When a parent gets a call in the middle of the night that his or her child has been arrested, it can be a frightening experience. If at all possible, a defense attorney should be contacted immediately to help the child and protect his rights. If a child is under 13, the police cannot speak with a child in custody without a lawyer being present.
For minor offenses in Illinois, the child may be released or may be given a station adjustment, which means that he will be processed but not actually charged with a crime. The police will have a record of the contact which may impact future charging decisions if the child has further contact with law enforcement.
Other children may be referred to diversionary programs and never appear before a judge. But in more serious instances, the child will be referred to court. In Illinois, persons 18 years old and younger charged with misdemeanors are considered juveniles. The Juvenile Court system also has jurisdiction over most persons 17 years and younger charged with felony offenses. As of January 1, 2014, this threshold age will be raised to 18 years and younger when Public Act 098-0061 becomes law. In some instances, 15 and 16 years olds charged with serious felony crimes are charged as adults, and in other instances, after a hearing, may be tried as adults.
When a juvenile is referred to Juvenile Court, some of his rights are similar to those of adults. A juvenile defendant, who is called a minor respondent, is guaranteed the right to counsel, the right to confront witnesses, to cross-examine those witnesses, and the right to remain silent. But an Illinois minor respondent is not entitled to a jury trial except when tried under extended juvenile jurisdiction, habitual offender or violent juvenile offender provisions of the Juvenile Court Act. And an Illinois minor will face a detention hearing, rather than a bond hearing, to determine whether or not he will receive pre-trial release.
The process is scary, and it is very important that a juvenile's rights are protected as the minor progresses through the system. This article only briefly touches on some of the issues facing an arrested minor. In order to receive proper and important advice at each stage, an experienced, seasoned defense counsel should be consulted with regard to the particular facts and charges faced by the minor. That attorney can provide important guidance to help secure a just result that will impact the child's future.