Does My Child Need a Lawyer for Juvenile Criminal Charges?
If your child is being investigated for or has been charged with a crime as a juvenile (age 16 or younger), as a parent, it is a very emotional experience. You’re likely scared about what could happen, and if you think your child may have actually committed the crime, you might also be feeling angry or disappointed.
First, it is important to know that some children may actually be charged with crimes and be treated as an adult. In Michigan, people begin to be charged with crimes as an adult at the age of 17. So, if it is alleged that your child committed the crime at the age of 17, they will automatically be charged as an adult, despite still being a minor for all other purposes. If your 17-year old has been charged with a crime as an adult, there is no doubt that they will need a lawyer to guide them through that process. For other very serious cases, such as criminal sexual conduct, home invasion, or murder, the prosecutor has the option to charge even those kids who are 16 and under as an adult.
There are certain crimes for which there is no doubt that you should obtain legal representation for your child. For example, if your child is charged with a sex crime, the consequences are serious and potentially lifelong. Even if your child is prosecuted as a juvenile, a juvenile adjudication for a sex crime could result in placement on the sex offender registry. Placement on sex offender registry could impact your child’s ability to attend the college of his or her choice, future employment opportunities, where he or she will be permitted to reside, and subject him or her to public embarrassment. If your child is charged with a sex crime, you should make sure that you find a lawyer to represent your child who not only has experience in representing juveniles, but also has experience in representing juveniles charged with a sex crime.
For other felony offenses, it is also probably wise to obtain a lawyer for your child. Contrary to popular belief, juvenile adjudications don’t simply fall off of your record at the age of eighteen. Juvenile adjudications can follow you into adulthood, and are public record. They may show up in a background check by an employer or school. If your child is arrested as an adult, a juvenile adjudication will be used against them for sentencing purposes.
For less serious offenses, such as misdemeanors, you should start by consulting with a lawyer, prior to the initial hearing. Do not allow your child to plead guilty to an offense without consulting with an attorney first.
There may be options in less serious cases that a lawyer can walk you through without requiring representation for your child in court. For example, sometimes, in relatively minor cases, the prosecutor or the court will offer to place your child on “Consent Calendar” at the initial hearing. “Consent Calendar” is a program that allows your child to be placed on an informal (non-public) docket for a period of time. They will have requirements, such as meeting with a probation officer, completing counseling, abiding by a curfew, attending school, and other requirements, that must be met in order to successfully complete the program. If they successfully complete the program, then there will be no public record of the juvenile charges.
If you are able to have your child placed on the “Consent Calendar” at the initial hearing, then you may not need to take the step of hiring an attorney. However, if Consent Calendar is not initially offered as an option for your child, you should instruct your child to plead “Not Guilty,” and you should hire an attorney to represent your child.
If your child has been charged with a crime, Blanchard Law has significant experience in defending juveniles throughout the state of Michigan. Contact Blanchard Law with your questions today.