transfer to adult court | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Juvenile Justice

Transfer to adult court refers to the process of moving a juvenile offender from the juvenile justice system to the adult criminal justice system.

Transfer to adult court is a legal process that allows for the transfer of certain juvenile offenders to the adult criminal justice system. In some cases, this may occur automatically, such as when a juvenile is accused of a particularly serious crime, like murder or rape. In other cases, the transfer may be discretionary, with a judge or prosecutor deciding whether to transfer the case to adult court.

The decision to transfer a juvenile to an adult court can have significant consequences, as the penalties in the adult system can be much harsher than those in the juvenile system. Juveniles who are tried as adults may be subject to longer prison sentences and may face a permanent criminal record that can impact their future employment and educational opportunities.

There are several factors that may be considered when deciding whether to transfer a juvenile to adult court, including the severity of the offense, the offender’s age and criminal history, and the likelihood of rehabilitation. In some cases, alternative sentencing options may be considered, such as probation or diversion programs.

Overall, the decision to transfer a juvenile to adult court is a complex and contentious issue that requires careful consideration of the individual circumstances of each case. The goal should be to balance the need for accountability and public safety with the potential for rehabilitation and successful reentry into society.


Grisso, T. (2016). Understanding and Improving Decisions That Transfer Juveniles to the Adult Criminal Justice System. Criminology & Public Policy, 15(4), 1167-1174.

Redding, R. E. (2016). Juvenile transfer to criminal court: A review of recent research. Crime & Delinquency, 62(2), 251-271.

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Last Modified: 03/14/2023


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