Minors, who have been accused of committing a crime, can either have the matter resolved informally at an intake hearing or through the courts. Some charges, such as shoplifting or second-degree assault, can be resolved at an informal intake hearing with community service or perhaps no need to do anything further at all. There are many times however when the matter is forwarded to the court for judicial proceedings.
A minor can wind up in court because the State’s Attorney decided the youth should be prosecuted, the law requires it due to the type of crime alleged to have been committed, or the youth has prior involvement with the juvenile justice system. The youth can either be tried as a juvenile in the Circuit Court Sitting as a Juvenile Court or as an adult. Depending on the age and the offense, he or she might be tried as an adult. If they are tried as an adult, they face adult consequences. For example, a sixteen-year-old accused of committing an armed robbery, can be tried as an adult. However, the law does provide an opportunity for this youth to be treated as a juvenile instead. This process is known as a reverse waiver. The benefits of being tried as a juvenile, instead of as an adult, are in most cases extremely beneficial.
If the youth is found to be “involved” in the alleged crime, and in need of “guidance, rehabilitation, and treatment,” the court has many options. The goal, however, is not to punish but to rehabilitate. The courts try to keep the youth in the home if possible. Community Detention, where the youth wears an ankle monitor, can also be a means to rein the child in without having to remove him or her from the home. If the child is not successful at home, he or she may be “placed” in a facility. “Placements” seek to address the child’s specific needs, with the goal of returning the child to their home, but on probation. Unlike adult court, there is no specific length of time that a juvenile is placed on probation or in a placement. The only time limit in juvenile court is that its jurisdiction over the child expires when they turn 21-years-old.
Minors tried as juveniles, enjoy many of the same constitutional safeguards that he or she would enjoy if tried as an adult: they have a right to a hearing where they can confront and cross examine their accusers; they can call their own witnesses; they can testify on their behalf or invoke their 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination; and the rules of evidence apply to ensure that witness testimony and evidence is reliable. Further, just like in adult court, the State must prove its case by proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Juvenile law is unique and involves its own unique terms. Knowledge of juvenile law and how it works is essential when representing minors accused of committing a crime. Whether your child has been charged as a juvenile or adult, the attorneys at Ortega Law, LLC have the experience necessary to get your child the best possible outcome.