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Juvenile Trials and Plea Agreements

 Posted on May 13, 2013 in Criminal defense lawyer

Juvenile plea agreements are made between the juvenile defendant and the state’s attorney. In a plea agreement, the juvenile defendant will plead guilty in exchange for a lesser sentence. These agreements must be approved by a judge, after which a hearing date will be set.

Trials will only occur for the following reasons:

  • the youth chooses not to plead guilty,
  • the youth does not agree to the plea agreement,
  • the youth was not separated from the system,
  • or the prosecutor did not dismiss all of the charges filed against the child.

Because juveniles do not have the constitutional right to a jury trial, juvenile trials are bench trials. Law states that these trials must occur within 120 days of the child’s demand for a trial, although in some instances this date can be held off for an additional 30 days. However, in the cases of violent juvenile offenders, habitual juvenile offenders, and extended juvenile jurisdiction prosecution, the juveniles do have the right to a trial with a jury.

In any trial, whether there is a jury or not, the judge will determine whether or not the allegations that have been made against the juvenile are supported with evidence. If there is not sufficient evidence found, the case is dismissed and no further action is taken.

On the other hand, if the judge does decide that there is evidentiary support, the youth is found guilty, at which point the judge has several options. Most frequently, the judge will set a date for a sentencing hearing. Before that date, social investigations occur that will assist the judge in his or her decision about sentencing. If there is a plea agreement, the investigations may be skipped and the judge will proceed immediately to the sentencing.

When investigations do occur, the results must be given to all involved parties at least three days before the sentencing hearing. These investigations often include information such as the youth’s physical and mental history, his or her family situation, socioeconomic status, personal habits, occupation, criminal history and any resources available to the youth.

After a delinquency petition has been filed, prosecutors and judges also have the option to divert the juvenile from justice system involvement.

Illinois courts may also order a continuance under supervision of no more than 24 months, with the exceptions including if the juvenile is accused of first degree murder, a Class X felony or a forcible felony. During this time, the child must follow supervision conditions and be monitored by a probation officer.

If your child has been accused as a juvenile of a crime, contact a criminal attorney in Illinois for assistance. Attorney Matthew R. Gebhardt will fight for your rights in Northbrook today.

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