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What is certification?

Depending on the severity of the alleged crime, the court may certify a juvenile defendant as an adult. If a child is successfully certified, the juvenile court will lose jurisdiction over the criminal matter, and the case will be transferred to adult criminal court.

The certification process commences when a prosecutor files a formal request or “motion” after a juvenile delinquency matter has been initiated. A motion to certify a juvenile as an adult can only be filed if certain criteria are met and the child is between 14 and 17 years old.

What is the difference between juvenile court and adult court?

As you can imagine, adult court comes with adult punishments, and sentencing associated with a crime can be much more egregious. This is because juvenile court and adult court have different goals. The main difference is in the way that the two courts treat a guilty offender.

Generally, adult court focuses on public safety. This goal is met by making the victim “whole,” and imposing harsher penalties on the defendant – those that limit his or her rights. On the other hand, juvenile court adopts a more rehabilitative approach to criminal justice. In the end, the court wants to assist the juvenile in becoming a successful, law-abiding member of society. This is achieved through treatment, programming and other means.

Presumed certification

Minnesota law presumes that a child 16 or 17 years of age will be certified to adult court if there is probable cause to believe that the adolescent committed a felony (one that would send an adult to prison), or the juvenile allegedly used a firearm in carrying out a felony. The case will transfer to adult court unless the child can prove that keeping the matter in juvenile court will serve public safety interests.

If there is no certification presumption, the prosecution must prove that keeping the matter in juvenile court will not serve society's public safety interests. In making this assessment, the court must consider:

  • The child’s criminal record
  • The seriousness of the alleged offense
  • The child’s level of planning and participation in carrying out the alleged offense
  • The sufficiency of rehabilitative programming or punishment within the juvenile system, and the child’s willingness to participate in such programming

The court must be thorough in making the certification determination, as the ruling will dictate the destiny of the adolescent within the criminal justice system. To learn more about certification click here.  

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