Who is considered a juvenile in the criminal justice system?
Someone’s juvenile status depends on 2 factors:
- The type of criminal offense (misdemeanor or felony); and
- The age of the defendant at the time the offense was committed
For misdemeanor offenses, a defendant is considered a juvenile if the offense occurred when they were 17 or younger.
For felony offenses, a defendant is considered a juvenile if the offense occurred when they were 16 or younger.
For example, if you commit an offense when you were 17, you would be considered a juvenile if it was a misdemeanor, but an adult if it was a felony.
How long can a juvenile be held under arrest?
The amount of time a juvenile can be held under arrest before they are charged or released depends on their age. Police officers can hold someone under 12 years of age for only 6 hours. Juveniles between 12-16 years of age can be held for 12 hours if a non-violent crime is being investigated and for up to 24 hours if a violent crime is being investigated.
Can a juvenile be questioned without a parent or legal guardian present?
Yes. Illinois law states that police officers must make a "reasonable attempt" to contact a juvenile's parent or legal guardian if a juvenile is arrested. Police can contact a responsible adult to be present during questioning as well if a legal guardian cannot be present. A youth officer must be present if the police question the juvenile. A part of the youth officer’s job is to step in as a responsible adult to look out for the interests of the juvenile. The other part of the job is to process the juvenile once he or she is charged. However, a youth officer is just a regular officer that can and often does collect evidence against the juvenile.
Police officers do not have to wait to question a juvenile until the parent or legal guardian arrives. Police officers also do not have to wait for permission to question a juvenile.
Can a juvenile be questioned without a lawyer present?
Usually. In most cases, police officers do not have to provide a lawyer for a juvenile or wait until a lawyer is present before they begin to question a juvenile.
But, when a juvenile under the age of 13 is in custody for a homicide or sexual assault, a lawyer must be present during questioning. The police department must provide a lawyer for the juvenile in this situation.
What happens to a juvenile once they are charged?
Once a juvenile is charged, they are either released to their parent or legal guardian or held in a secure facility to wait for the outcome of their court case.
Some counties in Illinois have a separate juvenile detention center for children 17 years and younger. In other counties, juveniles are held at the county jail. Illinois law states that there must be a "sight and sound barrier" between juveniles and adults in a detention center, with additional requirements for facilities which provide long-term care for juveniles. These laws apply to all juveniles, regardless of how serious the charges filed against them are or whether they are charged as a juvenile or as an adult.
What does it mean to be tried as an adult?
In some situations, a juvenile may be tried as an adult. This means that the case will take place as if it were an adult case, in the criminal courthouse of that county, with adult courtroom procedures and penalties.