Juvenile Justice: Understanding The Process When Your Child Is Arrested
As a parent, one of the worst scenarios is receiving a call from the police informing you that your child has been arrested. It is often an overwhelming situation that is even more complicated by a lack of familiarity with the juvenile court process. While there are some similarities between juvenile court and adult criminal court, there are also key distinctions to know about the process.
Things To Keep in Mind
All juveniles share the same basic constitutional rights as adult offenders.
This includes the right to counsel, the right to remain silent, the right to confront their accusers, and the right to a speedy trial.
Juvenile court is intended to be rehabilitative in nature, rather than punitive.
As a result, most consequences involve treatment programs, restitution, education, and community service. Only in extreme circumstances will a juvenile be confined following the conclusion of juvenile proceedings. Confinement may include in-patient treatment facilities in cases of mental, emotional, and chemically induced infractions.
The age of your child and the crime committed will greatly alter the process moving forward.
Generally, juveniles under the age of 18 who commit a crime that would be illegal for an adult to commit (excluding petty traffic violations) are considered delinquents. As such, they will be subject to delinquency proceedings; however, unlike adult criminal court, delinquency proceedings are considered civil rather than criminal because there is a prohibition on juveniles being placed in a penitentiary upon a finding of guilt. Minn. Stat. 242.14. But in rare circumstances, depending on the severity of the crime, the child could be confined to a juvenile facility. See Stat. 260B.198 Subd. 4.
If the juvenile is 14 or older and commits certain enumerated offenses, they may be subject to adult criminal court and will be treated in all respects as an adult. These offenses are considered more serious in nature, including crimes such as murder, first-degree assault, kidnapping, or any crime involving the use of a weapon. Importantly, if the juvenile is 16 or 17 and commits a serious offense, they are presumed to be subject to adult court. If the juvenile is under 14, regardless of the offense, they are considered legally incapable of committing crime and can never be subject to adult court in Minnesota.
If the juvenile commits a crime that is legal for adults (i.e. underage drinking) the juvenile would be considered a juvenile petty offender and is subject to a variety of rehabilitative punishments, but generally not confinement.
If the juvenile commits a traffic violation they would be considered a juvenile traffic offender. These offenses are generally handled in adult traffic court as they are less serious in nature and resolved expeditiously.
The Process of Delinquency:
- 1. Arrest, either through a valid arrest warrant or by a peace officer who has probable cause to believe the juvenile has committed a crime
- 2. Pre-hearing Detention, the juvenile may be held in jail for no longer than 36 hours excluding holidays and weekends without a judge's approval. There are several circumstances that limit the 36 hour rule even further. See R. of Juv. Delinquency P. Rule 5.
- 3. Filing a Petition and Arraignment, the prosecutor will file a petition to the juvenile court stating the alleged offense(s) that the juvenile is believed to have violated and the probable cause for believing so. Then, the court must hold an initial hearing where the juvenile will have the opportunity to enter a plea to the charges. This hearing must occur within 5 days of arrest if the juvenile is in custody and within 30 days if the juvenile is out of custody. The juvenile does have the right to counsel at this hearing unless it is a petty offense or traffic offense.
- 4. Pretrial Hearing, assuming the juvenile does not plead guilty at the arraignment, the case will be set for a pretrial hearing. At that hearing, the court will determine if an omnibus hearing needs to be set, if a resolution has been reached between the juvenile and the prosecutor, or if a trial needs to be set.
- Omnibus Hearing, an optional hearing where the juvenile will raise any constitutional or evidentiary challenges that exist within the case.
- Resolution, anytime after the arraignment, the prosecutor and juvenile may conduct plea negotiations in an attempt to resolve the matter without going to trial. Plea negotiations generally result in a less severe sentence than if convicted at trial, but requires a plea of guilt.
- Trial, because delinquency proceedings are civil, juveniles do not have the right to a jury trial. Instead, their case will be tried in front of an impartial judge.
- 5. Disposition Hearing, following either a plea of guilty or an adjudication of guilt, a disposition hearing will be held where the juvenile will receive their sentence. Again, because of the rehabilitative nature of juvenile court, the sentence will likely be comprised of a combination of treatment, education, restitution, and community service.
Should I Hire a Lawyer?
Yes, there is a lot at stake for a juvenile who has been arrested. An experienced juvenile attorney will be able to examine the case, identify any holes in the prosecution's petition, effectively argue at omnibus hearings, conduct thorough plea negotiations, and zealously represent the interests of the juvenile during a trial. Call our office today if your child has been arrested or if you have further questions.