How Are Juveniles Protected in the Criminal Justice System?

Being arrested or questioned by a police officer can be a terrifying experience for anyone, but especially for children who may not understand what is happening, or what rights they have under the law. It can be even more frightening for children with special needs.

The Illinois legislature passed new laws expanding legal rights for children in police custody in 2016. However, critics say the state lags behind others in protecting the rights of minors.

Who is considered a juvenile?

The decision to charge a minor as a juvenile or an adult rests on two factors – the age of the defendant and the type of criminal offense. The defendant is considered a juvenile if:

  • The alleged crime is a misdemeanor and happened when the defendant was 17 or younger
  • The alleged crime was a felony and occurred when the defendant was 16 or younger

How long can a juvenile be detained by police?

The age of the minor also determines how long the police can keep them in custody. After being arrested, a child can only be held for six hours if they are under 12 years old. If they are between the ages of 12 and 16, the limits are:

  • Up to 12 hours for a non-violent crime
  • Up to 24 hours for a violent crime

Minors must be informed of their Miranda rights

Before being taken into custody, all children under 18 must be informed of their Constitutional rights not to talk to police, and to have an attorney. Police are required to ask two questions after reading the statement:

  • “Do you want to have a lawyer?”
  • “Do you want to talk to me?”

Can police talk to your child without an attorney present?

In most cases, police officers aren’t required to provide an attorney for the child before questioning them. However, a lawyer must be present when a juvenile under the age of 13 is charged with a high-level felony, such as murder. Regardless of the charges, it is essential that a child asks for a lawyer or a parent to be present before talking to officers.

The 2016 law also requires police to videotape interrogations of anyone under 18 in all felony and certain misdemeanor cases. This is vital to determining whether the child was pressured or coerced into making a statement. A confession is not allowed as evidence by a court in these cases unless it was videotaped.

Protect your childs rights and their future

While convictions for juveniles can result in less severe penalties compared to being convicted in adult court, having a criminal record can still cause devastating consequences, affecting their ability to find a job and get a college education before those records can be sealed or erased.

If your child simply made a mistake or was wrongly charged, they do not deserve to suffer the effects of a criminal conviction. An experienced criminal defense attorney understands the complicated criminal justice system and will aggressively protect your child’s rights.