Criminal charges of any kind may result in grave consequences with long-reaching effects in your life, regardless of your age or the allegations against you. However, if you or your child is facing juvenile criminal charges, what you are up against will be different from what you could face in the adult criminal justice system. It may be helpful to understand exactly what to expect and how you can protect your interests.
The penalties associated with many juvenile crimes are not as detrimental as those for adults who commit crimes, but it is still critical to take your situation seriously. All defendants have rights, regardless of age, and protecting those rights will be important at every step of the criminal justice process. Your future could be at stake, but you can fight for your long-term interests.
Know your rights
Juvenile offenders do not have the same rights as adult offenders. For example, those charged in the juvenile system do not have the right to a trial by jury of their peers. Instead, a judge will oversee the proceeding and make the ruling. Likewise, juvenile offenders do not have the right to a public trial. Instead of referring to these proceedings as trials, they are instead known as adjudication hearings. Courts do not refer to juvenile criminal acts as crimes, but they refer to them as delinquent acts.
However, there are some protections provided to Illinois juvenile offenders not offered to adult offenders. For example, a juvenile has a sealed record, allowing that individual to move forward without a youthful indiscretion affecting his or her future as an adult. In some cases, a court may expunge a juvenile offender’s record when he or she turns 18, as long as the defendant meets certain requirements. Juvenile court judges must always act in the best interests of the child.
Fighting for your future
There is a lot at stake for a young person facing criminal charges. It is in the best interests of each person facing these charges to take their situation seriously and fight for their interests at each step. If you or your child is in trouble with the law, you will benefit from having experienced guidance as you seek the best possible outcome. Seeking defense counsel as soon as possible is a prudent first step after an arrest.