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.
This includes the right to counsel, the right to remain silent, the right to confront their accusers, and the right to a speedy trial.
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.
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.
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.