ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – After a fatal crash last week, a 13-year-old was charged with murder. This raises the question as to what would happen to the young suspect in court due to his age.  

Chief Juvenile Probation Officer for Taylor, Callahan, and Coleman Counties, Allison Stafford, said when it comes to juvenile crimes there is a lot to take into consideration. 

“We look at the age of functionally of the child,” Stafford advised. “We look and determine if that kid is chemically dependent.”

Once an age-appropriate offender is charged with a crime, Stafford said it’s up to the juvenile justice system to determine the best path for these young ones to take.  

“Our goal is to help these kids become employable, addiction-free, law-abiding citizens and rehabilitated back into our community,” said Stafford. “So, we try and meet that goal while weighing the safety of the public and what’s in the best interest of the child, as well.”

Juvenile offenders can be charged with a wide range of crimes, like misdemeanors, felonies, or even capital murder. But that doesn’t mean there is automatically potential to prosecute a juvenile as an adult.  

“If you’re 10 through 16, that’s juvenile. If you’re nine, there’s no prosecution, and if you’re 17- it’s adult,” said Taylor County District Attorney, Erin Stamey.  

Stamey told KTAB/KRBC they also look at a variety of factors beyond the severity of the charge. 

“Offender’s previous history and how the offender’s incarceration is serving the public before making a decision on if the offender will be tried as an adult,” added Stamey.  

As soon as law enforcement takes a juvenile into custody, it’s up to both the juvenile justice system and the DA’s office to determine how to file the charge.