Juvenile criminal charges are those brought
against a minor who is less than 17 years old.
If your child is facing juvenile charges for any crime
--referred to under Minnesota law as a "delinquency
action"--you need a persistent, knowledgeable
The criminal penalties juveniles face can be
significant and long-lasting. This is so even though
minors are not officially considered to be "criminals"
(since their actions are technically "acts of delinquency").
Juvenile acts of delinquency range from “status crimes,”
which are activities made illegal by the mere fact of
the child’s age (curfew violations, possession of tobacco
or alcohol, etc.), to “criminal conduct,”
which encompasses activities that would be illegal
regardless of the defendant’s age (assault, theft, vandalism, drugs, sexual assault, theft, etc.)
While juvenile criminal charges should be taken seriously, it is important to consult with an
attorney if your child is facing charges of criminal conduct. If your child is accused of serious
criminal conduct (usually major felonies), she can be charged and sentenced as an adult.
If Your Child is Facing Criminal Charges
Parents need to be pro-active and contact a defense attorney if their son or daughter is in danger of facing juvenile criminal charges. Many parents take a "wait and see" attitude toward the possibility that their child will be subject to the juvenile criminal justice system. Sometimes this passive approach is based on the fact they think their child is innocent, that the juvenile criminal justice system will be lenient toward a minor defendant, or even that a conviction of a minor is "no big deal."
But these attitudes are often inaccurate: the juvenile criminal justice system prosecutes just as zealously as the adult system, and juvenile convictions can result in very harmful, long lasting consequences to your child's educational and professional future. When parents wait until their child is arrested (or even later) before consulting with a juvenile criminal defense attorney, they make their child's situation more complicated and difficult than it needs to be.
Defense of Juvenile Charges
The most important step your juvenile criminal defense attorney can make is to keep your child's case in juvenile court. Juveniles accused of a crime typically must appear at a preliminary inquiry in juvenile court. If the crime is serious enough, juvenile defendants over 14 years old may be subject to "waiver" into adult court. Having your child's case tried in adult court is not to your advantage. Cases in juvenile court generally remain confidential, while adult court cases may be made public, become part of your child's permanent record, and/or result in more severe punishment for the convicted defendant.
In addition, juvenile court often uses more flexible sentencing. Juveniles are never "convicted" of a crime in juvenile court. Instead, they are "adjudicated." Obviously, you want your child to avoid incarceration, and if your child goes to adult court, jail is a more likely alternative. Penalties in juvenile court are more likely to include probation, fines, counseling, and community service although they sometimes include "confinement." The most severe penalty issued by the juvenile court is usually "juvenile detention" until the age of 19 or 21, depending on the crime.