Technically, juvenile cases are not considered criminal. However, juvenile cases, along with the responsibilities of an attorney representing a juvenile, are akin to criminal cases in many ways. The Michigan Penal Code applies to juvenile conduct. This means that juvenile crimes are labeled as a felony or misdemeanor which can become part of a permanent record. In addition, a juvenile may be detained or placement may be ordered. However, a juvenile may not be placed in an adult prison institution unless tried as an adult under certain circumstances. Even when tried as an adult, the juvenile is not housed with the adult inmates.
The main focus of this publication will pertain to “juvenile delinquency cases” with emphasis on our firm’s experience in the Juvenile Division of the Macomb County Circuit Court.
Crimes by Persons Age 16 or Younger Treated as Juveniles
At age 17 and beyond, a person is treated as an adult for his or her criminal conduct. In our website, we explain the availability of HYTA for Macomb County offenders that are age 17 but under age 21.
Generally, someone under age 17 who commits a crime is treated as a “juvenile”. Juvenile cases which involve criminal activity are referred to as delinquency cases and are handled in the juvenile court. In certain cases, a juvenile case may be waived to the adult criminal court.
Younger Offenders, More Drug Crimes and Sex Crimes
In the past, society was able to resolve many juvenile related infractions outside of the court system. For example, if a juvenile broke a neighbor’s window, the police might try to make contact with the juvenile’s parents to pay restitution without court intervention. However, we are now seeing a greater number of cases instituted as formal juvenile delinquency cases than we did in the past. In addition, our Macomb County attorneys have seen an increase in drug related crimes that involve juveniles. I believe this is due to the accessibility of marijuana and prescription medications in our culture. Offenses which are labeled as sex crimes are also more prevalent in the juvenile system. Perhaps this is because children are exposed to sexuality at a younger age via the internet and television programming.
Drug Crimes and Traffic Offenses Result in License Sanctions
When a juvenile is charged with a drug crime, any traffic or driving offense and alcohol crimes, the Secretary of State will take action against the juvenile’s driving privileges. A drug crime will result in license suspension for a minimum of 6 months.
The State of Michigan places new drivers on a probationary license for a period of 3 years. A traffic offense during this time frame can result in an extension of probation, warning or license suspension.
Police May Attempt to Obtain a Confession
Prior to the issuance of a petition within the Macomb County Juvenile Court, the police may attempt to obtain a confession or statement from the juvenile suspect. The juvenile has all of the rights as an adult and would be urged to remain silent until an attorney can be secured. An attorney can often make recommendations as to whether or not cooperation with the police is an appropriate course of action. It may not always be plausible to have an attorney on hand when the police confront a juvenile since the police prefer to catch a suspect off balance.
Juvenile Cases Begin With a Police Report and a Petition
If criminal activity of a juvenile is brought to the attention of the police or authorities, a report is generated and submitted to the prosecutor. If the conduct of the juvenile supports a criminal offense, the prosecuting attorney can file a petition in the juvenile court. In Macomb County, juvenile cases are evaluated by the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office. If the petition is approved, the juvenile may be detained pending an arraignment.
Our firm represented a juvenile that made a bomb threat directed at his elementary school. Upon petition for charges of making a bomb threat, the juvenile was arrested and held in the Macomb Juvenile Detention Center on a one-million dollar bond. Later, our firm was able to have the bond removed. The juvenile was eventually placed on probation when the court realized that the threat was not credible.
Juvenile Cases are Filed in the County Where the Juvenile Resides
Unlike adult criminal cases which are filed in the jurisdiction where the offense occurred, juvenile cases are filed in the county where the juvenile resides. Thus a juvenile that is a resident of Shelby Township or Washington Township would have his or her case heard in the Macomb County Juvenile Court even if the alleged criminal offense occurred in Oakland County or elsewhere. Our firm handled a case which involved a juvenile who was car hopping in counties outside of Macomb County. We were able to delay the proceedings for the purpose of joining all of the offenses in Macomb County for a consolidated plea agreement and disposition.
Juvenile Division of the Macomb County Circuit Court
The Juvenile Division of the Macomb County Circuit Court is located at 40 North Main, Mt. Clemens, Michigan 48043. When a case is filed, it is assigned to one of the referees. Presently, the following individuals serve as Macomb Juvenile Court Referees:
- Linda Harrison
- Deborah Brune
- George Keller
- Diane Femminineo
- Karen Transit
The job of a referee involves working with the attorney, the juvenile, the family, the prosecutor, the case worker and the victim. Although the referee is not the same as a judge, they are attorneys and empowered to conduct trials. My experience with the Macomb County Juvenile referees has been positive whereby reasonable dispositions are often achieved.
Right to Jury Trial
The juvenile is entitled to a trial if a case is not resolved by a plea bargain. Trials may be heard by the referee or by the Judge that is assigned to the case. However, the juvenile in a delinquency matter has a right to a jury trial pursuant to the United States Constitution. Trials in the juvenile system are handled pursuant to the Michigan Rules of Evidence.
Text Messaging, Photographs and Social Media Sites May Be Incriminating
Upon being retained, we will invariable advise our juvenile clients to refrain from drawing any negative attention. By this, we may insist that our client refrain from texting or posting anything on social networks such as Facebook. In addition, we may advise our client to remove any incriminating or unbecoming photographs which are posted on the internet. We may even recommend that our client shut down any social media internet sites while under investigation or the subject of a delinquency case.
Juvenile Case Dispositions
There are a wide range of dispositions which may be imposed in juvenile delinquency cases. The following is a list of possible dispositions:
- Warn the juvenile and parents and terminate jurisdiction
- Order in-home probation with monitoring and home visits by case worker
- Place the juvenile in foster care
- Order community service
- Place the juvenile in a private or public institution for treatment and rehabilitation
- Order youth home detention
- Place the juvenile in boot camp
- Order the parents to participate in relevant treatment
For minor infractions, the court may impose a mere warning. Where the facts are egregious, long term detention and placement can be ordered. Rarely does a case involve detention at the Macomb County Juvenile Justice Center when a juvenile is not a risk to the community, resides in a stable environment and is attending school.
Many of our cases in the Macomb County Juvenile Court have been dismissed outright upon compliance with a diversion program or consent calendar. To achieve a dismissal, the court may require a juvenile to complete counseling, a substance abuse program and comply with drug testing. A juvenile that fails to abide by the terms of the court’s disposition may be detained within the Macomb County Juvenile Justice Center.