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.
How Juvenile Cases Are Filed
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.
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:
Placement in a juvenile rehabilitation facility
Electronic monitoring (i.e. ankle bracelets)
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 deliberty 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.
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.