Editor's note: This story was adapted from 2019 reporting. 

Pennsylvania law mandates that juveniles be treated as adults for charges that can lead to a murder conviction, due to the gravity of the crime.

District attorneys also can seek to have any child 14 years old or older charged as an adult with any felony. 

An attorney can petition for a case to be transferred to the juvenile system, the district attorney’s office told LNP|LancasterOnline in 2019. A judge may or may not see fit to do so, based on the circumstances.

Apart from juvenile court, judicial procedures in criminal cases are the same regardless of a defendant’s age. A preliminary arraignment is followed by a preliminary hearing, then formal arraignment in county court, at which point a plea is entered.

If a juvenile is charged with a crime punishable by life in prison, he or she is not eligible for bail.

14-year-old Claire Miller is being housed in Lancaster County Prison in a female housing unit “under constant observation by a dedicated officer,” Deputy Warden William Aberts said in an email Monday night.

The prison has a separate unit for juveniles. The separation helps to ensure their safety, though they are allowed to mix with the general population in certain settings, such as church services or gym Warden Cheryl Steberger told LNP|LancasterOnline in 2019. Academic instruction is provided on site by a School District of Lancaster teacher, she said.

What to Read Next