Who is a Juvenile?
Illinois law defines a delinquent minor as one who prior to his 17th birthday violates or attempts to violate federal, state, or local law. Once you reach your 17th birthday, the law treats you as an adult.
What happens when a juvenile is arrested?
One thing that may occur is that you can receive a station adjustment. A station adjustment means that the police make a record of an arrest, but do not refer the case to Juvenile Court. Instead, the minor is released to his parents or guardian. Illinois law limits the number of station adjustments that a minor can receive before the minor must be referred to court.
What happens in court?
If a minor is arrested and the case is referred to court, the youth officer will call the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center. A point system is used to determine if a minor must be held in detention before his first court appearance. The point system takes into account the seriousness of the charge and the minor’s history of delinquency. If the minor doesn’t score “high”, then he is sent home with an order to appear in court on a certain date.
If the minor is held in detention, then there must be a detention hearing within 40 hours of arrest, not counting weekends and court holidays. At the detention hearing, the judge will decide if the minor will remain in custody awaiting trial. In making that decision, the judge must determine if there is probable cause to believe that the minor committed a crime. If the court finds “probable cause,” then the judge must decide to hold the minor in custody or let the minor go home before trial. The judge can also put the minor on electronic monitoring, home confinement, or in a shelter awaiting trial. In making the decision to release or not, the court looks to the minor’s history of delinquency, previous failures to appear in court, and the availability of alternatives to detention.
What happens at trial?
At trial, the prosecutor must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the minor is delinquent. The State must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt by calling witnesses. The minor does not have to prove that he is innocent and does not have to call witnesses nor testify. However, the minor is permitted to call witnesses and testify if that is his desire. The minor may cross-examine the prosecution witnesses through his attorney and the prosecution may cross-examine the minor or his witnesses, if they testify. Unlike adult cases, there is usually no right to a jury trial in Juvenile Court.
If the minor is found not guilty, the case is dismissed and the minor is free to leave.
If the minor is found guilty, he must be sentenced.
The sentencing hearing
At the sentencing hearing, the judge will read a report called a social investigation, which provides information about a minor; such as, criminal history, use of drugs, home life, attendance and performance at school, attitude, etc. The Court then decides the sentence.
Basically, the judge can
- place the minor on probation with certain conditions, such as mandatory schooling, community service, counseling, no contact with gang members, etc.;
- order that the minor serve up to 30 days in the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, either alone or as a condition of probation; or
- commit the minor to the Department of Corrections (prison) for an indefinite time that can last until the minor reaches age 21.
The Department of Corrections will determine the actual length of time to be served based on the seriousness of the charge and the minor’s behavior in prison.
Not all juveniles are prosecuted at Juvenile Court
There has been a steady flow of laws in the past 20 years which have either permitted or required prosecution of minors as adults. This is called “transfer” to adult or criminal court. In automatic transfer cases, a minor of the age of 15 or up charged with certain offenses is prosecuted as an adult without any sort of hearing in Juvenile Court. Some of the offenses for which a minor can be automatically transferred are first degree murder, armed robbery with a firearm, aggravated criminal sexual assault, aggravated vehicular hijacking with a firearm, possession of drugs with the intent to sell them within 1,000 feet of a school or on the grounds of a public housing project, or possession of a gun at school.
In other types of cases, the prosecutor can ask the judge to hold a hearing to decide whether a minor should be prosecuted as an adult. These laws can be complicated, but in Cook County, the State usually asks for transfer in cases where 13 or 14 year old minors are prosecuted for first degree murder, or cases where minors age 15 and 16 are charged with shooting at someone.
The judge looks to the minor’s history of delinquency, school records, psychological evaluations, level of participation in the offense, testimony of teachers, clergy, family members, and the recommendation of probation officers in deciding whether to keep a minor at Juvenile Court or transfer his case to criminal jurisdiction. The decision is very important. For example, one minor charged with aggravated battery with a firearm was transferred to adult court and sentenced at age 16 to 50 years in prison. Had he remained at juvenile Court he could not have been imprisoned beyond his 21st birthday.
- In 2003, the State’s Attorney’s Office filed approximately 9,200 delinquency petitions against juveniles.
- The population of the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center fluctuates between 500 and 550.
- In June 2004, there were 1,603 minors incarcerated in the Juvenile Division of the Department of Corrections.
- You may reach your attorney at 312-433-7046.