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Juvenile Court Proceedings in Michigan: Questions and Answers

What is Juvenile Court?
Juvenile court is a special court for youth who are charged with a crime or status offense. Juvenile court is part of family court. Family courts solve legal problems involving youth and their parents.

Who is a Juvenile?
In Michigan, youth under the age of 17 are considered juveniles.

What is a "Status Offense?"
Status offenses involve conduct that violates the law due to the youth's age, such as truancy, running away from home, and curfew violations.

What Happens When a Juvenile is Charged with Violating the Law?
Youth accused of a crime must come to juvenile court for an initial hearing. At court, the judge may:

  • Dismiss the case
  • Refer the youth to counseling under the "Juvenile Diversion Act," if the youth agrees
  • Place the case on a "consent calendar," an informal process of court supervision
  • Place the case on the "formal calendar" and allow charges to go forward against the youth.

Are Juveniles Ever Treated Like Adults in Court?
Yes. In some cases, youth are charged with adult crimes and sentenced like an adult in the juvenile court. In other cases, youth are moved to the separate court for adults, where they are treated and sentenced as adults.

What if a Juvenile is Charged With an Offense on the Formal Calendar?
A youth may admit or deny the charges. A youth denying the charges is presumed innocent and may request a trial before a judge or jury.

What Rights Do Juveniles Have if There is a Trial?
At trial, youth have the right to an attorney, the right to remain silent, the right to confront witnesses testifying against the youth, the right to call witnesses, and the right to testify.

What Happens if the Court Finds a Juvenile Guilty?
If a youth is found guilty at trial, or admits to a crime, the court enters a "disposition," which is comparable to the sentencing stage in the adult court system. The judge can require the juvenile do a variety of things, including probation, anger management classes, substance abuse counseling, educational classes, community service, pay back victims for any losses, and be sent to live at a juvenile facility, in or out of the state.

 
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