Juvenile Law


In Illinois, the laws pertaining to juveniles, or "minors" are governed under the Juvenile Court Act. This is a separate and often confusing Act that is different than laws for Adults. Minors receive far greater protections than Adults and are "sentenced" differently than most Adults. 

If your child has been arrested or taken to the police station, this can be a very frightening and stressful situation for you and your child, especially if you have never been involved in the juvenile justice system. Often times, parents and children are afraid to speak or ask questions, most do not know their rights or that they even have rights. Therefore, it is very important for you to understand everything that happens as these events will have ramifications in your child’s life for years. These events could affect where they go to school, college, who they live with, where they work, set curfews and who they can visit and socialize.

The legal AGE for someone to be determined a minor is 17 years old or under, but not every child charged with a crime goes to Juvenile Court. In very serious crimes, minors 16 and older can be tried in Adult court, this is when the case is "transferred" to Adult court. These crimes include murder, rape, certain gun or drug crimes, or crimes committed at or near a school or public housing. If the minor is under 12 years old, police can only hold he or she for 6 hours. If the minor is between 12-16 years old, they can be held for 12 hours for a non-violent crime and up to 24 hours for a violent crime.

Your Child's Rights

If your child has been arrested or the police, school resource officer or school personnel detain your child, it is very important and imperative that he or she knows their rights.

YOUR CHILD HAS THE RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT.  This means they do not have to say anything, no matter what the police tell them. Your child must tell the police, “I DO NOT want to talk”. It is not enough to just be quiet or not say anything. If your child talks to ANY police officer, including a school resource officer, anything your child says could be used against them. 

YOUR CHILD HAS THE RIGHT TO A LAWYER.  Even if you cannot afford one. Once your child asks for a lawyer, the police must STOP questioning them. Asking for a lawyer does not mean that your child is guilty, is hiding something or that they are being difficult.

YOUR CHILD HAS THE RIGHT TO TALK TO A PARENT OR FAMILY MEMBER and to have them present during questioning. Your child should immediately tell the police that he or she wants you, and how to reach you. The police then must immediately try to contact you or the family member legally responsible. You AND your child’s lawyer can and should be with them during any questioning.

YOUR CHILD HAS A RIGHT TO KNOW WHY THEY ARE BEING HELD. The police must tell your child why he or she is being held. They must also explain the charges and what crime they believe your child has committed.

Your Rights as a Parent 

YOU MUST BE NOTIFIED IF YOUR CHILD IS ARRESTED OR HELD BY THE POLICE.  The police must notify you as quickly as possible if your child is arrested or is held either as a suspect or a witness. You also have the right to know why your child is in custody and where they are being held. The police must tell you about the charges and what crime they believe your child has committed. They also must tell you where your child is held in police custody. The reason for this is because the police may allow you to see your child and be with them during ALL questioning. You must tell the police you want to see your child immediately.

YOU DO NOT HAVE TO SIGN ANYTHING. Do not sign any paper that you have not read or don’t understand. Do not allow your son or daughter to sign anything that he or she does not understand. Do not say you understand something if you don’t. It is perfectly acceptable to ask questions.

Possible Outcomes or Sentences

If your child is arrested or taken into custody, the police have the ability to handle the case through several scenarios: 

  1. No arrest or formal charges are pursued and the case is never brought forth.

  2. Station Adjustments. There are two types: Informal and Formal. Informal Station Adjustment means the minor is taken to the police station and given a warning to improve their behavior. Formal Station Adjustment means the police notify a parent and make a record. The police are the only ones who monitor the case and the minor and set rules for the minor to follow. If the minor fail to comply with the the rules, the case can get sent to Juvenile Court. 

  3. Diversion. This is when the minor agrees to attend and complete services, such as counseling or drug treatment, instead of having their case go to Juvenile Court.

  4. Formal Complaint. This takes the matter and minor directly to Juvenile Court.

Now, if your child is arrested they will not go to jail or a have bail set (bond money to post to get them out of jail). Instead they will have a detention hearing, where the judge decides whether your child is released to go home or stays in a juvenile detention center until court. The detention hearing must be held within 40 hours of your child's arrest, excluding weekends and holidays.

Based on the outcome of your child's case. A minor who pleads guilty or is found guilty is adjudicated and therefore, will be sentenced under the Juvenile Court Act. Your child could be placed on a term of supervision, probation or be sent to a residential treatment center, a juvenile detention center, or a youth prison operated by the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice (known as IDOJJ).

If your child has been arrested, contact my office to schedule your initial consultation (847) 977-6298.