Mississippi law is tough on youth, to say the least. Per the Manual for Mississippi Youth Courts, the state may try a child as young as 13 as an adult for any offense that involves the use of a deadly weapon, for which the adult punishment is life in prison or death or that involves a hunting or fishing violation. However, the youth courts have full discretion to transfer any case, regardless of severity, to the adult courts. This can be a terrifying prospect for minor offenders and their parents. If your minor child faces transfer, you may wonder if the courts have the right to follow through with it. The manual explains when a transfer may occur.
Though the proceedings to initiate and approve a transfer are complex, the decision comes down to whether or not the youth courts can find, by clear and convincing evidence, a reasonable prospect for rehabilitation within the juvenile system. To determine if your child has hope for rehabilitation, the courts will review several factors.
The first several factors the courts will consider are also the ones that carry the most weight. Those include whether your child’s alleged offense created a substantial danger to the public; the seriousness of the alleged offense; and whether a transfer is necessary to protect the community from your child’s future actions. The youth court will also consider whether your child acted with violence or aggression and whether he or she committed the offense in a premeditated or willful manner.
The other factors carry less weight but may influence the court’s final decision. For instance, the court may consider your child’s level of maturity and educational background. It may also consider your child’s home environment, emotional stability, lifestyle and any history of criminal or delinquent behavior.
Timing is also a factor. If your child cannot be retained within the juvenile detention system long enough to undergo rehabilitation, the court may transfer his or her case to the adult criminal court.