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Required Proof for a Juvenile Drug Possession ConvictionTeenagers sometimes give in to the temptation of experimenting with illegal drugs. While teens may see no harm in trying drugs, being caught in possession of drugs has serious consequences. Your teen may not face the same jail sentence that an adult offender may receive. Courts focus on rehabilitation for juveniles who commit nonviolent crimes. However, a drug offense can limit some of the opportunities available to your teen. For instance, a person convicted of drug possession for the first time cannot receive government student aid for one year. Teens may also face discipline at school and difficulty getting into the college of their choice. Your teen may be able to avoid a costly drug conviction if your defense attorney can show that the circumstances did not meet the legal definition of drug possession.

Knowledge

Prosecutors must prove that the person charged with drug possession knew that they were in possession of an illegal drug. Saying that the teen did not know it was an illegal substance may not be a valid defense depending on the circumstances. Teens can be guilty of drug possession if it is reasonable to believe that they knew they were in possession of an illegal drug. Circumstances may include:

  • How the teen came into possession of the substance;
  • Who gave the drugs; or
  • Whether the substance looks like drugs.

A judge will have difficulty believing that a teen did not know that a leafy substance, powder, or pills were drugs. It is a different matter if the drugs were hidden or disguised and the teen honestly did not understand the situation.

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Court Deems 22-Year Juvenile Prison Sentence UnconstitutionalIllinois criminal law requires courts to add 15 years to a prison sentence if the defendant had a firearm while committing the offense. However, Illinois amended its law regarding juvenile sentencing in 2016 to allow a court to disregard the mandatory sentencing enhancement if it believes it is not appropriate for a juvenile offender. The law instructs the courts to consider:

  • The juvenile defendant’s maturity and ability to consider risks;
  • Outside influences on the defendant;
  • Neglect or abuse at the defendant’s home;
  • The defendant’s potential for rehabilitation;
  • The circumstances of the offense;
  • The role the defendant played in the offense;
  • Whether the defendant participated in his or her defense; and
  • The defendant’s criminal history.

Illinois prisoners have since appealed their juvenile criminal sentences, citing the new law. Courts have ruled that the law does not apply retroactively to juvenile offenders who were sentenced before the law went into effect. However, courts have granted resentencing for a few of these appeals, saying that the sentence was excessive for a juvenile case.

Recent Case

In People v. Barnes, the defendant appealed a 22-year prison sentence he received for an armed robbery he committed when he was 17. Fifteen of the years were mandatory because he had used an unloaded revolver during the robbery. The defendant argued that the 15-year firearms sentence was unconstitutional for a juvenile because it violates the Illinois Constitution’s proportionate penalties clause. The clause is the state’s equivalent to the eighth amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which protects defendants against cruel and unusual punishment for a crime. An Illinois appellate court agreed that the defendant’s sentence went against society’s “evolving standard of moral decency.” The court noted that the defendant:

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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

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Expunging Juvenile Records in IllinoisWhen juveniles are adjudicated of non-violent offenses, their arrest and court records are not meant to follow them into adulthood. Courts use adjudication to discipline someone younger than 18 who has committed an offense, but adjudication of most offenses does not carry the same civil restrictions as an adult criminal conviction. To further distinguish juvenile offenses from adult offenses, juvenile records are sealed from the public. However, Illinois law allows the records to be unsealed if there is an ongoing criminal investigation or imminent threat involving the person. People who can access the sealed juvenile record of an adult include:

  • Law enforcement officials;
  • Prosecutors;
  • Military officials;
  • Child protection investigators;
  • School officials; and
  • Mental health professionals.

People can petition to have their juvenile records expunged once they turn 18, effectively destroying them. While many juvenile records are eligible for expungement, records offices rarely expunge them on their own and might not inform people of their expungement rights. Illinois lawmakers are considering a bill that would automatically expunge more juvenile records and strengthen the protection of sealed records.

Automatic Expungement

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Posted on in Criminal Law

Illinois Curfew Law For Minors, Crystal Lake criminal defense attorneysMany parents who let their teens leave the house alone to attend parties or hang out with friends often require that the teens be home by a certain time. In addition to the curfews imposed by parents, Illinois law also has its own curfew restrictions on juveniles. Under the Illinois Child Curfew Act, juveniles under the age of 17 years old are not allowed to remain in a public place or sometimes a business during curfew hours. Curfew hours are 11:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. during the week, and 12:01 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. on weekends.

Curfew violation is considered a minor offense punishable with a fine of $500, and in some cases, community service for the parents of the minor who violated curfew. There are exceptions to the curfew restrictions, and a minor will have a defense to a curfew violation if:

  • The minor is in the company of his parents, guardian, or another person in charge of the minor at the time;
  • The minor was running an errand for a parent or guardian;
  • The minor was going to, or returning from work during curfew hours;
  • The minor is involved in an emergency situation;
  • The minor was at a political, religious, or school related social activity; or
  • The minor is on the sidewalk outside his or her home, or a neighbor's home if the neighbor does not call the police to complain about the minor's presence.

The curfew laws do not apply to married and emancipated minors.

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