With a few exceptions, when a minor under the age of 17 is charged with commuting a crime in Michigan, the case is processed through the family division of the circuit court, rather than the district court and sometimes general trial division of the circuit court as an adult criminal case would proceed. A juvenile delinquency case shares similar aspects to that of an adult criminal case in that the juvenile is entitled to representation by an attorney, the juvenile has the right to a trial by jury, the prosecution has the burden of proving the juvenile guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and the juvenile is entitled to the other rights an adult criminal defendant is entitled to.
A major difference between juvenile court and adult criminal court is the sentencing or "adjudication" phase. As an adult, a criminal defendant is subject to the fines, costs, possible probation and incarceration associated with the charges he or she is found guilty of. The focus of the juvenile court, however, is not punishment but rather treatment and deterrence of future criminal activity by the juvenile. The juvenile court can order a number of things if and when the juvenile is found guilty of a crime at trial or enters a plea - the court may issue the juvenile a warning and close the case out; the court can order the juvenile to be placed on in-home detention or be placed on a tether; the juvenile may be placed on a period of probation (court supervision); or the court could send the juvenile to a detention facility. In addition, the court may also order the juvenile to maintain regular attendance at school, maintain good grades, and obey his or her parents. The court also can order counseling, therapy, drug/alcohol treatment, and community service.
In addition to the more formal process described above, the court may feel it is appropriate to offer the juvenile the ability to go through a more informal process called the "consent calendar." In essence, the juvenile is likely to be requested to do things such as pay restitution, write a letter of apology, and/or complete community service within a specific period of time. If the juvenile does this, the case is then dismissed and there is no formal adjudication. If the juvenile fails, then the case proceeds in the more formal fashion.
It is important to have an experienced attorney who knows the nuisances of juvenile delinquency cases and the workings of the juvenile division of the family court. It may mean the difference between a dismissed case and a formal juvenile adjudication on one's record. If you, a friend or family member is currently facing charges as a juvenile, contact MCV Law today for a free consultation.