The prosecutor in a recent homicide case is seeking to try a 15-year-old suspect as an adult. What do Colorado laws have to say about this? First let’s look at the case itself.
Pueblo resident Johnny Dennel Jr., 15, turned himself in to authorities on Nov. 15. Police had been searching for him as a murder suspect since Francisco Alcon, 22, was fatally shot on Nov. 12. Both Alcon and Dennel are allegedly connected in the same street gang. After turning himself in, Dennel was quickly transferred to the Pueblo Youth Detention Center.
However, the district attorney’s office is now trying to have Dennel charged as an adult. The judge will have the final say in the matter, based on evidence that the prosecution presents.
How does that work?
Being Charged as a Juvenile in Colorado
Under Colorado law, any individual under the age of 18 years is normally considered a juvenile and therefore treated differently in the court system. If the individual is between the ages of 10 and 18, they can be charged as a juvenile for the following crimes:
- Violating state or federal laws
- Violating county or municipal ordinances
- Using or distributing tobacco products, alcohol, or marijuana
However, a juvenile case may be considered as an adult case if certain factors combine to warrant the transfer to district court. These factors include the following:
- The juvenile’s age
- The severity of the offense
- The juvenile’s history of delinquency
- The district attorney’s wish to transfer the case from juvenile court to district court
As the first three factors increase by degrees, the district attorney will be more likely to have the case transferred to district court.
The Specifics of Trying a Juvenile as an Adult According to Colorado Law
Colorado law states that a juvenile may be tried as an adult as early as age 12 if the charges are for a class 1 or 2 felony.
Another stipulation under the law is that a juvenile who is at least 14 may be tried as an adult if the same crime committed by an adult would be a felony, or if the crime in question has a previous history of being tried in or transferred to the district court.
A juvenile court must decide the best interests of both the public and the defendant. The court considers the following factors when deciding to transfer:
- Age and maturity level of the defendant, with home life and attitudes taken into consideration
- Mental health of the defendant, as determined by examinations
- Previous history of juvenile offenses and any other adjudications
- Projected likelihood of rehabilitation through sentencing
- Whether the alleged offense was intentional or violent in nature
- Whether the alleged offense was committed against people or property
- Whether a deadly weapon was used or threatened to be used in the alleged crime
- Impact on the victim
- Community protection against further offenses by the defendant
If a juvenile is age 16 or older, the district attorney can file a direct charge in the district court under the following conditions:
- Murder in first or second degree
- Homicide or assault with a vehicle
- Class 1 or 2 felony charge
- Class 3 felony of sexual assault
- Weapons offense, involving use, possession, or threat of use
- Arson charge
- Determination to be a habitual offender
If you know someone who is facing juvenile charges, it’s important to seek experienced legal counsel as soon as possible to avoid long-lasting, serious consequences. A seasoned attorney will know the best defenses to Colorado juvenile laws. Get in touch today for a free consultation.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012 and 2013 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.