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Are Video Hearings for Juveniles a Good Idea?

Are Video Hearings for Juveniles a Good Idea?

In an effort to accelerate the timing of hearings on detention referrals for juveniles, the Illinois legislature is considering a bill that would require such hearings to take place within 48 hours of when a minor is taken into temporary custody. The current standard is that such hearings take place within 40 hours of detention, but that Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays don’t count toward that 40-hour total. While it is hard to argue that speedy hearings in juvenile detention cases are a good thing—no one wants to see juveniles in custody longer than absolutely necessary—questions exist as to whether this legislation is appropriate.

While the legislation intends to provide quicker detention hearings for juveniles who are in custody following an arrest, particularly those arrested and detained in rural areas where travel times to a courthouse can be significant, it is not clear what other rights the juveniles who undergo such hearings might sacrifice. More rapid hearings for juveniles who were arrested and are in detention might result in a quicker decision as to whether they should remain in detention, but the disadvantages to these video hearings for detained juveniles could make this a poor tradeoff.

Video Juvenile Detention Hearings Might Sacrifice More Than They Gain

The argument in favor of the proposed legislation is that it will provide juveniles in rural areas quicker access to detention hearings that could potentially get them out of juvenile detention facilities while they wait for adjudication of their cases. While that sounds like a good idea, it might not be, both practically and legally.

Juveniles in rural areas often face delayed detention hearings because of travel time between the hearing site and the detention center and because of intervening weekends and holidays that can delay when the hearing actually is held under current law. Under the proposal, they often would have to attend such hearings via video conference while being physically in one place while their attorney is actually in court where the hearing is really taking place.

Opponents to the legislation, such as the ACLU of Illinois, contend that permitting video hearings make it easier for a judge, who would not be physically in the same location as the juvenile defendant, to make a detention decision with less consideration for humane considerations than might be the case if the juvenile was in the same room as the judge. Proponents of the law argue that it would save time and money transporting juvenile defendants to and from the court in rural areas.

Furthermore, the change in deadlines for detention hearings would benefit only those juveniles arrested within 40 hours of an impending weekend or holiday. Juveniles arrested from Thursday through Sunday might get quicker hearings, but all juveniles detained could give up the ability to be present in court for their detention hearings. The bill’s sponsor says video hearings will make it easier for rural jurisdictions to meet the shorter deadlines contained in the bill. The reality, however, is that it infringes upon their constitutional rights.

The Bill Takes Away Constitutional Rights From Juveniles That All Adults Still Enjoy

In 2015, a similar bill was introduced in the Illinois legislature that also would have permitted video detention hearings for juvenile defendants, just as the current proposed legislation would do. The Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission was adamantly opposed to the legislation on many grounds, not least of which was the potential interference with effective legal representation at video hearings—the juvenile’s attorney would need to choose between being with the juvenile during the hearing or being present in the courtroom where the hearing was actually being held. One option would limit interaction with the court, while the other would limit interaction with the client. For this and other reasons, the commission found that “The use of video conference technology is inappropriate in juvenile court hearings.” (Emphasis in the original.)

A major consideration in the commission’s decision was that juveniles are entitled under Illinois law to all of the procedural protections that adults have in criminal proceedings. The commission found that a juvenile has the same right be physically present at a delinquency hearing as adults do to be present at criminal proceedings against them. Because the rights to confront accusers, to have counsel present, and to be present at a criminal hearing are protected by due process and the Sixth Amendment for adults, those same protections apply for juveniles in a delinquency hearing.

The commission concluded that video hearing would never be appropriate for a detention hearing because it would violate constitutional rights.

Illinois law allows video hearings for adults in some pre-trial and post-trial proceedings that do not involve substantive decisions are made that could affect the defendant’s liberty, and such as is the case in a detention hearing for juveniles.

The Criminal Defense Attorneys of Martin & Kent, L.L.C., Will Monitor the Status of the Juvenile Video Hearings Legislation in Illinois

Any state or federal legislation that hurts the rights of defendants, juvenile or adult, grabs the attention of criminal defense attorneys. The lawyers of Martin & Kent, L.L.C., are no different. We have spent years defending the rights of criminal defendants, and legislation that infringes on those rights will be prominent on our radar. If you find yourself facing criminal charges, whether as a juvenile or adult, call the criminal defense attorneys of Martin & Kent, L.L.C.

Our legal team regularly handles a wide range of criminal cases for clients of all ages and from all walks of life. We can discuss your best options in your case and advise you of what to expect from the criminal process, whether you are in juvenile court or state criminal court. For a consultation in DuPage, Kane, and Cook County, contact us 24 hours a day at (630) 474-8000.



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