Mike Kelly, Criminal Law Attorney at Kelly & Kelly Law, professional headshot with black background
Legally Reviewed by: Mike Kelly
Partner, Juvenile Lawyer

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Juvenile Attorney In Southeast Michigan

Juveniles and minors are a special case in our criminal justice system, and representing their legal rights requires a juvenile attorney with specialized knowledge and experience. This expertise is required to help juvenile offenders avoid criminal court, and ensure they receive necessary assistance/guidance as opposed to incarceration.

The criminal defense attorneys at Kelly & Kelly, P.C. have that experience. The personal attention we provide to every client, including minors – and their families – can help alleviate a stressful situation. We’ll start by explaining the implications and possible consequences of any criminal charges, educate you on the possible legal proceedings, advise you on defense strategies, and we’ll work diligently to defend your rights to the full extent of the law.

Furthermore, we’re experienced with juvenile expungements (clearing a public criminal record) for those who don’t belong in the criminal justice system. In other words, you will not have to disclose these offenses to potential, future employers.

Your mistake doesn’t have to ruin your future or result in jail time.

Juvenile Lawyer Legal Services

Juvenile defense attorneys operate in a variety of areas within the broader field of juvenile law, reflecting the diverse legal issues that minors may encounter. The experienced juvenile lawyers at Kelly & Kelly P.C. manage all aspects of juvenile law before, during, and after legal proceedings. This includes but is not limited to the following,

What is a Juvenile Defense Attorney?

A Juvenile Defense Attorney is a legal professional who specializes in representing minors (individuals under the age of 18 in most jurisdictions) who have been charged with crimes or are involved in legal disputes. These attorneys are well-versed in the specific laws, procedures, and courts that handle juvenile cases, which can differ significantly from the adult criminal justice system.

The role of a Juvenile Defense Attorney is multifaceted. They provide legal counsel to their young clients, aiming to protect their rights and ensure they receive fair treatment throughout the legal process.

This includes representing them during detention hearings, adjudication hearings (the juvenile court’s version of a trial), disposition hearings (sentencing), and any applicable appeals. These attorneys also work closely with their clients and the families to understand the circumstances leading to the legal issues and advocate for outcomes that focus on rehabilitation rather than punishment, recognizing the developmental differences between juveniles and adults.

Juvenile defense lawyers may collaborate with social workers, psychologists, and other professionals to address the underlying issues that contributed to the juvenile’s involvement in the legal system, such as substance abuse, mental health issues, or family problems. Their goal is not only to defend against the immediate charges but also to seek solutions that promote the long-term well-being and successful reintegration of the juvenile into society.

Michigan Juvenile Law

Michigan juvenile law is designed to address legal matters involving individuals under the age of 18. This legal framework focuses on rehabilitation rather than punishment, reflecting the belief that young people have a greater capacity for change and should be given opportunities for growth and improvement.

The juvenile justice system in Michigan operates under different principles and procedures than the adult criminal system, with a focus on protecting the welfare of minors and promoting their best interests. Here’s an overview of key aspects of Michigan juvenile law:

Jurisdiction – The Michigan juvenile justice system has jurisdiction over minors who are accused of violating criminal laws, as well as those who are deemed to be at risk due to neglect or abuse. The Family Division of the Circuit Court handles most juvenile matters, including delinquency, child protection, and status offenses (actions that are considered violations due to the individual’s status as a minor, such as truancy or running away from home).

Delinquency Proceedings – When a minor is accused of a crime, the case is typically referred to as a delinquency proceeding. The goal is to determine the most appropriate course of action that balances public safety with the rehabilitation needs of the minor. The process includes several stages, such as intake, petition, adjudication (similar to a trial but usually less formal), and disposition (sentencing). Disposition options range from home supervision and probation to placement in a juvenile detention facility or participation in community service and treatment programs.

Status Offenses – Status offenses are actions that are considered unlawful due to the individual’s age, including truancy, curfew violations, and underage drinking. The approach to these offenses is generally aimed at identifying and addressing the underlying issues leading to the behavior, with an emphasis on intervention and support rather than punitive measures.

Child Protection Proceedings – Cases involving allegations of abuse or neglect fall under child protection proceedings. These matters aim to ensure the safety and well-being of the child, with potential outcomes including the provision of services to support family reunification, placement with relatives, or, in some cases, termination of parental rights and adoption.

Diversion and Rehabilitation – Michigan places a strong emphasis on diversion and rehabilitation programs for juveniles, aiming to redirect minors from the juvenile justice system through community-based services, counseling, education, and other supportive measures. The intent is to prevent further involvement with the law by addressing the root causes of delinquent behavior.

Sealing and Expungement of Records – Recognizing the long-term impact that juvenile records can have on a minor’s future, Michigan law provides for the sealing or expungement of certain juvenile records under specific conditions. This helps ensure that past mistakes do not unduly hinder opportunities for education, employment, and other life prospects.

Legal Representation – Minors in the juvenile justice system have the right to legal representation. Juvenile defense attorneys play a critical role in advocating for the rights of young clients, ensuring fair treatment, and seeking outcomes that prioritize their long-term well-being.

Michigan’s juvenile law system is structured to reflect a balance between accountability and the understanding that children and teenagers have unique needs and potential for positive change. The system’s focus on rehabilitation, support, and protection aims to guide minors towards productive and responsible adulthood.

How Juvenile Cases Are Filed

Example showing the top of a document used in Michigan juvenile cases. The document is a called a delinquency petition and it has boxes of information for the individual to fill in.In Michigan, a juvenile is classified as someone suspected of violating a criminal statute while they were under 18 years old. After law enforcement investigates the alleged offense, a prosecutor will review the facts/circumstances and decide whether this offense should go to court. If the prosecutor decides court action is necessary, they will issue a delinquency petition which is filed with the Circuit Court’s Family Division. The delinquency petition filed by the prosecuting attorney formally initiates the court proceeding by alleging that a juvenile is in fact delinquent and is being charged with the listed offenses.

After the delinquency petition is filed the case is transferred to juvenile court which is a specialized part of family court. The young offenders are required to appear at juvenile court for an initial hearing. The possible outcomes at this initial hearing include:

Case dismissal – For various reasons the case may be dismissed by the judge.

Proceed with charges – The case will be placed on a “formal calendar” and officially go to trial.

Alternative sentencing – Sometimes, a young offender will undergo an alternative form of sentencing supervised by the court. This may include a youth assistance program to help subvert a delinquent youth away from a life of crime. This form of sentencing also goes hand in hand with juvenile probation.

Juvenile Diversion – The youth is required to undergo counseling under the “Juvenile Diversion Act,” as an alternative form of sentencing/probation.

Criminal court – In some cases, juvenile cases may be transferred to criminal court. In other words, juveniles can be tried as adults in some cases/jurisdictions. This is one main reason why it’s vital to retain an experienced juvenile attorney to protect your child’s legal rights in court.

Video of attorney Mike Kelly sitting down and talking about laws regarding juveniles and minors in the State of Michigan

Possible Juvenile Dispositions (Outcomes)

Simply put, juvenile dispositions are the possible outcomes if the offender is found guilty at trial. This is the equivalent to “sentencing” at an adult trial. A judge will hold a disposition hearing to obtain recommendations from the prosecution, probation staff, defense attorneys, and others in order to decide the appropriate outcome. Prior to the disposition hearing, a disposition plan/report is typically prepared by the defense and probation department to outline these recommendations. Once the judge decides the outcome, they will file a disposition order with the state that articulates the disposition chosen for the youth and any conditions of that disposition.

Several types of juvenile dispositions include:

  • Juvenile probation
  • Community service
  • House arrest
  • Juvenile diversion/counseling
  • Placement in a juvenile rehabilitation facility
  • Electronic monitoring (i.e. ankle bracelets)
  • Fines/restitution

Juvenile Right To An Attorney

It’s important to note that even though juveniles are “underage,” they possess almost all of the same legal/constitutional rights as an adult. In other words, juveniles have the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney, etc. It’s also important to note that parents should NOT give legal advice and act as an attorney for their child.

When a juvenile is arrested and/or charged with an offense, it should not be taken lightly. This should especially not be taken lightly because juveniles can be tried as adults in some cases/jurisdictions. Therefore, it’s vital to obtain professional legal advice from a criminal defense lawyer that specializes in juvenile law.

Juvenile Offense Classifications

Civil Infraction – Civil infraction(s) occur when a law enforcement officer issues a citation. Generally speaking, these citations carry penalties that do not include a jail sentence. One common example of a civil infraction is a traffic ticket.

Status Offenses – Simply put, status offense(s) involve committing an act that’s illegal due to the offender violating the age restriction placed on the act. For example, cigarettes/tobacco products are legal in the United States; however, there is an age restriction that requires a user to be at least 18 years of age in order to legally purchase/use tobacco products. As a result, when someone under 18 is caught in possession of tobacco, law enforcement may issue a status offense.

Misdemeanors – In Michigan, juvenile misdemeanors are crimes committed minors under the age of 18 that are punishable by up to one year in a juvenile detention facility. These are less serious than felonies. Common examples of juvenile misdemeanors include: drunk driving offenses, shoplifting, petty theft, Minor in Possession of Alcohol (MIP), non-felonious assault, certain drug offenses, etc.

Felonies – Juvenile felonies are more serious than misdemeanor charges. When a juvenile is charged with a felony offense, the young offender will face a judge in juvenile court. The judge can then decide whether the offense is handled through juvenile court, or may transfer the case to the criminal court system for adults. Proper legal defense is absolutely vital for juveniles charged with a felony as they could face real time in an adult prison system. In Michigan, felonies are punishable by a minimum of one year of incarceration.

Juvenile Incorrigibility – In Michigan, incorrigibility refers to a child under 17 years of age that demonstrates a refusal to obey parents, guardians, or legal custodians. This usually occurs when the child runs away from home, uses alcohol/illegal substances, refuses to attend school, or commits other crimes at home. When these instances occur, a parent/legal guardian may file an Incorrigible Petition with the Family Division of the Circuit Court to enter the youth into a Juvenile Diversion program or another form of sentencing/probation.

Truancy – Simply put, truancy is the act of a child deliberately missing school. The State of Michigan has a set of rules and regulation regarding truancy/school attendance called the Michigan governing compulsory attendance. These policies require that a child within the age of 6-16 is required to attend school during the entire school year except under limited circumstances.

Juvenile Attorney For Probation Issues

Probation for juveniles involves restricting their freedom to specific terms dictated by the court. Juvenile probation may include: community service, youth assistance program, juvenile diversion, electronic monitoring (i.e. ankle bracelet), etc.

In cases involving juvenile probation violations, the probation officer will notify the court and/or file a violation of probation. If the juvenile court judge determines the offender did violate their probation, the judge can revoke probation and impose a harsher sentence. This may include incarceration at a juvenile detention facility.

The attorneys at our firm are highly experienced in juvenile probation issues and helping young offenders avoid incarceration.

Juvenile Records

Nobody’s perfect. An individual has most likely made bad decisions at some point in their lives. Bad decisions are even more common from teenagers. In most cases a teenage brain is not fully developed; as a result, many teenagers engage in risky behavior that often conflicts with the law. As passionate juvenile defense attorneys, we want to help ensure that a few bad decisions don’t follow a young offender around for the rest of their lives.

We are experienced with juvenile expungements (clearing a public criminal record) for those who don’t belong in the criminal justice system. In other words, you will not have to disclose these offenses to potential, future employers.

Who’s Considered a Juvenile Under Michigan Law?

A “juvenile” under Michigan law typically refers to an individual who is under the age of 18 when they commit an act that would be considered a crime if done by an adult. The juvenile justice system is designed to handle these cases differently from adult criminal cases, focusing more on rehabilitation than on punishment. Juvenile status applies in the context of delinquency proceedings, which are legal actions for crimes committed by those under 18.

Who’s Considered a Minor Under Michigan Law?

A “minor” is generally considered to be anyone under the age of 18, across various contexts, not just in criminal law. This definition applies to a broad range of legal areas, including but not limited to, consent laws, contract law, and certain rights and responsibilities. For example, individuals under 18 may have restrictions on their ability to enter into legally binding contracts, consent to medical treatment without parental involvement, and work in certain types of employment or work hours. The term “minor” is more encompassing and can be used in both civil and criminal law contexts, whereas “juvenile” is specifically used within the juvenile justice system to address the treatment and handling of young individuals who have committed offenses or are accused of such.

Our Juvenile Defense Attorneys

Attorney Michael Kelly’s approach to juvenile defense transcends the conventional attorney-client relationship, transforming legal representation into a personal commitment to each client’s success and well-being. From your first introduction to the concluding moments of your legal journey, Michael Kelly is more than just your lawyer; he’s your staunch ally, guiding you through every challenge with a blend of compassion and legal acumen.

At Kelly & Kelly, P.C., our defense team, led by Michael, brings an unparalleled level of expertise and dedication to a diverse clientele, including professionals from all walks of life and, most importantly, young individuals facing legal challenges. Michael’s philosophy is simple yet profound: transform a negative into a positive, accelerate through the process, and achieve meaningful results. This goal-oriented approach ensures that every client receives tailored, impactful legal representation.

Michael’s credentials speak volumes about his dedication and expertise. A proud alumnus of the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law and Michigan State University, his legal prowess is matched by his commitment to the community, as evidenced by his active involvement in various associations and his recognition as a SuperLawyer from 2019-2022. His accolades, including the Top 10 Under 40 for Criminal Defense in Michigan and consistent Client’s Choice awards from Avvo.com, highlight his excellence in legal representation and client satisfaction.

With an impressive track record of speaking engagements, publications, and media appearances, Michael Kelly is not only recognized as a leading voice in juvenile defense but also as a compassionate advocate for youth navigating the complexities of the legal system. His work with students, parents, and educators on the collateral consequences of criminal behavior demonstrates his deep understanding of the challenges faced by young individuals today.

Choosing Michael Kelly as your juvenile defense attorney means entrusting your case to a professional who sees beyond the courtroom. Known as the firm’s “Road Warrior,” Michael’s readiness to support Michigan families, regardless of their location, underscores his commitment to accessible, comprehensive legal defense for all.

This page was legally reviewed by Michael Kelly. Michael has been a practicing criminal defense attorney and juvenile lawyer for many years. Throughout this time he’s represented clients through various complex issues involving the education and criminal court system. This includes, representing students accused of criminal offenses, suspension/expulsion, DUI/OWI charges, expungements, and more. Michael has served on the ICLE Criminal Law Advisory Board and is recognized as top 10 Under 40 for Criminal Defense in Michigan by The National Academy of Criminal Defense Attorneys. He also regularly contributes to the Institute of Continuing Legal Education (ICLE) as a speaker on issues involving criminal law and juvenile defense.