1. Juvenile Court Proceedings
Criminal Code Offenses - Cases in which persons under the age of 17 years are accused of violation of criminal law (including misdemeanor, felony, and motor vehicle offenses). At the initiation of the Prosecutor, juveniles may be tried and sentenced as adults by the Court in designated proceedings and either sentenced as adults, given a juvenile disposition or both.
Status Offenses - Cases in which persons under 17 are accused of certain age-based offenses (truancy, run-away from home, curfew, etc.)
If a child agrees to be assigned to one of the Court's alternative programs or is found (by jury, non-jury trial or plea) to be guilty of a delinquent offense, the Court determines and provides a plan for that child that combines accountability for the specific offense and services to help the child not commit future offenses.
To develop and implement these plans, the Court is staffed by specialists who provide assessment, case management, surveillance, educational, therapeutic, guidance and probationary services to delinquent offenders and their families. Besides using its own resources, the Court taps an unlimited range of community programs, the Department of Health and Human Services and private providers of juvenile treatment options to accomplish its rehabilitative mission.
In juvenile proceedings, the Juvenile Court has authority over the parents of each child in the jurisdiction of the Court and may acquire jurisdiction of any adult found to have an effect on such child's health, safety and morals.
In all delinquency proceedings, children and victims have the same constitutional rights as in criminal court.
2. Criminal Court Proceedings (Waiver)
Waiver is the process for giving jurisdiction to the criminal court to try a juvenile as an adult. There are two kinds of waivers:
Traditional or Automatic: The prosecutor may file a warrant instead of a petition or within 5 days after a petition has been submitted to the family court if the minor is at least 14 years old and is accused of a capital offense MCL 712A.2a (1). If the minor is convicted in circuit court, that judge may either sentence the juvenile as an adult or make a juvenile disposition for the minor.
Traditional: The Prosecutor requests the Family Judge to hold a hearing to waive a minor 14 years or older regardless of offense. For a waiver to occur, the Prosecutor must show probable cause that a serious offense was committed and that the minor and the community will not be served by a juvenile disposition.
Under Michigan law, the Juvenile Division of the Probate/Family Court is required to process the petition. By way of general explanation, the juvenile court process begins with an inquiry hearing. Following the inquiry hearing, the next phase in the juvenile proceeding is an adjudication, or trial as it is called in adult court.
If a trial results in a guilty verdict, then the next phase of the juvenile court proceedings is called the disposition or sometimes called a sentencing in the adult court.
Juveniles may plead guilty or accept responsibility for the offenses alleged in the petition, in which case the trial is not necessary and the matter proceeds directly from the taking of the guilty plea to the dispositional hearing.
The purpose of this section is to describe the inquiry hearing so that you will have an idea of what to expect when you come to court for the purpose of the inquiry. The inquiry hearing, although held in the courtroom, is not a formal hearing in the sense that no evidence will be taken and there will be no judge or jury in attendance. Rather, the referee will use that opportunity to inform you and your child of your rights in Probate/Family Court and to further explain the subsequent process to you. This will also be an opportunity for you to ask questions. You may have an attorney attend this hearing with you if you like although it is not required because there will be no formal action taken at this time. This hearing will likely be tape-recorded but no formal record in the usual court sense will be maintained.
At the preliminary inquiry you will be informed that your child has the right to be represented by an attorney at public expense if he or she cannot afford to independently hire the attorney of their choice. Your child will be informed of their right to plead not
guilty and have a trial of the matters alleged in the petition. The trial would be held before a judge setting alone or with a jury at your child's choice. Your child will further be informed that it is the Prosecutor's burden to prove the allegations in the petition beyond a reasonable doubt. During the trial your child will have the right to cross-examine witnesses and present witnesses of their own.
During the trial your child will not be required to testify and refusal to testify will not be held against him or her. On the other hand, if your child wishes to testify they will also have that opportunity. The rights that I have just described are common to all persons who appear in either juvenile or adult court.
During the inquiry, the referee will ask what your child's intention is in regard to whether or not they will plead guilty or not guilty. This question will be for the purpose of future scheduling and your child's answer is not binding at the time of the inquiry. However, if your child chooses to plead not guilty and requests an attorney then this matter will be scheduled in a different fashion than if he or she chooses to plead guilty. Even juveniles who plead guilty may still request and receive the assistance of an attorney.
The referee will also explain at that time the possible dispositions or sentences that can be experienced under the juvenile court process. In explaining these possible dispositions, the referee will not mean to imply that they are intended in your child's case. Instead the intention is to give you a complete overview of the possibilities under the juvenile court system.
At the inquiry the referee will also explain that Michigan Law requires that the Probate/Family Court assess reimbursement for any funds spent in providing services, including attorney fees, to your child.
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