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March 6, 2019

Transferring Juvenile Cases to Adult Court in Indiana

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Posted by: GDS Law Group, LLP

The juvenile justice system exists to handle crimes committed by minors, and to focus on providing rehabilitation rather than punishment. Not all children charged with crimes remain in juvenile court. Under Indiana law, some juvenile cases can be transferred to adult court, depending on the child’s age and the nature of their charges.

Knowing when waiver could be possible is essential for families with pending juvenile cases. A bad situation can become much worse if a child’s case transfers. If you fear your child’s case may be moved to adult court, contact the Anderson juvenile defense lawyers from GDS Law Group right away. Contact us today at (765) 313-7092 to schedule a free consultation of your case.

Waiver of Jurisdiction

Moving a child from juvenile to adult court is called “waiver of jurisdiction.” A waiver of jurisdiction means the juvenile court gives up its legal oversight of the case – including applying juvenile laws as to process and punishment – in favor of adult court. According to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, there are two types of waivers under Indiana law:


The court may move your child’s case to adult court if they are at least 14 years of age, and it finds:

  • Probable cause that your son or daughter committed the alleged offense, or they have a history of committing such acts
  • The juvenile justice system in Indiana cannot rehabilitate your son or daughter
  • Moving the case to adult court is in the best interests of community safety

The court may waive jurisdiction of your child’s case if they are at least 16 years of age, and if it finds:

  • Probable cause that your son or daughter committed a drug-related felony
  • Moving jurisdiction to adult court is in the best interests of community safety

If your child is at least 10-years-old and accused of murder, or if they are at least 16 and accused of involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, or certain drug cases, and it finds probable cause, a juvenile court will waive jurisdiction. However, according to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the juvenile court may deny the waiver if “it would be in the best interest of the child and of the safety and welfare of the community.”

To determine probable cause, the judge in your child’s case will decide if enough evidence that a crime was committed was presented during the waiver hearing.

If the fact pattern of your child’s case suggests this type of waiver, the judge still has discretion over the transfer. The law provides the court may waive jurisdiction, but is not required to do so. Even where the law says “shall,” a judge can still refuse to transfer your son or daughter’s case if they find that keeping it in the juvenile system is in the best interest of the child or community.


The juvenile court shall waive jurisdiction over your child’s case if they are any age, and:

  • Face felony charges
  • They were previously convicted of a felony or non-traffic misdemeanor

In these cases, the court is not required to find probable cause or determine your child’s or community’s interest.

Statutory Exclusion

Beyond the above waivers, your child’s case could also be moved to adult court pursuant to a “statutory exclusion.”

Under Indiana law, several offenses are excluded from juvenile court jurisdiction if your child is at least 16. These crimes include murder, kidnapping, and felonies related to gangs, weapons, and drugs. The adult court retains all jurisdiction if any of these charges are present, even over less significant charges.

Once an Adult, Always an Adult

A child who has previously been waived to adult court no longer is protected by juvenile law. That is why waivers of jurisdiction are serious matters. Not only does your child face harsher punishment if found guilty in adult court, but their moved case will be a matter of public record. Convictions in adult court can affect every aspect of your son or daughter’s life for years, resulting in fewer education and employment choices.

For Help With Juvenile Cases, Contact Us Today

When your child is charged with a crime, it may be the first time your family has been exposed to the legal system. It can be a frightening and overwhelming time without the guidance of an experienced juvenile defense attorney.

Because Indiana law takes juvenile cases moving to adult court seriously, it is crucial to seek legal help for your child. Call an attorney from GDS Law Group at (765) 313-7092, or reach out online to schedule a free consultation of your case.

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