Getting arrested or in trouble with the law can frighten anyone. The situation can become significantly more difficult for minors. Minors often do not fully realize the potential consequences of their actions, though such consequences can derail their lives for years to come. To give your child the best possible outcome in a juvenile case, you need the best criminal defense law firm on your side as soon as possible.
At Martin & Kent, L.L.C., we understand the high stakes faced by juveniles accused of crimes. With more than 45 years of combined legal experience, our DuPage and Kane County criminal defense lawyers handle criminal cases ranging from traffic tickets to serious violent offenses, including those faced by minors. To schedule a free consultation with one of our lawyers, contact us online or call our office today at (630) 474-8000.
Illinois Law Can Treat Juveniles Differently Than Adults
When people younger than 18 violate the law, they generally face delinquency cases in juvenile court instead of cases in criminal court. Delinquency proceedings have both similarities to and differences from “adult” criminal proceedings. For example, the accused juvenile offender will still have the opportunity to plead guilty or not guilty of the allegations. On the other hand, juveniles will not have access to a jury trial. Instead, a judge will hear the case and will have broad discretion.
Juveniles still have the opportunity to defend against their charges, just like any other defendant. Your attorney can provide evidence to challenge the accusations against your child and present witnesses in your child’s favor. The Fourth and Fifth Amendments also protect juveniles from unreasonable searches and seizures and give them the right to remain silent. If the police or other authorities violated a juvenile’s constitutional rights in any way, a skilled defense lawyer can use those violations to keep out any evidence that police or prosecutors obtained illegally.
Juveniles in Adult Court
Not every juvenile goes through juvenile court, as the law allows prosecutors to try certain defendants younger than 18 in adult criminal court. Having a case issued or transferred to adult criminal court can terrify a juvenile—a conviction can result in the same penalties as adults—including time in the general population prison.
Illinois laws have recently changed how adult courts handle cases involving juveniles. First, every case involving a minor younger than 16 will begin in juvenile court, no matter how serious the charge. The prosecutor will then have to request a transfer to adult court.
Accusations of three crimes will automatically result in the trial as adults of minors ages 16 or 17:
- First-degree murder
- Aggravated battery with a firearm
- Aggravated criminal sexual assault
In other cases, an attorney can work to keep the case in juvenile court whenever possible. If your child does end up in adult court, you need an aggressive defense attorney ready to fight against a conviction.
A Criminal Conviction Can Change the Court of a Juvenile’s Life
Juveniles accused of crimes and their parents need to understand that the potential consequences of a criminal conviction can last longer than any sentence imposed by the court. Often referred to as “collateral consequences,” employers, licensing authorities, school, government agencies, and other parties can impose these penalties. Specific examples of the potential collateral consequences of criminal conviction include:
- Exclusion from federal student loan programs – In some cases, criminal convictions related to drugs can limit a person’s eligibility for federal student loans. Ineligibility for student loans can prevent many people from pursuing college educations, potentially hurting their career opportunities for the rest of their lives.
- Difficulty obtaining admission to college – Many colleges and universities inquire about criminal convictions during their application process. Even convictions for minor crimes—especially involving drugs—can hurt a college applicant’s chances of admission.
- Difficulty obtaining employment – A criminal background check is a standard part of the hiring process for many employers—and many will not hire people with criminal convictions, even if those convictions occurred years ago.
- Problems renting an apartment or house – Landlords have an interest in ensuring that illegal activity does not occur on their properties. Many landlords, therefore, conduct thorough background checks on people before renting to them, and any conviction could make finding a place to live difficult.
A Lawyer Can Help You
Fortunately, not every arrest leads to a conviction. The best way to ensure the most favorable result for you or your child is to retain an attorney as soon as you can.
When approprite or applicable to your case, an attorney can:
- Review the facts of your case and determine whether police violated your rights. If they did, the court may throw out any evidence gathered against you, which could result in the prosecution dropping the entire case.
- Attempt to negotiate a plea bargain that avoids the most serious consequences associated with a particular offense.
- Help you or your child gain entry into a diversionary program like drug court or court supervision. If completed successfully, these programs avoid a conviction from appearing on a person’s record and allow individuals to truthfully answer “no” if anyone asks whether they were ever convicted of a crime.
- Represent you or your child in court. If a case goes to trial, hire the best representation possible to improve your chances of a successful verdict.
- Pursue post-conviction relief. Our lawyers may appeal a conviction or try to seal or expunge the record, allowing you or your child to deny the existence of a criminal conviction.
Contact a DuPage County, Illinois, Juvenile Criminal Defense Lawyer to Discuss Your Situation
At Martin & Kent, L.L.C., we represent defendants of all ages, including juveniles and adults. We understand the differences in these cases and the ever-changing laws regarding juvenile offenders in Illinois. If your child was arrested, call us as soon as possible at (630) 474-8000. The sooner we can get started, the more we can help your child.