School Stabbing Suspect, 16, to Be Tried as Adult

By Jenny Tsay, Esq. on April 10, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A Pennsylvania teen accused of stabbing his classmates and school employees has been charged with four counts of attempted homicide and will be tried as an adult.

Alex Hribal, 16, allegedly stabbed 21 other students and a security guard at his high school. Although prosecutors are trying Hribal as an adult, his attorney wants a mental health expert to evaluate the teen's state of mind in hopes of getting him rehabilitated in a juvenile facility, Reuters reports.

So when can minors be tried as adults in criminal court?

Trying Minors as Adults

Prosecuting juveniles as adults is controversial, but most states allow a juvenile to be waived into an adult court. Waiving minors into adult court can be done in several ways:

  • Judicial waiver,
  • Statute, or
  • Prosecutorial discretion.

A judicial waiver allows a judge to transfer the minor's case to an adult court. By doing so, the juvenile will no longer have the protections of juvenile court. Most states set an age limit for how old the minor must be before being waived into adult court. In some states, it's 17 years old, but in others, it can be as low as 13 or 14 years old.

Some states also have statutes in place that remove offenses like first-degree murder from a juvenile court's jurisdiction. So regardless of the age in those jurisdictions, an individual who commits first degree murder may be tried in adult court.

Pennsylvania Law

In Pennsylvania where the school stabbing occurred, if the child is over the age of 14 and is accused of a felony, then the juvenile court has the discretion to transfer the case to an adult court. However, the juvenile court will likely hold a hearing first to determine if the public interest is served by sending a minor into an adult court.

There's a presumption of public interest when trying a minor as an adult if the minor is at least 14 and has committed a felony using a deadly weapon or any serious offense, like rape. By statute, a minor in Pennsylvania will always be charged an adult for crimes involving deadly weapons.

For Hribal, this means that unless his can show extenuating circumstances for why he shouldn't be tried in an adult court, he'll likely be tried as an adult for his alleged stabbings.

In addition to attempted homicide, Hribal is also charged with aggravated assault and a weapons charge, according to the Associated Press.

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