Juvenile Crimes Defense Attorneys
We all want the best for our kids. That’s why it can be so terrifying when a child is accused of committing a crime. You want to know what’s going to happen to them. Will they go to jail or juvenile detention? Will they have a permanent record? Any criminal accusation against a child can have serious consequences for their future, and you need to take the matter seriously. That said, there are many ways to go about minimizing or even eliminating many of those consequences. A knowledgable and experienced attorney at Grabel & Associates can help you navigate these treacherous waters to ensure the best outcome for your child.
In general, in Michigan, if a child under the age of 17 is accused of a crime, the matter is referred to as “juvenile delinquency,” a term you’ve probably heard before. Rather than the typical path that an adult criminal case takes, a juvenile delinquency case goes through the family division of the circuit court. And unlike adult criminal cases, the purpose of juvenile delinquency proceedings is to rehabilitate the child rather than to punish him or her.
Which court will have jurisdiction in a juvenile case in Michigan?
Two courts will generally have jurisdiction in a juvenile case. The first is the family division of the circuit court in the county where the alleged offense occurred. So, for example, if the alleged offense happened in Detroit, the delinquency petition will be brought in the family division of the Wayne County Circuit Court.
Let’s say, though, that the juvenile lives in a different county than the one where the alleged offense occurred. In that circumstance, the local court may—but is not required to—request that the case be transferred to the juvenile’s county of residence. But the court in the county of residence has to agree to accept the transfer.
Can my child be tried as an adult in Michigan?
Yes, depending on the allegations, your child may be tried as an adult for a juvenile offense in Michigan. There are a few different ways this might happen.
In Michigan, certain crimes, when committed by juveniles, are considered specified juvenile violations. These are generally very serious crimes—murder, armed robbery, first-degree criminal sexual conduct, and others. See MCL 712A.2d(9). If your child is 14 years old or older and allegedly committed a specified juvenile violation, the prosecutor can elect to bypass the juvenile delinquency process altogether and file the case in district court, where adult criminal case begins. This process is called automatic waiver.
Second, for specified juvenile violations, regardless of the child’s age, the prosecutor can elect to have the child tried as an adult in the family division of the circuit court. This is called prosecutor designation. If the juvenile is ultimately found guilty, the court must then decide whether to enter a conviction (as would be entered in an adult case) or a juvenile disposition.
Third, for offenses other than specified juvenile violations, the prosecutor can petition the court to try the juvenile as an adult. This is called court designation. The court does not have to grant the petition. If it does and the child is found guilty, just like with a prosecutor-designated case, the court will have the option of entering a conviction or a juvenile disposition.
Finally, if the juvenile is accused of committing any felony, the prosecutor can petition the court to waive jurisdiction and transfer the case to adult court. This is called traditional waiver. If the court denies the petition and the child is found guilty, the court can choose to enter a conviction or a juvenile disposition.
Can a child be put on the sex offender registry for a juvenile offense?
Yes, a child may be required to register as a sex offender for a juvenile offense in some cases. First, if your child was tried and convicted as an adult and a conviction was entered, the child will have the same registration obligations as an adult.
What if a juvenile disposition (rather than a conviction) was entered? Yes, your child still might be required to register if three prerequisites are met. First, the juvenile disposition must be public. Second, the child must have been 14 years or older at the time of the offense. Third, the offense must classify the child as a “tier III offender.” Generally, this means the child was found guilty of a “tier III offense” under the registry law. These are typically the most serious sex crimes, including first-degree criminal sexual conduct, assault with intent to commit criminal sexual conduct, and others. See MCL 28.722(w). If all three requirements are met, your child will need to register as a sex offender.
An ordinary juvenile case begins with the filing of a petition in the family division of the circuit court. From there, a juvenile case proceeds similarly to a traditional criminal case. Unless the case is dismissed, a plea deal can be reached or the case can proceed to trial. A finding of guilt—either after a plea or after trial—results in an “adjudication” rather than a “conviction.” And rather than being “sentenced,” the court orders a “disposition.” The court has many options at its disposal. They range from simply warning the juvenile and dismissing the petition to placing the juvenile in detention. Again, the point of the disposition must be to rehabilitate the juvenile rather than to punish him or her.
It’s important to point out that there are certain ways a juvenile case can be deferred. First, under the Juvenile Diversion Act, a juvenile can be diverted from the court system and referred to a person or organization that can work with the juvenile to address the problems that led to the alleged delinquency. Second, the juvenile may be placed on the “consent calendar.” In essence, the juvenile is placed on probation and if he or she successfully adheres to all the requirements, a disposition will not be entered. Each court has its own practices and procedures when it comes to how they use the consent calendar.
It’s also important to point out that in Michigan, many juvenile records are public. That’s why obtaining a deferral can be so important. In certain cases involving allegations of sexual misconduct, a juvenile adjudication can also have sex offender registry consequences. It’s critical that you hire an attorney to eliminate or minimize the possible repercussions of a juvenile case.
The ordinary juvenile delinquency process is the first way a case against a juvenile can be resolved. The next four options address situations where the juvenile may be charged as an adult.
If a juvenile is accused of committing a felony, the prosecutor can elect to ask the family division of the circuit court to waive its jurisdiction so that the case can proceed as would a traditional adult criminal case. Whether to ask for a waiver is entirely up to the prosecutor. But just because they ask for it doesn’t mean that they’re going to get it. There’s a two-step process that the court has to go through before it can agree to waive jurisdiction. First, the court must hold (or the juvenile can waive) a “probable cause hearing.” At such a hearing, the court must determine whether there’s probable cause to believe that the juvenile committed the alleged felony. Assuming that this step is fulfilled, the second step is the “best interests hearing.” At this hearing, the court must determine whether—as the name implies—it’s in the best interests of the juvenile and the public for the court to waive jurisdiction and have the case proceed as a traditional adult criminal case. This is typically the most important step in the traditional waiver process. There are several things that the court must consider, including the seriousness of the alleged offense and the juvenile’s prior record. If the court declines to waive jurisdiction, the case will remain with the family division. If the court waives jurisdiction, the juvenile can be tried as an adult. Significantly, this means that if the juvenile is found guilty, he or she can be sentenced as an adult.
If a juvenile is alleged to have committed a “specified juvenile violation,” the prosecutor can elect to have the juvenile tried as an adult. Specified juvenile violations are certain very serious offenses, such as murder, first-degree criminal sexual conduct, and first-degree home invasion. Unlike a traditional waiver, the court cannot override the prosecutor’s designation. But unlike a traditional waiver, the case remains with the family division of the circuit court. The significance of this is that if the juvenile is found guilty either by a plea or after a trial, the court has the option of entering a juvenile disposition rather than a conviction.
If a juvenile is alleged to have committed an offense other than a specified juvenile violation, the prosecutor can ask the court to try the juvenile as an adult. Similar to the traditional waiver, the court must hold a hearing and determine whether such a designation is in the best interests of the juvenile and the public. If the court agrees to the designation, the juvenile is tried as an adult in the family division of the circuit court, just like with a prosecutor designated case. And, just like a prosecutor designated case, at the end of the day, if there’s a finding of guilt, the court has the option of entering a juvenile disposition rather than a conviction.
If a juvenile is 14 years old or older and is alleged to have committed a specified juvenile violation, the prosecutor can elect to bypass the family division altogether and file the case in district court, just as any adult criminal case would begin. Thus, by filing in district court, the juvenile has automatically been charged as an adult. Still, for some offenses, the court retains the option of sentencing the juvenile as a juvenile rather than an adult.
As you can see, there are several different routes that a juvenile case can take, and sorting through all the different options and the consequences they entail can get complicated. You need an attorney who knows the ins and outs of juvenile proceedings to secure the best result for your son or daughter.
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If your son or daughter is charged with a juvenile offense, you need the assistance of an experienced juvenile defense attorney. Contact us online or call us at our 24/7 defense hotline at 1-800-342-7896.