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Can Minors Be Tried as Adults in Washington?

Posted by Mark Garka | May 17, 2019 | 0 Comments

Culpability is a noun that means, “responsibility for a fault or wrong; blame.” In the legal world, culpability plays a vital role in every criminal case; especially when the accused is underage.

In general, the law sees minors as less culpable than adults for their crimes, which is why the penalties and process vary between an accused minor and an accused adult. However, is it possible for a minor to be tried as an adult in Washington?

Minors Tried as Adults in Washington

In short, minors can be tried as adults in Washington, but a recent bill passed in 2018 significantly changed how the prosecution could try minors as adults. Before the revised law, youths aged 16/17 charged with robbery or burglary in the first degree would automatically be tried as adults.

Under the new law, adult courts automatically handle the following charges under the following circumstances:

  1. 16 or 17-year-olds charged with a serious violent offense;
  2. 16 or 17-year-olds charged with a violent offense with one of the following: (A) Two or more prior violent offenses; OR (B) Three or more class A or class B misdemeanors, vehicular assault, manslaughter in the second degree all committed after the age of 13;
  3. 16 or 17-year-olds charged with rape of a child in the first degree.

Therefore, if a minor is 16 or 17 and charged with one of the crimes mentioned above, he or she will automatically be tried as an adult (unless prosecution agrees to go back to juvenile court.)

Discretionary Decline

In some circumstances, prosecutors can determine whether they want to try a minor as an adult: this is called discretionary decline.

Discretionary decline is limited to the following circumstances:

  • A youth who is 15 or older charged with a serious violent offense;
  • A youth who is 14 or older charged with murder in the first or second degree.

Therefore, if a minor and his or her charges fit one of the categories mentioned above, he or she may be tried as an adult.

Getting the Help You Need

If you or a loved one is charged with a criminal offense, the Law Office of Mark Garka is here to help. With decades of criminal defense experience, attorney Mark Garka knows how to win cases!

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About the Author

Mark Garka

Mark is a solo-practitioner who limits his practice to DUI Defense. During Law School, he worked in the Juvenile Division for the Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney's Office and he also worked in the Corrections Division at the Attorney General's Office. After completing his degree, he clerked...


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