How do Juveniles get into Adult Court?

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Most people realize that juveniles are treated differently than adults in criminal cases. Even the Supreme Court has gone out of its way to issue numerous rulings (see Brown v. State, 10 N.E.3d 1 (Ind. 2014) and Fuller vs. State, 9 N.E.3d 653 (Ind. 2014)) specifically mentioning that juveniles should be treated differently because they have not fully matured, often don’t fully recognize the wrongfulness of their acts, and are able to be rehabilitated with proper programming. Yet, there are mechanisms that prosecutors have to treat juveniles like adults. This blog will address the ways in which prosecutors attempt to get juveniles into adult court.

The three main ways that juveniles end up in criminal court are: (1) direct file into adult court, (2) waiver from juvenile court, and (3) prior successful waiver and subsequent felony charges.

Direct File:

If a juvenile is charged with a criminal charge listed in IC 31-30-1-4 AND is 16 or 17 years of age, the prosecutor’s office can seek to directly file the juvenile in adult court.  These fillings do not require a hearing in juvenile court and the judge has no discretion in the decision. It is a mandatory direct file if requested and the statutory requirements are met.

The most common charges are as follows:

  1. Attempted Murder
  2. Murder
  3. Kidnapping
  4. Rape
  5. Robbery with a deadly weapon
  6. Robbery causing serious bodily injury
  7. Carrying a handgun without a license as a felony on school property


Under IC 31-30-3, the prosecutor’s office can seek to waive juveniles to adult court from juvenile court. Different from the direct file process, in a waiver procedure the juvenile’s case is first filed in juvenile court. When a prosecutor believes the conditions exist for a waiver, they must file the appropriate paperwork and a hearing MUST be held. Also, in contrast to the direct file process, the judge has absolute discretion when it comes to sending the juvenile to adult court or not (in most cases).  There are three different types of waivers:

  1. Discretionary Waivers under IC 31-30-3-2 and IC 31-30-3-3,
    1. whereby the juvenile is 14 to 17 years old, and:
      1. committed a heinous or aggravated act
      2. has a history of repetitive criminal activity
  • is beyond rehabilitation, and
  1. it is in the best interest of the community
  1. whereby the juvenile is 16 to 17 years old, and:
    1. it is a drug offense, and
    2. is in the best interest of the community
  2. Presumptive Waivers under IC 31-30-3-4 and IC 31-30-3-5, whereby the juvenile is 12 to 15
    1. whereby the juvenile is 12 to 15 years old, and:
      1. the charge is murder, and
      2. is in the best interest of the community
    2. whereby the juvenile is 16 to 17 years old, and:
      1. the charge is a level 1 to level 4, and
      2. is in the best interest of the community
    3. Mandatory Waivers under IC 31-30-3-6, whereby the juvenile has any prior adult conviction for a non-traffic related offense

Prior Successful Waiver & Subsequent Felony Charge:

According to IC 31-30-1-2, if a juvenile has been waived in the past to adult court, they will be automatically waived to adult court on any new felony. However, if they have been previously waived on a prior felony and are arrested on a new MISDEMEANOR, they are not automatically waived. The automatic waiver only applies for previous felony waivers and subsequent felony charges, not misdemeanors.

Should you or a loved one face a possible waiver or direct file into adult court as a juvenile, it is essential that you hire an experience Juvenile defense attorney. The attorneys are Banks & Brower, LLC can absolutely help you through this often-cumbersome situation. Give us a call 24/7/365 at 317.870.0019 or email us at

*** The IndyBar put on an excellent CLE titled, Children in Criminal Court, Reverse Waiver and Alternative Sentencing by Jill Johnson and Jessica Cicchini, whereby information for this blog was used.