People mistakenly believe that minors facing delinquency charges in Nevada are always tried in juvenile court. In fact their cases may be transferred to criminal court for adults if the offense is serious enough.
Whenever a minor is convicted as an adult, the child may not only be headed to juvenile hall. But also the child has a criminal record that could derail his/her future school and job prospects.
Our Las Vegas juvenile defense attorneys are sensitive to the needs of young defendants. We also understand the importance of trying to keep their cases in juvenile court.
Scroll down to learn about certification of children for criminal proceedings as adults in Nevada. We explain the process and how we may be able to stop it.
Does Juvenile Court have jurisdiction over all children in Las Vegas, NV?
Any charge allegedly committed by someone under 18 will initially be handled in juvenile court. But if the charge is serious the state may try to "certify" the child for adult criminal proceedings and prosecute the juvenile as an adult.
Can all child defendants be certified for adult criminal court in Las Vegas, NV?
No. For the most part only kids over 13 accused of felony-level delinquencies can be certified. And even then they may still be able to stay in juvenile court depending on the circumstances.
What is the procedure for certifying a juvenile for adult criminal court in Las Vegas, NV?
The prosecutor makes a motion to the court requesting that the minor be certified for transfer to adult court. there is a full investigation into the matter. Then the court holds a hearing where the child's attorney argues against the certification. Finally the judge makes a decision.
When can a child defendant be certified for adult criminal court in Las Vegas, NV?
It depends on the delinquency charges. There are some cases where the judge must certify the child to adult criminal court no matter what. But there are others where the judge retains the discretion to keep the child in juvenile court:
A Las Vegas juvenile court judge must certify a minor for adult criminal proceedings when:
- the child was 16 or 17 at the time of the alleged delinquency, AND
- the charge was for either a sexual assault (rape) or any Nevada crime involving a firearm.
But even here there are exceptions under Nevada law. The court cannot transfer a minor to be tried as an adult if there is "clear and convincing evidence" that:
- the child is developmentally or mentally incompetent to understand the situation, OR
- The child has substance abuse or emotional or behavioral problems that may be treated through juvenile court.
Note that a minor accused of the Nevada crime of murder is always adjudicated as an adult.
Otherwise, a Nevada juvenile court judge may certify a minor for adult criminal court when:
- the child was 14 or older at the time of the alleged offense, AND
- the delinquency charge would have been a felony if committed by an adult
In these cases the child's attorney would fight to keep the case in juvenile court. Among other things, the attorney could argue that certification would not serve the public good.
If a minor is charged with more than one offense, can they all be transferred to adult criminal court in Las Vegas NV?
Yes, if all the delinquency charges arise out of the same set of circumstances. For example:
Susan is seventeen and offers a john to have sex with him for money. While in their Henderson hotel room, Susan steals his Rolex watch.
Here, Susan would be charged with the juvenile equivalent of the following Nevada offenses:
- the Las Vegas crime of grand larceny (a felony), and
- the Las Vegas crime of soliciting prostitution (a misdemeanor)
Susan may be certified for adult court because grand larceny in Henderson is a felony. If the case is in fact moved from juvenile to adult court, the prostitution charge would be transferred as well. This is because both charges arose out of the same event.
Can a juvenile case that was transferred to criminal court then be transferred back to juvenile court in Las Vegas, NV?
It is possible. The child's lawyer may petition for a transfer back to Las Vegas juvenile court. However, the court must find that there are "exceptional circumstances" to warrant the transfer.
A common example of an "exceptional circumstance" is ineffective assistance of counsel. Another example may be a serious procedural error committed by the judge or prosecutor.
- Nevada Juvenile Justice Services: A branch of Nevada's Division of Child and Family Services. They serve youth under 21 who have been committed for delinquent behavior or mental health treatment.
- Nevada Child Welfare Services: Also a branch of Nevada's Division of Child and Family Services. It helps assess the needs of children and their families in order to help provide shelter, foster care and counseling among other services.
Is your child facing criminal charges?
We are here to help ...
If your child was arrested, it is imperative you retain counsel at once to safeguard their rights. Call our Las Vegas juvenile defense lawyers at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) to talk for free.