What is the objective of the juvenile court for minors who commit unlawful acts?
The juvenile court has jurisdiction over individuals under the age of 18 who
engage in unlawful conduct, with certain exceptions noted below. In
contrast to the adult courts, the juvenile proceeding in this context is not a
criminal proceeding designed to determine criminal responsibility and punishment
but, rather, it is a civil proceeding designed to protect the child from the
consequences of his or her own conduct, develop individual responsibility for
unlawful behavior, rehabilitate him or her, and, at the same time, promote
Minn. Stat. § 260B.001, subd. 2.
What are the categories of juvenile offenders?
Juveniles committing unlawful acts fall into one of the following categories,
depending mostly on the nature of the conduct involved:
Individuals under the age of 18 who commit acts
which would be unlawful if committed by an adult, except for certain designated
offenses and all petty offenses
(Minn. Stat. § 260B.007, subd. 6).
An individual subject to a delinquency hearing is
entitled to effective assistance of counsel. Cases involving children under the
age of ten who are alleged to have committed an act that would be a crime if
committed by an adult are handled as civil CHIPS (children in need of protection or services) hearings.
Children who engage in conduct which is unlawful for them but
not unlawful for adults, such as violating curfew, drinking, and smoking.
Also included in the petty offender category are juveniles who commit petty
misdemeanors and juveniles charged with their first or second nonviolent
misdemeanor offense, with the exception of certain designated offenses
(Minn. Stat. § 260B.007, subd. 16).
Juvenile traffic offenders
Children who violate traffic
laws. In certain cases, depending on the age of the child and the nature of the
traffic offense, the matter may be handled exclusively by the adult court rather than the juvenile court
(Minn. Stat. § 260B.225).
For example, a child 16 years old or older
who is alleged to have committed a petty misdemeanor-level traffic offense or a DWI or related nonfelony
offense is treated the same as an adult offender.
Juveniles certified to adult court
The juvenile court may decide that a child over the age of 14 who is accused of a particularly dangerous offense
and/or has engaged in criminal conduct in the past would be handled more
appropriately in the adult court. (Under Minnesota law, children under the age
of 14 are considered legally incapable of committing crimes.) These alleged
delinquents may be certified to adult court for criminal prosecution upon motion
by the prosecutor if the juvenile court finds, after a hearing, that there is
probable cause to believe the child committed a felony-level offense and that
there is clear and convincing evidence that public safety is not served by
handling the case in juvenile court. Once a child has been certified to the
adult court for prosecution he or she may be treated like an adult defendant.
The law presumes that certain juvenile offenders will be certified to adult
court for criminal prosecution. A child is subject to this presumption if:
- the child was 16 or 17 years old at the time of the felony offense; and
- the court finds probable cause to believe the child committed either: (1) a felony
offense that would result in a presumptive commitment to prison under the
sentencing guidelines and applicable statutes (generally violent or other repeat
serious offenses); or (2) any felony offense while using a firearm.
In such cases, the child has the burden to rebut the presumption by clear and
convincing evidence demonstrating that retaining the case in juvenile court
serves public safety. If the child does not rebut the presumption, the court
must certify the case to adult court.
Minn. Stat. § 260B.125.
Extended jurisdiction juveniles
Children 14 years old or older who
commit felony-level delinquent acts and are subject to adult certification and
who, in the prosecutor’s or court’s opinion, would be more aptly treated by the
juvenile court are designated EJJs. An EJJ designation extends the time that
the court has jurisdiction over the juvenile to the age of 21. Conviction for
the offense results in both a juvenile court sentence and a stayed adult court
sentence. If the juvenile fails to satisfy conditions of their juvenile court
sentence, their adult court sentence may be imposed, and the juvenile may be sent
to adult prison. A child who is designated an EJJ has the right to a jury trial
in juvenile court and the effective assistance of counsel on the issue of guilt
(Minn. Stat. § 260B.130).
Juveniles age 16 and older accused of first-degree murder
A child who is alleged to have committed first-degree murder
after becoming 16 years old may be charged and convicted in adult court without
going through the juvenile court’s certification process, and without regard to
the child’s previous criminal or juvenile record.
Minn. Stat. § 609.055.
What Options Does the Court Have for Disposition, Treatment, and Placement of Juvenile Offenders?
Assuming the juvenile court retains jurisdiction over the alleged juvenile
offender, and, after a hearing, determines that the child engaged in the
unlawful conduct, the court has a variety of disposition options,
including: fines, probation, counseling, home detention, sex offender
treatment, placement out of the home, loss of driver’s license, restitution or
community service, and (for delinquents only) commitment to the Commissioner of
Corrections for placement in a state juvenile correctional facility. The
Commissioner of Corrections is prohibited from placing in a penal institution
any juvenile referred by the juvenile court.
Minn. Stat. § 242.14. A juvenile
petty offender may not be placed outside the home except for in-patient
treatment for chemical dependency. In most cases, once a juvenile is
adjudicated delinquent, the juvenile court’s jurisdiction over the child lasts
until the child’s 19th birthday.
Minn. Stat. §§ 260B.198;
A minor may not be detained or
confined in the same area as adult prisoners while in jail or lockup unless the
minor has been indicted for first-degree murder, certified for trial as an
adult, or convicted of a crime as an adult.
Minn. Stat. § 641.14.