When are teens tried as minors versus as adults?

Interviewer: For alcohol, a minor is considered anyone under 21. What about for drugs, prescription or illegal, is there any age distinction there?

Ladan Law: It’s basically a jurisdictional decision. If you’re under 18, it’s most likely that you’re going to go to juvenile court, unless you have been unfortunate enough to have a trafficking amount of a prescription drug. At that point, you’ve committed a first degree felony, and that kind of felony is often taken out of the juvenile system and sent up to adult court, even for a first time offense. That is something that can be negotiated with the state.

The sanctions for juvenile court are much less severe than in adult court. If you have a juvenile or a young person who finds themselves in that situation, you need a knowledgeable attorney to jump on it at that point to try and influence, even at a jurisdictional stage, what court that it’s going to be held in. Everything at the point is still negotiable. A good, knowledgeable attorney is going to know how to pick up the phone and talk to the intake attorneys at the State Attorney’s Office and try and influence where your case gets filed.

Interviewer: Have you seen cases where High School kids who have a prescription for ADHD, Adderall etc., who give those pills to their friends to help them study? Have you seen any court cases come from that kind of stuff?

Ladan Law: We’ve seen a few cases come out of Ritalin, Adderall, some of the other ADHD medications. Ordinarily, the manner of abuse will be that they’ll crush the pills and snort them. As young folks get older, ingesting the medication in that way can be a stimulant, and that’s the attraction. It allows you to stay up for long periods of time, and some people say, “Hey, I can study for 12 hours if I just snort this stuff.”

Colleges are definitely becoming aware of this. We don’t see too many of those cases but, believe it or not, that would be a felony-type charge if you were caught with somebody else’s ADHD medication.

It doesn’t have to be the drugs that you’ve heard of and a huge potential for abuse. Any prescription medication that doesn’t validly belong to you and you’re in knowing possession of, that has any potential for abuse, is fair game for a felony prosecution. There are a lot of dangers out there.

Interviewer: If I got someone’s Viagra prescription and took one, would that would be a felony?

Ladan Law: Absolutely, as crazy as that sounds, yes.

Author: Amir Ladan
A former assistant state attorney for Orange/Osceola Counties, Amir has handled thousands of cases and dozens of trials, ranging from DUI and traffic offenses to murder, in both adult and juvenile court.

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