Use of Juvenile Priors

One of the questions I’m asked most frequently is whether a particular juvenile prior adjudication can be used to enhance a new adult criminal charge and bar probation eligibility.

Under Penal Code §12.42, felony offenses can result in enhanced punishments for those previously convicted of felony offenses. When looking at a prior juvenile adjudication, certain adjudications are counted as “convictions” for purposes of PC§12.42.

For purposes of Subsections (a), (b), (c)(1), and (e), an adjudication by a juvenile court under Section 54.03, Family Code, that a child engaged in delinquent conduct on or after January 1, 1996, constituting a felony offense for which the child is committed to the Texas Youth Commission [now Texas Juvenile Justice Department] under Section 54.04(d)(2), (d)(3), or (m), Family Code, or Section 54.05(f), Family Code, is a final felony conviction.

The important distinction is that the adjudication is only treated as a conviction for purposes of certain subsections of 12.42; not for all purposes. So while punishment may be enhanced by a prior juvenile adjudication, that adjudication does not bar consideration for probation under CCP Art. 42.12.

Because §12.42 applies only to first, second, and third degree felonies, juvenile prior adjudications cannot be used to enhance punishment for state jail felony offenses.  State jail enhancements are governed by §§ 12.35 and 12.425, neither of which defines prior juvenile adjudications as convictions.

When dealing with first, second, and third degree felonies, a prior juvenile adjudication for felony conduct which resulted in confinement in TYC or TJJD is treated as a conviction for enhancing the punishment range in the current charge. Because §12.42(f) limits the use of juvenile adjudications to sections (a), (b), and (c)(1), juvenile adjudications do not count towards habitual status which is governed by §12.42(d).

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