Persons younger than 17 years old accused of delinquency often have their matter addressed by the juvenile Court system. Delinquency charges in most cases are not considered as criminal matters, although the charges often stem from behavior that would be prosecuted under criminal law if the person was an adult at the time of the offense. The emphasis of the juvenile Court system is rehabilitation and treatment, rather than punishment.
At the conclusion of a police investigation a request is made of the prosecutor’s office to determine if probable cause exists to go forward with the intervention of the court system. If a probable cause determination is made, a petition is authorized to officially charge the juvenile and that petition is filed in most cases with the Family Division of the Circuit Court. In cases involving serious felony offenses, sometimes the juvenile is subject to being waived over or designated to the adult criminal system.
The first juvenile court proceeding is usually a preliminary hearing, which is similar to an arraignment. At this proceeding the juvenile is read the charge or charges and informed of his or her Constitutional rights. The matter of the amount of bond and any conditions of bond are also addressed at this hearing. If the juvenile is detained, he or she can ask for a probable cause hearing. For all juvenile Court proceedings, the juvenile has the right to legal representation. An experienced juvenile lawyer can be retained to work on behalf of a juvenile to try and obtain the best result possible through trial or otherwise, such as the lawyers at Hilf & Hilf, PLC.
Petty offenses are sometimes handled by the juvenile court’s consent calendar. If the juvenile is accepted under the consent calendar, he or she is given an opportunity to avoid detention and having a juvenile conviction if he or she admits responsibility for the offense and follows the directions of the juvenile Court. The consent calendar is basically an informal way to resolve a delinquency allegation against a juvenile. Once the juvenile successfully completes what is required under the consent calendar, the case is closed and the consent calendar records are destroyed within 28 days after the juvenile’s 17th birthday. If the juvenile violates the conditions ordered of him or her, the matter is moved to the Court’s formal docket if a determination is made to authorize the petition.
Except for cases that are waived or designated to the adult system and except for juveniles accepted under the consent calendar, the next juvenile Court proceeding is a pretrial conference. At the pretrial conference, often a resolution is reached between the prosecutor’s office, the juvenile, and the juvenile Court. If the case is not resolved, the juvenile can request a trial in front of a referee, Judge, or Jury. At trial the juvenile is afforded the Constitutional protections such as the right to counsel, the presumption of innocence, the burden of proof (beyond a reasonable doubt) resting with the prosecution, the right to confront witnesses, the right to testify or remain silent, etc., etc.
If the juvenile pleads responsible to the accusation or accusations, or is found responsible at trial, the juvenile is deemed to have been adjudicated and is subject to the disposition (sentencing decision) of the referee or Judge who presided over the matter. Prior to disposition, in most cases, the juvenile is assigned to a probation officer to provide background information to the Court and to make a recommendation as to what the disposition should be. The victim or victims of the juvenile delinquency have a right to attend and address the Court prior to the disposition of the juvenile.
The referee or Judge has several options concerning the disposition in juvenile Courts. The options include: dismissal with a warning; probation with conditions such as community service, drug rehabilitation, mental health treatment, etc., etc.; pay fines, costs, and restitution; place the juvenile outside the care of his or her parent’s custody (foster care, juvenile rehabilitation, juvenile treatment). The length of any detention can be a short as 1 day and can be as long as up to the juvenile’s 19th or 21st birthday in some cases. The Court also has the power to order the parents of the juvenile participate in any necessary services to help correct the situation.
Even though a juvenile adjudication is not a criminal conviction, it can still effect a person beyond the disposition imposed in some situations. For example, a juvenile convicted of certain criminal sexual conduct related offenses may be subject to the requirements of sex offender registration. Dispositions under the Michigan motor vehicle code become part of the person’s driving history, and may subject the person to sanctions prohibiting or limiting their ability to legally drive a motor vehicle. Certain licensed occupations in Michigan require “good moral character” to legally perform certain jobs, and a juvenile history can be a factor in the determination of “good moral character”. A juvenile disposition may even impact a juvenile’s ability to live in a certain area based upon the conditions of a rental agreement, or restrictions placed upon public housing residents that allegedly engage in criminal or delinquent behavior. Some delinquent behavior can lead to the suspension or expulsion of a juvenile from school. A College or University may reject the application of a person with a juvenile delinquency history. Likewise, the United States military, Coast Guard, and National Guard may deny a person the ability to serve their country on the basis of an individual’s juvenile history.
There are several different ways in which juveniles can be treated as adults for their alleged conduct:
1) In Michigan, persons 17 years or older are considered as adults for purposes of criminal law proceedings;
2) Automatic Waiver Proceedings – Juveniles older than 14 years but younger than 17 years at the time of their alleged participation in several serious offenses are prosecuted in the same criminal Courts as adults. If convicted of any of the following offenses, the juvenile is sentenced in the same manner as an adult: Assault with Intent to Maim; Assault with Intent to Murder; Armed Robbery; Attempted Murder; Burning a Dwelling House; Carjacking; first degree Criminal Sexual Conduct; Kidnapping; Conspiracy to Commit Murder; Murder in the first or second degree; Solicitation to Commit Murder.
3) Traditional Waiver Proceedings – The Prosecution can request that juveniles older than 14 years but younger than 17 years at the time of their alleged participation in serious criminal offenses be tried and sentenced, if convicted, as an adult. A Family Division Circuit Court Judge conducts a hearing to determine if there is probable cause that the juvenile committed a felony, and whether or not it is in the juvenile’s and public’s best interest for the Family Division Circuit Court to waive its jurisdiction over the juvenile to allow prosecution in the adult system. The best interest considerations include: the seriousness of the alleged offense in terms of community protection; the culpability of the juvenile in committing the alleged offense; the juvenile’s prior record of delinquency and in the community; the juvenile’s programming (treatment) history; the adequacy of the punishment or programming available in the juvenile justice system; and the dispositional options available for the juvenile.
4) Court Designated Proceedings – A juvenile who is under the age of 17 years at the time of a conviction in juvenile Court may be subject to an adult sentence if requested by the Prosecution. The referee or Judge assigned to the case, upon such a request, must conduct a hearing at which both the best interests of the juvenile and the public are considered. The best interest considerations include: the seriousness of the alleged offense in terms of community protection; the culpability of the juvenile in committing the alleged offense; the juvenile’s prior record of delinquency and in the community; the juvenile’s programming (treatment) history; the adequacy of the punishment or programming available in the juvenile justice system; and the dispositional options available for the juvenile. The juvenile Court also has the option to delay the imposition of an adult sentence depending upon the progress in rehabilitation and treatment made by the juvenile.
5) Personal Protection Orders can subject the juvenile to adult procedures and consequences.