How Texas is Fast-tracking Juvenile Offenders to Adult Jails

The process by which Texas transfers juveniles into the adult system has been almost routine in past years. However, the fast-tracking of juvenile offenders is under fire.

Recently, Houston Public Media highlighted the case of Miguel Navarro. He was just 15 when he stabbed a 20-year-old during a fight at a party at Katy in Texas. The man died of his injuries.

The Houston Public Media report pointed out the stabbing took place during a confused fight. Nararro and his older brother were abused for being Hispanics and attacked by the older group at the party.

Navarro was arrested and charged with murder the morning after the party. He was from an impoverished background and his family relied on a court-appointed defense attorney.

Juvenile offenders are being fast-tracked to adult jails

He was advised by his court-appointed attorney he would be treated leniently in an adult court due to his youth. The tactic backfired. Navarro was sentenced to 99 years.

Navarro is now 24. He has been behind bars since he was a teenager. The Houston Public Media report made it clear what happened to Navarro was no anomaly when it comes to juveniles tried as adults in Texas.

Navarro’s case will be heard by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. A recent case sheds new and disturbing light on how easily juveniles are transferred to adult courts in Texas.

In the 20 years from 1995 to 2015, more than 5,200 teens were certified as adults in the state.

Navarro researched the facts in prison. He found the case of Cameron Moon, another teen from Texas who was tried as an adult.

The Impact of the Cameron Moon Case on Juvenile Offenders in Texas

The case of Cameron Moon v. State of Texas, led to a change in the way juvenile offenders are treated in Texas. The Court of Criminal Appeals found a standardized procedure was used to transfer Moon, who was indicted for murder when he was 16, to the adult courts.

The Court of Criminal Appeals heard arguments from Moon’s lawyer that the juvenile court abused its discretion in waiving jurisdiction.

The juvenile court failed to provide a specific statement detailing reasons for the waiver.

Moon’s attorney said the juvenile court misunderstood and misapplied the factors it was meant to consider in whether to waive jurisdiction. The conclusions the juvenile court reached about Moon’s sophistication and maturity were not supported by the evidence.

The Court of Criminal Appeals said the evidence the juvenile court used related to assess Moon’s sophistication and maturity was inadequate. The court said the evidence used to support the findings about the protection of the public and the likelihood of Moon’s rehabilitation was also flawed.

Unlike the adult system, the juvenile justice system has an emphasis on the rehabilitation of offenders.

The Moon decision led to new legislation and has meant waivers to adult courts can no longer be rubber stamped. An upsurge in appeals is likely.

If you are a juvenile who has been charged with a serious crime, you will likely to face an adult court. A conviction at a young age can ruin your future. Call Peek & Toland for a consultation at (512) 474-4445.

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