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Keeping Minors in Juvenile Court Usually Most Appropriate

Posted on in Criminal Law

Keeping Minors in Juvenile Court Usually Most AppropriateFor minors accused of committing a crime, there is a vital difference between being tried as a juvenile and being tried as an adult. Juvenile courts can be more lenient towards defendants and have fewer long-term consequences because:

  • The system focuses more on rehabilitation and education;
  • Sentencing periods tend to be shorter; and
  • It is easier to seal or expunge a juvenile offense from someone’s record.

State prosecutors will sometimes be overzealous in charging a juvenile as an adult. A court can dismiss adult charges against a juvenile if the charges are inappropriate based on the defendant's age.

Juvenile vs. Adult

In Illinois, determining whether a minor is tried as an adult depends on his or her age and the severity of the charge:

  • For misdemeanor and non-violent felony offenses, the defendant is tried as a juvenile if he or she was 17 or younger at the time of the alleged offense; and
  • For violent felony offenses, the defendant is tried as a juvenile if he or she was 16 or younger at the time of the alleged offense.

Courts have some discretion to determine whether a minor should be tried as a juvenile or adult, based on the nature of the crime and the maturity of the defendant. Illinois lawmakers are considering legislation that would allow defendants as old as 20 to be tried as juveniles for misdemeanor offenses. The idea is that people ages 18 to 20 often have an emotional maturity more similar to that of a juvenile than an adult.

Recent Example

In the case of People v. M.R., an Illinois trial court dismissed charges of possession of stolen vehicles against three minors because the prosecution was not allowed to try them as adults. In one incident, detectives had followed a stolen vehicle and apprehended two suspects, ages 16 and 17, after the suspects crashed the vehicle into two cars. The third suspect, age 15, was arrested after allegedly trying to flee police in another stolen vehicle. Prosecutors claimed that possession of a stolen vehicle is a violation of traffic law, which means Illinois law would allow the minors to be tried as adults. However, the trial court ruled and an appellate court confirmed that the offense is not a traffic law violation, even if the suspects were driving at the time of their arrests.

Appropriate Court Setting 

Being tried as an adult can cause a minor to receive an overly harsh punishment, including a minimum prison sentence. A McHenry County criminal defense attorney at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, will make sure that your teen’s case goes through the appropriate court system. To schedule a free consultation, call 815-338-3838.



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