Juvenile crime can be especially heartbreaking. As a parent or guardian, you imagine your child going on to live a full life of happiness, ambition, and success. When your child is accused of committing a crime, it’s easy to spiral into expecting the worst possible outcomes.

At O’Keefe Law, I will work with you to navigate this difficult time in you and your child’s life. I will help you understand the charges levied against your child and work to the best of my abilities within the confines of the law to avoid harsh consequences for your child.

When a child is accused of a crime, one of the first questions I hear from parents is, “Can they be charged as an adult?” The answer to this question is complicated, and it varies case by case. As a juvenile defense attorney, I will my experience to explain the nuances of Michigan law and build a defense that allows your child to live up to their limitless potential.

If you suspect your child will be charged with a crime or they’ve recently been charged, you must retain legal representation as quickly as possible. Though there are few differences between juvenile and adult legal statutes, it’s essential to hire a lawyer with proven experience in family court, juvenile delinquency, and the relevant proceedings.

Regardless of the crime your child stands accused of committing, I will exercise compassion and understanding at every avenue in hopes that I can minimize and even eliminate the severity of the charges against them. Though I hope to continue these conversations in person after taking your case, below are a few topics to help you understand what might happen next with your child.

Juvenile Delinquency

According to the Michigan penal code, any child under the age of 17 who stands accused of a committing a crime falls under the category of “juvenile delinquency.” Juvenile delinquency cases are frequently tried in family court, beginning with a petition.

After a petition is filed with the family court system, there are a few possible outcomes. Sometimes a case may be dismissed before a trial can begin. Other times, the prosecutor may approach the defense team to offer a plea bargain. If a plea deal is not accepted and the charges have not been dismissed, the case will proceed to trial.

If a plea deal is accepted or your child is found guilty of a crime at trial, juvenile defendants receive what is called an “adjudication” — not a conviction. This term is one of the key differences between a juvenile case and an adult case.

After an adjudication is received by the court, juvenile defendants will be issued a court-ordered disposition. Differing from typical sentencing circumstances, the judge has the discretion to determine the consequences for the child’s actions.

Depending on the nature of the crime, the judge may let the juvenile defendant off with a warning. In more severe cases, the consequences can range from community service to detention at a juvenile facility.

It is important to retain legal representation for your child before all this begins. Their case will be in the hands of a professional who is best equipped to defend them.

One of the other options in juvenile delinquency cases is deferment. The Juvenile Diversion Act was passed in Michigan in 1988 to give accused juvenile delinquents the best possible chance at rehabilitation after a crime.

Utilizing my expert knowledge of the Juvenile Diversion Act, I often ask the courts for a deferment in cases of misdemeanor and non-violent crimes. Once a case is deferred by the courts, the alleged juvenile delinquent will be required to abide by a “consent calendar.”

Once placed on the Michigan Family Court system’s consent calendar, an alleged juvenile delinquent will be required to complete court-specified terms within a court-ordered period. Opting to be placed on the juvenile court’s consent calendar allows the alleged juvenile delinquent to make important strides toward rehabilitation without facing the life-long consequences of accepting a formal plea bargain.

Without accepting a formal plea deal, alleged juvenile delinquents are given a chance to live life without a criminal record. All cases placed on the Michigan consent calendar remain non-public and will not be able to be used against your child throughout their future endeavors.

The consent calendar works as a kind of probation for alleged juvenile offenders, and it’s not without its own set of consequences for your child. The child must fulfill certain criteria during their time on the consent calendar. Failure to do so, or committing another crime during this time, may result in removal from the program. If this happens, the child will return to the traditional trial protocol.

Traditional Waiver

The above avenues of deferment or trial in the family court system are reserved for non-violent crimes and misdemeanor offenses. If your child stands accused of a violent crime or felony, a prosecutor may ask for a waiver from the family court system to try the case in the adult criminal court system.

The judge can deny the prosecution’s waiver, so it’s necessary to understand that just because the prosecution has asked for a waiver does not mean that your child is destined to be tried as an adult. After a prosecutor asks for a waiver, there is a two-step process to determine the court’s decision on the request.

Unless the juvenile chooses to waive their right, the first step in this process is a probable cause hearing. At a probable cause hearing, the prosecutor has to present, and the defense team has to negate any possible case for probable cause. In laymen’s terms, this process tasks the prosecution with arguing that there is reasonable suspicion that the juvenile delinquent in question could have committed the crime.

If the court agrees with the prosecution that there is probable cause in the juvenile’s case, the case will move on to a best interests hearing. The court will work to determine the best interests of the juvenile and the public in relation to the crime.

Factors to be considered in this hearing can include the seriousness of the crime and the juvenile’s criminal record. Sometimes the court will choose to keep the case within the family court system, and other times the court will elect to proceed with prosecution in the adult court system.

In cases of juvenile sex offenses, when a minor is tried as an adult, they are subject to be submitted to the sex offender registry. This is a permanent consequence that may limit your child’s ability to maintain employment, find housing, and live a life without barriers.

If a juvenile is charged as an adult, they will be subject to adult consequences. O’Keefe Law will help guide you through this process and represent your child through this challenging process so that I can best ensure favorable outcomes for your child’s future.

Prosecutor Designation

Unlike a traditional waiver, in cases of specified juvenile violation such as murder, first-degree criminal sexual conduct, and first-degree home invasion, the prosecutor can make their own decision to try the juvenile as an adult.

Compared to a traditional waiver, when the prosecutor chooses to utilize prosecutor designation, they are not required to hold the same hearing process and ask for the court’s permission to move ahead with trying the child as an adult.

However, prosecutor designation and the decision to try the child as an adult does not move the juvenile’s case to the adult court system. Instead, the child will be tried as an adult within the existing family court system.

Remaining in the family court system retains the juvenile’s rights to adjudication and disposition without the life-altering consequences of a traditional conviction in the adult court system.

Court Designation

In cases where the alleged juvenile delinquent stands accused of a crime not under the umbrella of “specified juvenile violation,” the prosecutor can ask the court for permission to proceed with trying the juvenile as an adult.

Unlike in traditional waiver cases, the child may be charged as an adult while remaining within the family court system. Similar to the traditional waiver avenue, court designation cases must first pass through the two-part process of probable cause and best interest hearings.

If the court finds your child guilty of their alleged offenses via plea bargain or trial, the juvenile delinquent is still entitled to disposition rather than conviction, limiting the degree of consequences your child may face.

Automatic Waiver

When an accused juvenile is older than 14 years old and faces charges such as murder, first-degree criminal sexual conduct, and first-degree home invasion, the prosecutor may opt to charge your child in district court without needing to ask the court for permission to proceed.

Unlike with cases of prosecutor and court designation, the accused child is automatically tried as an adult in the district court system and is subject to the full extent of consequences available under Michigan law.

Possible Crimes Your Child May Stand Accused

Violent Crimes

According to the Michigan penal code, violent crimes include but are not limited to, murder, breaking and entering, and assault. If the crime your child stands accused of is severe enough, the prosecutor may use one of the above methods to try your child as an adult.

Michigan law gives any juvenile 17 years old or younger the ability to be tried in juvenile court and receive non-public adjudication and disposition. If your child’s case stays within the family court system or they are tried as a minor instead of an adult, I will work within the fullest extent of the law to give your child the best chance at rehabilitation.

Drugs

With few exceptions, drug offense cases involving minors will frequently stay within the family court system unless large quantities are involved. This does not decrease the severity of the charges against a juvenile for possessing, transporting, using, or dealing drugs within the case.

Michigan and Lansing, in particular, have stringent drug codes with the expressed purpose of limiting drug use within the state. If your child has been caught with drugs on school premises, they are likely to face more severe charges than if they were not.

Theft

Theft is among the most common crimes juveniles stand accused of committing. Many acts fall under the wide umbrella of theft, which is why it is a common crime. Charges of theft against your child can range from petty shoplifting to grand theft auto.

Fittingly, the consequences your child may face depend on the specific theft charges they are facing. Because theft cases vary tremendously, it is vital to work with an experienced law firm that can try to limit, minimize, and even dismiss the charges against your child.

Don’t Hesitate to Call

Your child deserves a fair trial and the best legal representation available.

I believe that all children should be given the best chance to thrive, excel, and ultimately learn from their actions in the wake of accusations against them.

Call O’Keefe Law at 517-253-0014 or fill out the contact form to get started on building your child’s defense.

Practice Areas