What to Expect as your Case Moves Through the Michigan Juvenile Criminal Court

The criminal procedure applicable to the Michigan Juvenile Criminal Courts is similar to but much different from the procedures utilized and applicable to the Michigan Adult Criminal Courts. The purpose of this article is to give a brief yet concise summary of these differences. If you are charged as an adult or juvenile offender, or if you are the parent of someone so charged, then your lawyer will be able to give a more detailed explanation of what to expect while your case is pending.

How Does a Juvenile Case Begin?

In the adult court, the case begins when a criminal complaint is filed. Most often, complains are accompanied by warrants, and require that you appear for an arraignment. In the juvenile court, the complaint is called a petition. They both list what the allegations. This is just one of the many differences in the juvenile justice system.

Once a Petition is Filed, What Happens Next?

When a petition is filed a juvenile will have an opportunity to defend it but there are four possible paths that the case may take. What happens next depends on the nature of the petition filed. In some cases, a juvenile petition is filed for status-offenses, which would include running away, or truancy. At the Barone Defense Firm our practice and focus are on the criminal petition, where it is alleged, the juvenile violated a criminal law. Once the petition is filed an initial hearing will be set.

What is an Initial Hearing?

Perhaps the best way to answer this is by use of a metaphor. This initial hearing is like Michigan’s favorite new traffic intersection design, the roundabout. The outcome of the petition will either be going round and round and ending up where you started because the Judge does not authorize the petition, and the case will be dismissed, or one of the other three outcomes.

Option One – the Juvenile Diversion Act

One potential outcome will be under the Juvenile Diversion Act under MCL 722.821.  Under this Act, certain juveniles may qualify and be designated for this diversion, which would allow the minor to be monitored and keep their record clear and sealed.  Factors such as the minor’s age, the type of the offense, the reasons that led to the alleged act, the minor’s character and behavior, and any prior diversions. However, under the Act, assaultive crimes would not be eligible for diversion.  These assaultive crimes would include criminal sexual conduct allegations.

Option Two – Consent Calendar

The next option is that the case would be placed on the Consent Calendar. This is known as an Informal process and includes court supervision. Consent Calendar placement is ruled by MCL 712A.2f.  The purpose of this statute, and the Consent Calendar is to have judicial oversight and a plan that must be followed by the minor.  A case can be transferred to the consent calendar at any stage of the proceedings, and a case can be transferred from the consent calendar to the Formal calendar should the minor fail to comply in some capacity.  It is also worth noting that any statements made during the consent calendar process may not later be used should a case be transferred to the formal calendar.

Option Three – Formal Calendar

The last path is the most serious and is known as the Formal Calendar. This outcome means that the criminal charges are to go forward against the minor. This is the most like the criminal court path. The first step is to Admit or Deny the allegation, which is most like pleading guilty or not guilty at an arraignment in the criminal court. The accused will have similar rights regarding a right to trial, right to trial by jury, right to an attorney, right to remain silent, call witnesses, and of course the presumption of innocence.  If the case proceeds to trial and are found guilty, then judge will impose disposition which is the equivalent of a sentencing.  However, before any disposition is determined a juvenile case will be litigated similarly to criminal cases.

What Else is Possible – the Probable Cause Conference?

After a petition is filed, and none of the prior three options were taken or available, and the case proceeds on the formal calendar, the case must proceed to a probable cause conference and preliminary examination hearing. Under the Court Rules, this hearing must take place within certain period of time unless waived there is good cause. The case will proceed under three circumstances: 1) probable cause is concluded by the judge, 2) the minor waives the hearing, and 3) in rare circumstances, a hearing is not necessary based upon previous hearings and admissible evidence is available.  If no probable cause, case dismissed.  If probable cause is found, then case would be set for trial, and possibly other court appearances in preparation for trial or plea.

How Does a Trial Work in the Michigan Juvenile Justice System?

If a case does proceed to Trial, a jury (unless waived for bench trial) will determine guilty or not guilty, and then the Judge will impose a sentence or a disposition. The Judge will have some discretion in the sentence, but ultimately falls into two options 1) impose sentence similar to what would be available in adult court, or 2) delay as long as the court has jurisdiction over the defendant.  For these new cases for someone who’s alleged acts took place while under the age of 18 there is a limited period of time that the court would maintain that jurisdiction, and therefore, many of these minor defendants would be faced with a sentence versus a delay of some kind.

Will I Need a Lawyer for a Michigan Juvenile Criminal Case?

Under Michigan’s Constitution and the Constitution of the United States, all persons, regardless of age, who are accused of a crime, have the right to represented by a lawyer. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed for you.

If you or a loved one are facing juvenile criminal charges in a Michigan juvenile court, then please consider calling the juvenile criminal defense lawyers at the Barone Defense Firm. We will answer all your questions, including whether we can help you. The initial consultation is free.

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