Will My Sexting Case be Handled in the Adult or Juvenile Court System?

If you are close to the age of 18 and you are facing allegations that you texted sexually explicit messages, or any other crime, then the determination of what court the case will end up in is a function of your age. However, there have been some important changes to Michigan’s criminal laws that will have an impact on this determination.

Michigan’s two Courts of Criminal Justice – Adult and Juvenile

There are many factors that determine where a criminal matter will be filed and heard. The term that lawyers use to describe this issue is jurisdiction, and for the most part, a court’s jurisdiction is defined by various laws called statutes. The Michigan Constitution and Michigan’s Court Rules also address this topic. For this purpose, “jurisdiction” is defined as the power to act, or said differently, power to issues orders. If a judge doesn’t have jurisdiction over you, then he/she can’t order you to do anything.

If a person under the age of 18 is charged with a crime, the first question is where did the alleged crime occur? That will define geographically in what court the case will be filed. It probably goes without saying that a felony crime committed within the boundaries of Oakland County Michigan will be filed in the Oakland County Circuit Court.

Otherwise, all criminal matters, be they misdemeanors of felonies, under current criminal laws in Michigan, if committed by a person under the age of 18, will be handled in the Juvenile court system rather than the adult court system.

What if I Turn 18 While a Juvenile Case is Pending?

Under the “old” laws of jurisdiction, once a person turned 18, their case would be transferred to the adult court. This was pursuant to Michigan compiled laws 712A.5. As of the date of this article, this is no longer always true.

Crimes Committed Before the Offender’s 18th Birthday

On October 1, 2021, MCL 712A.3 went into effect and like many new laws it creates expectations and questions from the court and lawyers, and of course the accused. This law raises the age from anyone under the age of 17 up to under the age of 18 at the time of the alleged offense.

The law requires that the matter, if filed in the criminal court, to be immediately transferred and handled in the Juvenile Court. The ‘adult’ Criminal Court, which consists of the District Court for Misdemeanors and the Circuit Court for Felony offenses. The Juvenile Court, which is often contained within the Family Court of the county, handle matters for juveniles obviously, but handles criminal cases with a different approach, more emphasis on problem solving rather than punishment.

The biggest influence of this new law is the immediate impact on current defendants who fall within this new age limit, those being under the age of 18 at the time of the alleged conduct, and according to the statute’s plain language the court shall transfer without delay. Further, regardless of the phase of the case in the adult criminal court the matter would start from the beginning in the juvenile court, as if it were originally filed or petitioned there.

If you are a person near the age of 18 accused of having committed a crime, or a parent of same, and have any questions related to the information in this article, please contact us for a free, no obligation consultation.

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