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Kathryn L. Harry & Associates, P.C.
630-472-9700Available 24/7

Juvenile Sentencing: An Illinois Perspective

Posted on in Criminal Defense

juvenile sentencingMaking bad decisions as a child can have real, life altering, adult consequences. There are nearly 3,000 incarcerated persons serving life sentences without the possibility of parole for crimes they committed as youth. When we hear “life without parole,” this means that no matter how good the behavior of the incarcerated person, and regardless of whether he or she becomes rehabilitated or educated, that person will stay in prison for the duration of his or her life without exception.

This controversial practice was addressed by the United States Supreme Court in 2012, in a landmark case titled Miller v. Alabama. This case held that mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole are unconstitutional. Read that carefully: the court decision does not mean that juveniles cannot be given a life sentence without the possibility of parole. It simply means that this cannot be a mandatory sentence, i.e., the court must consider the unique characteristics of the offender and any special circumstances before handing out such a sentence.

Juvenile Criminals in Illinois

In 2010, Illinois passed a law that sets a dividing line between adults and youth for misdemeanor crimes. Under the Juvenile Court Act of 1987, however, criminal offenders under 18 can still be tried as adults for felony crimes. A youth will not be charged as an adult in Illinois if they are under the age of 13. These guidelines are designed to provide the youth offender the best chance at rehabilitation and an opportunity for the youth to understand accountability for his or her actions. Note that nowhere in the United States, including Illinois, can a minor be sentenced to the death penalty for crimes committed as a youth.

Given the age and opportunity for reform, youth are often treated differently than their adult counterparts. A youth is more likely to be given probationary sentences, which are usually lifted upon successful compliance when the minor turns 21. Juvenile detention centers provide short-term confinement for periods not exceeding 30 days. The juvenile system must balance the interests of punishing the minor with allowing them an opportunity to re-matriculate into society, attend school, and seek employment when of age. These privileges may be taken away when a youth commits a violent crime such as murder, such as a teen offender who was 15 at the time he shot and killed another child.

Juvenile Crimes and Sentencing

It should never be assumed you or your child will receive leniency simply due to the fact that the offender is a minor. Adult decisions will carry adult consequences in Illinois courts, and in most states could result in a lifetime sentence, save the handful of states that do not permit juvenile life without parole in any circumstances. Our experienced DuPage County juvenile criminal defense attorneys at Kathryn L. Harry & Associates, P.C. understand the ins and outs of the Illinois juvenile court system. We will work tirelessly to ensure the best possible outcome, limit incarceration time, decrease probationary periods, or dismiss charges altogether. If a youth is charged, or if you have a prior conviction from your youth, we may be able to help you remove this blemish from your record in a process called expungement. Our DuPage, Cook, Kane, and Kent County attorneys are dedicated to helping youth offenders move on from their past. We believe in reformation and want to help you and your child move forward. Do not hesitate to contact us today at 630-472-9700.

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