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When Can Juveniles Be Tried as Adults in Missouri? February 20, 2019

Columbia, Boone
When Can Juveniles Be Tried as Adults in Missouri?, Columbia, Missouri

Under most circumstances, adolescents are recognized for not having the same mental capacity to comprehend right from wrong in the same manner as an adult’s mature brain can. This is why the juvenile court system exists. However, there are some instances when Missouri criminal law believes it’s fitting for minors to receive the same treatment as those who are 18 years old and above. As such, if your child finds themselves in legal trouble, it’s crucial to understand when they can be tried as an adult.

What Missouri Laws Say About Prosecuting Juveniles as Adults

Recent Changes to Missouri Criminal Law Regarding Juvenile Offenses

For decades, Missouri criminal law has routinely tried 17-year-old defendants as adults. Last year, the state’s legislation passed a bill preventing minors from being prosecuted for misdemeanor and non-violent offenses in adult criminal court. When this change goes into effect in 2021, this means only 17-year-olds who are charged with more serious and violent crimes can have their cases heard in adult court. 

How the Court Decides if a Juvenile Should Be Tried as an Adult 

criminal lawIn Missouri, there are two ways a case can be transferred out of juvenile court. Using a discretionary waiver, a judge may order a transfer hearing for any felony offense. For statutorily-delineated offenses, the court is required to hold a transfer hearing. Also, if a minor has previously been certified and tried as an adult, they will always be considered an adult in the legal system. Additionally, the juvenile court will take a variety of factors into consideration, such as the seriousness of the crime, the defendant’s age and prior record, and the success of past rehabilitation efforts. 

Common Crimes That Qualify a Juvenile for Adult Court 

If any minor from the ages of 12 to 17 is charged with one of the felonies deemed to be more serious, they will likely qualify to stand trial as an adult. These crimes include first and second-degree murder, first-degree assault, first-degree robbery, forcible rape, forcible sodomy, and distribution of drugs. Juveniles who have committed two or more prior unrelated felonies will also be sent to adult criminal court automatically.


If your child is prosecuted as an adult, they could end up facing serious, long-lasting consequences. Fortunately, you can count on the Law Office of Mike Hamilton in Columbia, MO to zealously pursue a favorable outcome on their behalf. Having extensive experience in the legal field, he is familiar with the complexities of representing juveniles and can provide your family with trusted guidance. With so much at stake, you need a criminal law attorney who will fight aggressively to protect your son or daughter’s future. Call (573) 825-5698 to schedule a consultation, or visit him online to learn more about his qualifications.


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