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Kansas City Criminal Defense Attorney Breaks Down Juvenile Prosecutions, Sentencing

JP Law

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — According to the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department, the Northeast Middle School student who is accused of stabbing another student at the school Tuesday is in custody. He has been charged with first-degree murder, armed criminal action and unlawful use of a weapon. The suspect is a 14-year-old, so the case is currently set for the Jackson County Family Court. The next step in the process would be his first appearance and then to wait and see if the prosecutor’s office will want to try him as an adult.

The prosecutor would need to file a motion, a hearing would be set and the judge would make that decision.“I’d be surprised if they did not certify him to stand trial as an adult,” criminal defense attorney John Picerno said.

Picerno says usually in cases of first-degree murder, even minors can expect to go on trial as an adult. The punishment for crimes can vary significantly depending on whether a suspect is certified as a child or an adult in court. “When the child is 14, 13 and 12, that’s a little bit different story. But when they get closer to the adult age, then it’s an easier call, and they almost always get certified,” Picerno said. “They have to do with the age of the juvenile, the sophistication of the juvenile, the type of crime that was alleged to have been committed, educational you know, mental health issues, all of those types of things.”

In Missouri, adults over the age of 18 automatically get life without probation or parole if convicted of first degree murder. But in cases of juveniles, three things can happen:

  • A sentence of 30 to 40 years

  • A sentence of natural life, which is set to 30 years in Missouri

  • A sentence to life without probation or parole

“If the prosecutor wants to attempt to have you serve the rest of your life in prison without probation or parole, they must file notice of intent with the court,” Picerno said. “That has to be filed within 120 days of his arraignment.”

The judge could also grant what is known as a “dual jurisdiction” if the suspect is tried in circuit court. In this case, the suspect will serve a part of the sentence in a juvenile detention facility and then serve the rest in prison. Picerno expects the first appearance to take place within the next couple of weeks. Then, the prosecutor’s office will announce its intent to try the suspect as an adult or as a child, and then from there, the judge will set a date for the certification.

If the judge decides to move forward by certifying the suspect as a minor, then he will stay in family court, and they can hold him until he is 19 years old. At that time, the Division of Youth Services will have to petition to hold him until he is 21 years old if they want to hold him longer.