When a minor is charged with a crime in Illinois, he or she may be diverted to the juvenile justice system. Whether the minor faces the charges in adult court or through the juvenile justice process depends on the age of the minor and the crime committed. Youth 15 years and younger will be in juvenile court and youth 16 years and older will start in juvenile court but may be moved to adult court if it is a very serious crime, such as first-degree murder, aggravated criminal sexual assault, or aggravated battery with a firearm. It is important to remember that youth in the juvenile justice system do have rights. Indeed, it is important to understand some of the most substantive rights youth and parents have when navigating the juvenile justice system in Illinois.
Right to an Attorney
Just like adults, children in the juvenile justice system have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford a lawyer the court will provide a defense attorney. Immediately after being arrested your child should demand to talk to an attorney and say nothing else. Attorneys can help protect your child’s rights and help the case move expediently. Getting an attorney is not a sign of guilt and it is extremely important to exercise this right by contacting a knowledgeable juvenile law attorney as soon as possible.