A waiver is a process through which a juvenile case is transferred to adult criminal court and the protections provided by Colorado juvenile court is waived. Typically cases that are eligible for waiver are those involving serious crimes or repeat juvenile offenders. While an adult court provides more constitutional protections, it also carries more severe sentences and the possibility of life imprisonment.

In most states a youth must be at least 16 to be eligible for waiver to adult criminal court, in a number of states a minor as young as 13 could be subject to a waiver and a few states allow a youth of any age to tried as an adult for certain serious crimes such as murder. A court may grant a waiver petition and transfer a juvenile case to adult court if:

  • the juvenile was charged with a serious crime;
  • the juvenile has a long record;
  • the juvenile is older; or
  • past attempts to rehabilitate the youth have failed.

In Colorado, adult charges can be filed directly against a juvenile in certain situations even if he is younger than 18, or charges can be filed in juvenile court then transferred to the district court where the juvenile is treated as an adult. Charges filed directly can result in a juvenile sentence, a sentence to the Youth Offender System (YOS) or an adult sentence, depending on the nature and severity of the crime. A criminal defense attorney can explain Colorado’s laws regarding juvenile offenders, as well as a youth’s rights under the laws and his legal options.

A waiver petition is usually filed by the prosecuting attorney, however, a juvenile court judge may also initiate transfer proceedings. The youth offender is entitled to a hearing known as a waiver hearing (also called a certification or fitness hearing) as well as legal representation. The prosecuting attorney must be able to show probable cause that the defendant committed the alleged crime. Once probable cause is established, the judge then determines whether the youth defendant could be rehabilitated as a juvenile, taking into consideration the youth’s background, his Colorado juvenile court record and his willingness to undergo treatment in the juvenile system. If the case is transferred to adult court, it is in adult court where the case begins with the formal arraignment of the juvenile.