a felony if committed by someone age 18 or older
  • Children ages 16-17 must be certified as adults in most cases if they are accused of a sex crime or weapons offense

Discretionary Certification

There are two different kinds of certification when trying children as adults in Nevada. The first is known as discretionary certification. Discretionary certification means that a judge has the option and authority to have a child tried as an adult, but the judge does not have to do so. In cases with discretionary certification, an experienced Las Vegas juvenile defense lawyer may be able to argue that the child should not have to be tried as an adult, sparing the child from more severe penalties for their alleged offense.

However, there are also cases when a judge must certify that a child should be tried as an adult. These offenses are known as “mandatory certification” cases.

If a child is accused of murder or attempted murder and is over the age of 13, the court does not have discretion to certify and it will be presumed to be certified as an adult.  If a child is 14 or older and is charged with felonies, the prosecutor may petition the court to be certified as an adult.  If the crime involves a gun, the certification is presumed, but that presumption can be rebutted during the proceedings. 

Even in cases where judges are generally required to certify a juvenile offender as an adult, some exceptions are built into the law. Specifically, judges can avoid certifying a child as an adult offender if there is clear and convincing evidence that:

  • The juvenile offender cannot understand their situation because of mental incompetence; or
  • The juvenile offender has behavior or substance abuse issues that would be better treated through the juvenile justice system

How Do Courts Certify a Juvenile as an Adult?

The certification process begins when the prosecutor files a motion with the court requesting the juvenile offender be transferred to adult court. Once the motion has been filed, the court will hold a hearing and weigh the facts of the case to determine whether the juvenile should be certified as an adult. After the hearing is complete, the judge will decide whether to certify the child as an adult. If the child is certified, their case is transferred to adult court. Otherwise, their case will stay in the juvenile system.

Can All Children Be Certified as Adults?

Some people wonder, “At what age can you be tried as an adult?” As a general rule in Nevada, only children age 13 and older can potentially be certified as adults, and even then, only under certain circumstances. Otherwise, juvenile offenders will usually be tried in delinquency court rather than criminal court.

What Are the Differences Between Juvenile Court and Regular Court?

From a procedural point of view, the most significant difference between juvenile court cases and regular court cases in Nevada is that a judge usually handles juvenile cases without a jury. However, the biggest difference between juvenile court and adult court is the desired outcome for the alleged offender.

In juvenile court, the goal is to get the offender the help they need to avoid future criminal behavior. This means that offenders generally do not face jail sentences, as they are more likely to be sentenced to counseling, community service, etc. In adult court, convicted offenders may not be eligible for alternative sentencing unless they meet certain conditions.

Are Criminal Penalties Harsher than Juvenile Ones?

The penalties for being sentenced as an adult are much harsher than those for being sentenced as a juvenile. Juvenile offenders generally do not face lengthy prison sentences or hefty fines, as they often receive alternative sentences to prevent them from committing additional crimes. On the other hand, adults have to face whatever the standard penalties are for their alleged offense, and those can be quite severe (depending on the case).

Contact Joel M. Mann for Help with Your Case Today

As a parent, you likely never expected that your child would be charged with a crime. You are likely feeling scared, anxious about their future, and unsure of what to do to protect them. I am committed to providing high-quality representation for juvenile offenders. Contact the Law Offices of Joel M. Mann today through our online form or by calling at (702) 474-6266 to learn more about how I can help you and your family.