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Why bring Minor Felony Charges in Juvenile Court?

January 14th, 2014 at 11:34 am

As we discussed in one of our recent posts about all of the laws set to take effect in the New Year, minors up to age 17 who are charged with certain felony crimes can be tried in juvenile court in Illinois. Previously, 17-year-olds charged with a felony crime were held in county jail with other defendants of all ages, and, if convicted, would have a felony on their record for the rest of their lives. There are many motivations for the change in the law, as Illinois seems to be echoing a change in thinking that is already occurring in states across the nation.

According to an article published by DNA Info Chicago, the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission’s stance on the issue and the support of local politicians had a lot to do with the change, which was voted on by lawmakers in earlier in 2013.  The Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission took the position that since 17-year-olds cannot participate in activities such as vote or play the lottery, join the military, or pierce their ears absent adult permission, they should not be treated as adults under Illinois law for the purposes of committing a crime. The decision was made to handle 17-year-olds faced with felony charges within the confines of the juvenile justice system.  The crimes that will be encompassed in the change may include anything from illegal substance charges to burglary and assault, but will specifically exclude murder and sexual assault.

juvenile crime IMAGEMinors Previously Charged as Adults

Questions are arising about those minors who have been charged with felonies prior to the law taking effect on January 1st, who would otherwise be having their case heard in juvenile court. While the law is not intended to apply to previously filed cases, defense attorneys are pointing out the inherent injustice in that fact. In the cases that are pending in adult court, the defendants are being charged with offenses that, if committed after January 1st, 2014, would have been handled in the juvenile justice system. The only difference lies in the date the alleged offenses were committed. Some defense attorneys are arguing that the charges should be transferred to juvenile court in the cases that are still awaiting trial.

Advantages of Juvenile Court

The juvenile justice system allows for offenders with pending cases to continue their education and to take advantage of services provided by local agencies. Further, a minor having their case handled in juvenile court gives them the opportunity to avoid a permanent criminal record that can negatively impact them for the rest of their lives.  Otherwise, they can lose a lot of future opportunities and face a bleak future, one with severely limited job prospects. The Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission points out that minors placed in juvenile detention are more likely to make a positive change in their behavior that they would be if they were incarcerated in a county or state prison.

If you or someone you know has been charged with a juvenile crime in Illinois, hiring a criminal defense attorney experienced in juvenile matters is essential. Not only can we ensure your rights are protected in light of any changes in the law, but we can defend your case to the fullest extent. Contact us today for a consultation.

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