An Oklahoma teenager accused of fatally shooting a man will be adjudicated in juvenile court rather than be tried as an adult.
On February 16, police arrested a 15-year-old boy after an altercation that led to the shooting death of 19-year-old Jamal Dixon, a senior at Norman North High School.
However, according to the Cleveland County District Attorney's Office, the younger teen was acting in self-defense at the time of the shooting, and therefore he will not be charged with first degree murder. Under Oklahoma law, teens aged 15, 16, or 17 who are charged with first degree murder are automatically tried as adults. Minors aged 13 or 14 may be tried as adults or may be prosecuted as youthful offenders.
But just because the 15-year-old was not charged with first degree murder does not mean he is absolved of wrongdoing in the case. The district attorney presented juvenile charges of possession of a firearm and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle after former adjudication as a teenager, and on Tuesday, Special District Judge Steve Stice advised the boy he was being transferred to the Alan J. Couch Detention Center pending further juvenile proceedings.
There are different ways a minor under the age of 18 may face criminal charges, depending on the age of the minor and the severity of the offense. Minors under 18 may be adjudicated in juvenile court, prosecuted as a youthful offender, or prosecuted as an adult.
Minor crimes, nonviolent crimes, and misdemeanors are typically handled in juvenile court for minors under the age of 18. However, for more serious offenses, a minor may be subject to youthful offender or adult prosecution.
Teens aged 15-17 who are charged with first degree murder are tried as adults; younger teens aged 13-14 may be tried as adults.
Oklahoma's youthful offender law recognizes that some crimes are more serious than "typical" juvenile crimes like shoplifting, vandalism, petty theft, underage drinking, and marijuana possession. However, the juvenile brain and its impulse control is not fully developed, and therefore, adult prosecution for these more serious offenses still may be inappropriate.
Youthful offender status serves as an interim between juvenile adjudication and adult prosecution, allowing for sentences that are both punitive and rehabilitative.
If your child is accused of a serious offense like armed robbery, rape or sexual assault, murder or manslaughter, drug trafficking, or assault with a deadly weapon, it is important to secure legal representation as quickly as possible. Do not assume that because your child is under the age of 18, he or she will be handled in juvenile court and released from a juvenile facility upon turning 18. There may be much more serious consequences at stake. Call (405) 418-8888 for more information.
Image credit: David Trawin