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Minorities Affected by Illinois Juvenile Law

May 20th, 2014 at 4:12 pm

juvenile offense, minorities and crime, Chicago juvenile crime lawyer, repeat offender, pleading guilty, juvenile court, Illinois juvenile lawAccording to an article recently published, a study shows that the Illinois law, which required juveniles charged with certain serious crimes to be tried as adults, may be discriminatory.

The imposition of the law also takes away judges’ discretion in these cases while also increasing the likelihood that the same juveniles will become repeat offenders in the future, according to the study.

Juvenile Justice Initiative

As part of the study, the Initiative considered 257 juvenile cases heard in Cook County between 2010 and 2012, in which juveniles were charged as adults in keeping with the law. All but one of the cases involved a defendant who was considered a minority. Out of these juveniles, over half of those that were transferred ended up pleading guilty to a lesser charge in adult court, which would not have caused the case to be transferred out of juvenile court had they been originally charged with the lesser offense.

The conclusion of the study found that by transferring a juvenile case to adult court, the offender’s chances at rehabilitation are seriously diminished. Also, the juveniles instead spend their time in adult jail, which correlates to a higher risk for reoffending and taking part in a violent crime. One of the contributing factors to this is that juveniles involved in the adult court process can remain in prison for up to a year before their case is heard, while their counterparts who have pending cases in juvenile court may spend just a month or so in detention.

Future Legislation

As a result of the study’s findings, the Initiative is pointing to legislation that would amend the current Illinois law to avoid an automatic transfer of certain juvenile cases to adult court. Instead, the group wants to focus on legislation that would allow judges to exercise their discretion in determining which cases should be transferred in light of the circumstances and the individual defendant. Advocates tout the inherent advantages of having a judge, who is sitting in the best position to determine the circumstances of a person and a crime and make the decision to transfer a case, instead of a blanket approach instituted by the General Assembly.

Current Law

Illinois is not the only state to keep such a law on its books. The law was enacted in the early 1980s and requires juveniles between the ages of 15 and 17 years old to be automatically transferred to adult court when charged with serious offenses including murder, armed robbery, aggravated sexual assault, and aggravated battery with a firearm. Once a juvenile is tried as an adult, future charges will also be heard in adult court, no matter the severity of the offense.

Often, the problem is that juveniles are interrogated by officers without a lawyer present, are charged as an adult. They then plead guilty to a lesser charge as the result of bargaining. There is never an opportunity for the juvenile to be heard in court or have the case tried, which results in a situation in which the juvenile’s fate is essentially sealed at the point of arrest.

Criminal Defense Attorney

While some may consider the need for this change to be obvious, it may take a while to be put into practice if it approved at all. In the meantime, those charged with any criminal offense as a juvenile, but especially those who likely face a transfer to adult court, should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Contact the attorneys at the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley to schedule a consultation to discuss your case. We serve clients in Cook County and the surrounding area.

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