One of the worst feelings a parent can have is to hear that their child was arrested for a crime such as shoplifting. After getting over the initial shock and disappointment the question becomes what will happen next. If your child is lucky the store, police, and/or prosecution will decide not to pursue the charge. In many cases, if the child is older than 12 years old there may be some form of court intervention.
In Michigan, for petty offenses such as retail fraud, where the case is prosecuted depends upon the age of the child. For children under the age of 17 years, the matter is handled by a juvenile court. Jurisdiction for juvenile cases is usually in the county where the offense allegedly occurred, which may or may not be different from the county where the offense actually occurred. If your child is 17 years or older the case will be handled at the District Court that has jurisdiction over the case, which is where cases for adults are heard.
In both juvenile and District Court your child will have similar rights. These rights include the following:
- The right to trial. For juvenile cases the trial can be in front of a referee, a judge, or a jury. For adult cases the trial can be in front of a judge or jury. For adult cases in which the offense is a felony, the accused also has the right to a preliminary examination to determine if there is probable cause to believe the offense occurred and probable cause to believe your child committed that offense;
- The right to be represented by an attorney;
- The presumption of innocence;
- The burden of proof of beyond a reasonable doubt, which rests with the prosecution;
- The right to be present during the trial. The right to see and hear the witnesses and evidence, and to assist in his or her defense.
- The right to have your child’s lawyer cross examine witnesses;
- The ability to call witnesses on behalf of your child, and to subpoena those witnesses if necessary;
- The right to remain silent, and not have your child’s silence used against him or her;
- The right for your child to testify if he or she wants to. If your child testifies he or she will be subject to cross examination by the prosecution and to be asked questions by the court.
Many cases are resolved without a trial. For juvenile cases those resolutions may include the consent calendar or diversion (the purpose for either of these is to avoid having a conviction). For adult cases in Michigan, there are potential diversionary programs to avoid a conviction such as the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act.
If your child is convicted by entering a plea or from losing at trial, the next step is sentencing. Sentencing is at the discretion of the referee (for juvenile cases) or judge.
The goal for juvenile cases is rehabilitation. Rehabilitation for juveniles could involve a warning, probation, being placed into a program for delinquent youths, or a combination of any of these alternatives.
The goal for adult cases is punishment, rehabilitation, protection of society, and deterring others. The sentence can include fines/costs, probation with conditions, incarceration, or a combination of these options.
Your best bet for your child is to hire a lawyer that will help him or her receive the best possible result. Having a conviction may set your child back in life, and it could have lifetime consequences. Do not take a chance with your child’s future. For all juvenile or criminal cases in the State of Michigan I recommend attorney Daniel Hilf.