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Anatomy of a Juvenile Crime Case

In the state of Michigan, anyone under the age of 17 is treated as a juvenile under law, except for in certain exceptionally serious felony cases.

Juveniles have many of the same rights as adults throughout the justice process, including:

  • The right to an attorney.
  • The right to remain silent.
  • The right to cross-examine witnesses testifying in the case.
  • The right to call witnesses in a court hearing.
  • The right to testify.
  • The right against self-incrimination.

Juveniles who are accused of a crime will have their cases heard in juvenile court. Juvenile courts can decide to do a number of things:

  • The case may be dismissed.
  • The juvenile can be referred to counseling.
  • The juvenile can be placed on the Consent Calendar, which allows for conviction and penalties to be deferred if the offender complies with certain requirements set by the court.
  • The juvenile can be placed on the formal calendar, in which case charges against the juvenile will proceed.

If a juvenile is placed on the formal calendar, he or she can admit to committing the offense and be sentenced, or deny the charges and request a judge or jury trial.

If a juvenile case goes to trial, it will generally proceed as follows:

Counsel is Determined

The juvenile lets the court know if a private defense lawyer has been hired, or if a public defender is required.

Preliminary Hearing Set

The prosecution, defense, and court set a date for a preliminary hearing.

Preliminary Hearing

The first hearing involving testimony from witnesses, the defendant, the alleged victims, and others involved takes place. The prosecution will usually attempt to prove probable cause to move the case forward.

Trial

A judge or jury trial will commence, and the guilt or innocence of the juvenile will be determined.

Disposition

The court enters the juvenile version of “sentencing” in which requirements will be set for the juvenile. These requirements could include probation, anger management, counseling, or placement in a juvenile facility.

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