The Outcome of a Juvenile Case Can Have Life-Long Consequences
When a juvenile commits a minor offense in Illinois, it is possible the minor will be given what is known as a station adjustment, meaning the juvenile will be processed but not charged with a crime. Other times, the juvenile might be put into a diversionary program that puts certain requirements, and potentially supervision, upon a juvenile, but the minor will not appear before a judge. For misdemeanors, even serious ones, those 18 years old and younger are treated as juveniles. Even for those juveniles who undergo a non-court process, such as a station adjustment or a diversionary program, the police have records of the contact. That can have an impact on charges if the juvenile has future run-ins with the law, as well as on future post-secondary education and employment options.
For more serious crimes, though, the juvenile will be referred to the court. The juvenile court system has jurisdiction over most crimes committed by persons 18 years old or younger. However, for some felonies, juveniles can be charged as adults, even if they are as young as 15 years old. While Illinois case law has consistently held that a juvenile adjudication is not a conviction, Illinois has no statute that expressly states that. Accordingly, the life-long impact of juvenile charges and, worse yet, convictions, make your choice of a juvenile law attorney that much more critical.
Make an Informed Choice in a Juvenile Law Attorney
A lot is riding on the outcome of a juvenile criminal case. A juvenile adjudication of delinquency on serious charges can impact employment options, and some drug charges, even for juveniles, can affect a minor’s ability to get student loans, federal education assistance, and even private grants and scholarships. In worst-case scenarios, a juvenile could be tried as an adult and face incarceration. These potential consequences make it all the more important that you choose the right juvenile law attorney.
You want to hire a lawyer who has experience with juvenile law, with cases like yours or your child’s, with the proper qualifications and background, and who has experience in the court in which your child will appear. Because you don’t want just any lawyer, there are questions you should ask before you hire an attorney to handle a juvenile law case. These include:
- How many times has the lawyer handled a case like this one? You don’t want to hire a novice. A child’s future potentially hangs in the balance, and you want to hire a lawyer with the right experience.
- Does the lawyer practice in the court in which your case (or your child’s case) will be tried? This matters. Knowing who the judges are and their tendencies is important, as is knowledge of the prosecutors and their tendencies. Such knowledge can greatly enhance your lawyer’s evaluation of the case and how to handle it.
- Has the attorney ever stood accused of or received sanctions for misconduct? Let’s face it—you want an attorney who abides by the rules of professional conduct. You can find the information elsewhere—and you should—but you also want to hear the attorney’s side of things before making a decision.
- What is the attorney’s evaluation of your case? This can break down into several areas. For instance, what are the possible outcomes of your case, and what does the attorney consider most likely, based on what you have told him? No lawyer is clairvoyant, but an experienced attorney should lay out the possibilities and the relative likelihood of the various possible outcomes.
- Going straight to the bottom line, find out what the case is likely to cost you. Ask what the fees and expenses will be, and the basis on which they will be charged. Will charges be a flat fee, or hourly rate? What kinds of expenses besides relatively minor items like photocopying and postage can you expect to be charged, and what is the range of how much is that likely to be?
- On a more personal level from your perspective as the client, you will want to know how the lawyer will handle your case. You should ask how long the case could be expected to take. Again, no lawyer is clairvoyant, but an experienced attorney should have a good idea of the case timeline. Further, you need to ask how you and the lawyer will communicate, and who will serve as your primary point of contact. Also, will you have a role in case preparation, and what would that role be?
- Finally, who will be doing the bulk of the work? If the lawyer is part of a firm, there likely are associates and legal assistants who will do much of the work on your case. You should know who these people are and what will be the nature work they will do.
Don’t let the lawyer rush you into signing a retainer agreement before you have all the information you feel you need to make a decision. You probably don’t want an attorney who seems more interested in having a client than in having a happy client. Until you are satisfied with the answers to your questions, you probably shouldn’t hire that lawyer. There are other lawyers out there, and you should interview the ones who strike you as the best prospects until you find the right one.
If You Need a Juvenile Criminal Attorney in DuPage, Kane, or Cook County, Talk to the Experienced Criminal Defense Attorneys of Martin & Kent, L.L.C.
If you or your child face juvenile criminal charges, the stakes are certainly high enough that you should retain an attorney experienced in juvenile law. Should you find yourself in that situation, call the criminal attorneys of Martin & Kent, L.L.C. They have a combined 45 years of experience, including time as criminal prosecutors. They are tough and aggressive, and are committed to winning at trial if that’s what it takes. For a consultation, contact them 24 hours a day at (630) 474-8000.