If your child has recently been arrested or charged with a crime, we understand that you are worried. The criminal justice system in Illinois is supposed to protect the people of our state, but that often means placing severe punishments on people who may have just made a bad mistake.
This is particularly unfortunate for younger members of our society, because all teenagers make mistakes, and you don’t want those youthful errors to hurt their ability to work or go to college once they finish school. Generally speaking, the state of Illinois understands this problem and has been enacting legislation that directs more children away from the adult court system so that they can find a more appropriate alternative to prison.
However, it is still possible for minors to be charged with crimes as adults. If you have a child who is close to reaching adulthood, this is more likely to happen to your child.
The following information is intended to help you understand how this process works and what you can do to best prepare and help your child through it. If you still have questions, be sure to contact an Illinois juvenile crimes lawyer for information on your child’s specific case.
When Are Minors Charged as Adults in Illinois?
Juveniles who commit low-level or non-violent crimes usually do not have to worry about being tried as an adult. In most of these cases, the child has not fully developed and does not understand the full extent of their actions. When minors commit more serious crimes, though, they may be treated more seriously.
Illinois only sends a minor straight to adult court if they are 16 or 17 and have been charged with any of these three violent crimes:
- First-degree murder
- Aggravated criminal sexual assault
- Aggravated battery with a firearm
If the minor is charged with aggravated battery and did not fire the firearm in question, they may still be charged as a minor.
Minors who are 15 or younger may still have to go to adult court, but their case has to go through the juvenile crimes system first. If prosecutors want to see your child charged as an adult, they will have to argue that point based on the following factors:
- The mental capacity of the child
- Rehabilitation options
- Their participation in the crime
- The child’s home life
- Past criminal record
Consult with a juvenile crimes lawyer for ways that you can fight these arguments and keep your child out of the adult court system.
The Law in Illinois Doesn’t Work the Way It Used To
If you have read other materials that suggest your child could go straight to adult court for crimes outside of the ones mentioned above, you might just be reading out-of-date material. Illinois used to have harsher state laws regarding juvenile crimes.
That changed in late 2015, when a collection of bills were signed in order to reduce the prison population and put more offending minors into rehabilitation programs. Before 2016, minors who were 15 may have been automatically sent to adult court for armed robbery or aggravated vehicular hijacking. Now, the court will look closer at the minor’s actions and consider more factors before sending a child to adult court.
The collection of bills also included changes to how minors are penalized after they have been convicted. One of the measures stopped the incarceration of minors for specific misdemeanor crimes. If your teen is charged with any of the following, you will not have to worry about them sitting a prison for their mistakes:
If the incident included aggravating factors and the charge is elevated to a felony, your child may still have to face time in a juvenile detention center.
Children who are under the age of 13 are also more protected with these new laws. A fourth law required the state to provide these minors with a youth service provider before holding them in a juvenile detention center with older teenagers.
Essentially, Illinois wants to keep children out of prisons and detention centers unless it is deemed necessary. Use this knowledge when you are building your defense strategy.
Your Child Has the Right to An Attorney in Illinois
Whether your child is going through the adult or juvenile court system, one thing remains: the right to an attorney. The juvenile court system is not easy to navigate, and sometimes you may feel like the criminal justice system is working against your child.
Because of this, you should recruit an attorney who has specialized in juvenile crimes in Illinois. Your lawyer will be your best resource while you are fighting to keep your child in the juvenile court system and fighting to keep them out of prison.
Minors who are charged with crimes still have rights and are not convicted offenders yet. A strong defense strategy will help to get your child’s charges dropped and protect their future.
About the Author:
Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, murder, and drug crimes.