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Is The Juvenile Legal Process Similar To The Process For Adults?

There are many parts of the juvenile legal process that are similar to the adult process, but there are actually quite a bit of differences. Part of the difference is just the terminology, but part of it’s actually the way it transpires. When you’re in the juvenile system, and they decide that it’s serious enough to file the charges, they file what’s called the Delinquency Petition. The petition will be filed on behalf of people of the state of Illinois, in the interest of the juvenile. This is different from adult court, because in adult court it’s a punitive aspect solely, and it’s people in the state of Illinois versus the adult being charged. At this point, they are presuming since the kid’s a juvenile, there is some hope from them. They’re not necessarily trying to punish them outright, they’re trying to straighten the kid out. Because of this, it’s titled in the interest of, and the same criminal charge can be filed in what’s called the Delinquency Petition.

The Delinquency Petition is asking the court to find him responsible for what they’re charging with and then make them what’s called the delinquent ward of the court. Then the court takes over what’s in the best interest of the kid, which could be locking them up until he’s 21, probation, or alternative services such as counseling. Many of these are the same as what an adult might be sentenced to, except more structured to the juvenile. They are trying to tip him in the correct direction before he or she becomes too much of a danger to the public. But if the charge is serious enough, the court will decide to charge the juvenile as an adult.

In those cases, if found guilty, the juvenile would stay in the Juvenile Department of Corrections until he or she turns 18, and then they would be transferred to the Adult Department of Corrections to serve the rest of their sentence. Even if a juvenile is charged at 13 years old for a murder, he doesn’t go to adult prison. When they file the delinquency petition, it’s just like filing charges on an adult, and the court there can issue a warrant for the child, if they haven’t already picked him up. Usually they will also make the parents come in, if they can find the parents. The parents are responsible for their part of it, because the parents can actually be found responsible for their child’s actions in some cases. Instead of having a bond hearing, they have what’s called a detention hearing. This is the same thing as a bond hearing for an adult, just using different terminology. In this hearing, the court is going to determine if the juvenile is going to be detained in the juvenile facility.

The judge must make a finding based on what little bit of evidence there is, and it’s called an Immediate and Urgent Necessity to detain the minor in custody, for the protection of himself and protection of the public. It’s the same as a bond hearing saying that we need to set a bond on this person. They might say that the charge is serious, we’re not going to set any bond, and that you are going to be in secured detention until this case is over. At that hearing, just as in a bond hearing for an adult, the state has to give what’s called the Gerstein. It’s a brief statement of probable cause and outlining the facts. The judge has to have something to justify the seriousness of the offense or what the appropriate detention is going to be.

The secured detention is very different than adult jail, in large part because they have them doing schoolwork. They courts don’t want them missing school, or just sitting there in detention. They have education classes, they have all kind of stuff for them, so they’re trying to get them into a good environment as best they can, keep some respect for the community, educate them as much as possible, so they’re not just sitting there talking to each other at juvenile detention. After the detention hearing, depending on what the judge decides, you’ll either be in secured detention or released to the custody of your parents.

After that, the charge will be set over for admission or denial on the original petition, which is similar to arraignment for an adult. For an adult, after the probable cause hearing and bond has been set, then there are probable cause findings through an indictment or information in a felony case. In this case, the state would file the charges and there would be a reading of the charges to the child, and he or she’s arraigned on the petition for delinquency. Then the child would normally enter a denial, even if they’re guilty, and then the judge is going to set it over for a pre-trial, and set it over for a possible trial. One of the differences in juvenile court is that you are not entitled to a jury trial.

You are only entitled to a jury once you’re 17 years old, because that is the point at which you’re considered an adult in criminal law. But if they take that same 17 year old and try them in juvenile court, he only has a hearing in front of the judge. Now, the judge has the same burden of beyond the reasonable doubt, but the judges find people guilty much easier than juries do, especially in juvenile court. You’d originally have an arraignment, and if you do not make the denial to the accusations in the petition, the state would be ordered to turn over their discovery, just like in a criminal case. If the state intends to use it against the child, they must turn over to the defense attorney. If they don’t have an attorney, a public defender is always on hand to be appointed, and they proceed from there.

At a pre-trial, you see if you can work the charges out. The probation department gets active with this case right at the beginning, because they’re the ones that do the immediate and urgent necessity report to the judge. This is similar to a pre-trial bond report, which should outline for the judge the juvenile’s previous criminal history, and they make their recommendations as to what type of detention or release they think is appropriate. Juvenile cases can take some time, but they still have time constraints. Overall, it works similarly as an adult case, with the exception of some different terminology, and the fact that the juvenile’s parents have to be there. If the parents are not there, eventually they’ll do without them, and it just proceeds that way.

There is no jury trial, so you’re only going to have bench trial in front of the judge, which does move things along a little bit quicker. If the juvenile gets sentenced, there is a full pre-sentenced investigation, which they call a pre-adjudicatory social investigation when it’s a minor. This is because it’s adjudicated award to the court using that Found Guilty, like an adult. The court does find them guilty of the charges, and then they adjudicate them guilty. The court then writes up the full report on the kid, just like they would for any felony case, and the judge makes the decision on what the appropriate penalty is.

If he’s going to the department of corrections, the juvenile division really has the authority to release the kid when they want, unless there’s a specific directive from the judge regarding how long he or she is in detention. However, they can’t hold the kid past his or her 21st birthday.

For more information on Legal Process For Juveniles Vs. Adults, a free initial consultation is your best next step. Get the information and legal answers you’re seeking by calling (847) 244-4636 today.

Barry Boches, Esq.

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