Exclusively Practicing Criminal Defense for
Two Decades
David Olshansky

Juvenile Cases

Offenses committed by people under the age of 18 are charged as juvenile cases. Courts tend to be more sympathetic and usually take a lighter approach when a juvenile is accused of a felony or misdemeanor. Trial records show that sentences for convicted juveniles are usually less severe than sentences handed out to adults for similar crimes.

This is because minors are considered to be at a vulnerable stage in their life. A juvenile conviction can significantly devastate the life of the child and put them on a downward path. Minors sent to prison at a young age have been observed to become hardened. They pick up bad habits that lead them to committing more serious criminal offenses in the future.

In an effort to keep children from the harmful effects of prison, several new laws were introduced last year that deal with juvenile offenders. The laws were meant to keep juveniles out of the prison system.

The new laws also include changes that stop the police from detaining youths for misdemeanor crimes. They also give judges more discretion on whether to try teens as adults or not.

State Legislation

Cases involving juveniles are covered under 705 ILCS 405 Juvenile Court Act of 1987. The purpose of the Act is to secure guidance and care for the young in his or her own home where they can get safety as well as emotional, mental, moral and physical support that is in their best interest.

The courts may order the minor to be kept in foster care if there are aggravating circumstances to suspect that the juvenile cannot receive a safe living environment at their home.

The primary intention behind the new laws is to keep juveniles, especially children under 13 years of age, out of juvenile detention facility. The legal system attempts to place them with community service providers instead.


Previously, minors that were over 15 years old would be tried as adults if they were charged with any of the five serious offenses. These offenses included first degree murder, aggravated criminal sexual assault, aggravated battery with a firearm, armed robbery with a firearm and aggravated vehicular hijacking with a firearm.

The law also mandated that juveniles that had been tried and convicted in an adult criminal court would be tried in an adult court for any subsequent charges.

The laws have been changed and those younger than 16 years old will now receive a trial in a juvenile court, regardless of the charges. Furthermore, minors under the age of 18 can only be tried in an adult court for three offenses; first degree murder, aggravated criminal sexual assault and aggravated battery with a firearm.

Additionally, minors previously convicted as adults are no longer mandated to be tried in an adult court for any subsequent charges.


The laws also give judges more flexibility when sentencing juveniles. A judge may take the minor’s age, home life, criminal history, cognitive ability and potential for rehabilitation into consideration.

Judges must also consider mitigating factor that lead to a less severe punishment. These include peer or family pressure, the minor’s maturity level and degree of involvement in the crime.

Convictions for the three major offenses can still lead to life imprisonment under Class X felony.

Examples and Court Cases

When it comes to juvenile cases, judges have a lot of discretion. In a recent ruling, a 16 year old girl’s case was transferred to the adult court.

Helm from Sterling IL, had admitted to helping cover up the dead body of the 53 year old Peggy Schroeder. The woman was killed in her home in 2017. Her daughter Anna is accused of shooting her in the head when she returned home from work.

Helm told the police in a recorded interview how she helped Anna clean up the blood in the house. She also set up two fires to burn the body in an attempt to cover the crime.

If Helm had been tried in a juvenile court, she could have faced detention in a juvenile facility up to the age of 21 in case of a conviction.

If she is convicted now, as an adult, she can face up to 5 years in for concealment and 7 years for arson.

The law-enforcement agencies deal differently with juvenile cases compared to adult offenses. In most cases, the police refer the minor to his or her parents. But this is not always the case. The police can also temporarily detain the person, issue a warning and let them go. In extreme cases, they refer the offender to a juvenile court.

Two charges that are most commonly brought forward against minors are underage drinking and shoplifting. In both cases, the police are more likely to arrest the person and refer them to the parents.

If the police decide to arrest a juvenile, their age is taken into consideration for the length of the arrest. Someone under the age of 12 years can be arrested for only 6 hours. Juveniles from 12 to 16 can be held for 12 hours if they are suspected of committing a non-violent crime. They can be held for 24 hours if they are suspected of having committed a violent crime.

Possible Legal Defenses

Having one of your child or someone in the family charged with juvenile delinquency can be a difficult experience for people. Juvenile law is separate from regular criminal legislation and has its own set of rules and procedures. Very few lawyers are experienced in Juvenile trial.

This is why it is important to have an experienced legal team on your side. A good defense attorney can get the case dismissed or get the sentence reduced significantly.

The most important thing in juvenile cases is to keep the trial from going to an adult court. Juvenile court judges are far more lenient when passing judgment. The law also allows them to consider the defendant’s age, cognitive ability and involvement in the offense.