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:
- 16 or 17-year-olds charged with a serious violent offense;
- 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;
- 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.)
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
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