What Is the Maximum Sentence for Juvenile Crimes in Illinois

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When a juvenile commits a felony crime such as murder, do they deserve to spend the rest of their life in prison? A recent Illinois Supreme Court decision says “no.”

The U.S. Supreme Court had already ruled in 2012 that mandatory life sentences for juveniles who commit murder are unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. In 2017, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that discretionary sentences of life without parole and de facto life sentences are also prohibited. The question remained, however, as to what length of sentence should be deemed an “in fact” life sentence. This question was recently addressed by the Illinois Supreme Court in the 2019 case of People v. Buffer, 2019 IL 122327.

Illinois Law Allows for Leniency in Juvenile Sentencing

Illinois juvenile law has four stated purposes: To protect citizens from juvenile crime, to hold juvenile offenders accountable for their acts, to provide juvenile with due process of law, and to help juvenile offenders develop life skills that enable them to mature into productive members of society. In this context, a sentence that would keep a juvenile in prison for the rest of their expected life does not make sense.

In 2016, the Illinois legislature enacted additional guidelines to govern the sentencing of juvenile offenders, defined as those under the age of 18 at the time of the crime. This law, 730 ILCS 5/5-4.5-105, requires judges to consider all of these mitigating factors when sentencing juveniles:

• The person’s potential for rehabilitation or evidence of rehabilitation..

• The person’s prior juvenile or criminal history.

• The person’s role in the offense, including the level of planning they did.

• The person’s age, impetuosity, and level of maturity at the time of the offense, including the ability to consider risks and consequences of behavior, and the presence of any cognitive or developmental disability.

• The person’s ability to meaningfully participate in their defense.

• The person’s history of parental neglect, physical abuse, or other childhood trauma.

• The person’s family, home environment, and educational and social background.

• The extent to which the person was affected by peer pressure, familial pressure, or negative influences.

• Any other facts the court finds relevant and reliable.

How Long of a Prison Sentence Is too Long for a Juvenile?

The juvenile sentencing law of 2016 prescribed a minimum sentence of 40 years in prison for a juvenile convicted of first-degree murder. In the 2019 case of People v. Buffer, the Illinois Supreme Court decided that 40 years should be the state’s maximum acceptable prison sentence for a juvenile because it allows for release prior to the end of their expected lifespan. For example, a 17-year-old who was sentenced at age 20 would only be 60 years old upon their release.

A Will County Juvenile Defense Attorney

If you have a family member under age 18 who needs a defense attorney, call an experienced Joliet juvenile defense lawyer . Attorney Jack L. Zaremba has the criminal defense experience in the Will County courts that you need. Call 815-740-4025 for a free consultation.

Juvenile Crime

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When a juvenile is taken into police custody for violating the law, the police and state’s attorney can take one of two paths. They can reach an informal agreement at the police station with the juvenile and his parents, or they can file formal charges and take the case before a juvenile court judge. An informal disposition for a juvenile crime can take the form of a station adjustment or a probation adjustment.

How Does Illinois Define a Juvenile?

Under Illinois law effective January 1, 2014, a minor who commits a crime prior to his 18th birthday is treated as a juvenile and processed through the juvenile court system. A person may remain under the supervision of the juvenile courts until they reach age 21. There are two exceptions to this rule. First, violations of traffic, boating, and fish and game laws are handled by the adult courts. Second, a minor at least 16 years of age who commits a violent felony such as first degree murder, aggravated criminal sexual assault, or aggravated battery with a firearm will be prosecuted as an adult.

What Is a Probation Adjustment?

A probation adjustment is a somewhat more formal procedure than a station adjustment . With the permission of the state’s attorney, a juvenile probation officer may hold a conference with the minor, their parents, the police officer involved, and any other involved persons such as the victim. If the minor admits their offense and agrees to certain conditions, the probation officer can place the minor on informal probationary supervision for up to 12 months. This is similar to court-assigned probation but avoids court involvement. At the end of the informal supervision, the probation officer will terminate the matter. However, if the juvenile fails to adhere to the terms of the supervision, which include not being rearrested, the state’s attorney may proceed with a juvenile delinquency petition in juvenile court.

What Happens If a Juvenile Is Adjudicated Delinquent?

In the Illinois juvenile justice system, a juvenile is not convicted of a crime but rather is adjudicated delinquent. The most common sentence is probation. Of the 36,196 juveniles arrested in Illinois in 2014 , the latest year for which data is available, more than half were released without being referred to the state’s attorney for prosecution; some of those will have gotten a station adjustment.

A total of 1,408 juveniles, or about 4 percent of those arrested, were subsequently given a probation adjustment, while 15,960, about 44 percent, went to juvenile court. Ultimately, 6,545, or 18 percent of those arrested, were assigned probation and 1,672, less than 5 percent, were sent to a correctional facility.

A Will County Juvenile Defense Attorney

If you are heading to the River Valley Justice Center in Joliet, you will want an experienced Joliet juvenile defense lawyer at your side. At the Law Offices of Jack L. Zaremba, we have over a decade of experience in the juvenile and criminal courts of Will County. As a former prosecutor himself, attorney Zaremba knows what to expect and how to counter the prosecution’s case to achieve a more positive outcome for you. We offer a free consultation and answer calls around the clock. Call us at 815-740-4025.

What is the Difference Between Battery and Domestic Battery Charges in Illinois

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According to the CDC, approximately one in four women and one in seven men will be the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Many U.S states have increased penalties for crimes committed against intimate partners or family members. In Illinois, domestic violence domestic violence is prosecuted heavily. Those convicted of a domestic violence-related crime can face years behind bars and a lifetime of stigma. If you have been charged with domestic battery or another domestic offense, it is crucial that you understand the charges placed against you and the possible penalties you face.

When is Battery Considered “Domestic Battery”?

Although they are two different crimes, we often hear the term “battery” along with “assault.” This is because Illinois law defines assault as "conduct which places another in reasonable apprehension of receiving a battery.” Battery is defined as “conduct causing bodily harm to another person” or physical contact with another which is “insulting, provocative, or unwanted.” In order for a battery to be considered domestic battery, the alleged offense must be perpetrated against a family member or household member. In Illinois, domestic violence includes violence against a

• Spouse or former spouse;

• Parent;

• Child or stepchild;

• Roommate or former roommate;

• Boyfriend or girlfriend;

• Fiancé

• Person with whom the alleged offender shares a child; and

• Other relatives through blood or marriage.

According to the Illinois Criminal Code , a person is guilty of domestic battery if he or she intentionally causes physical injury or makes physical contact of an offensive or provoking manner to a person listed above. Domestic battery is a Class A misdemeanor offense punishable by up to one year in jail and fines of up to $2,500. This charge may be enhanced to an aggravated domestic battery charge if the alleged battery causes significant bodily harm, permanent disability, disfigurement, or if the offense included actual or attempted strangling. Aggravated domestic battery is considered a much more heinous crime than regular domestic battery. It is a Class 2 felony offense punishable by a prison term of up to seven years.

Contact a Will County Domestic Violence Defense Attorney

If you have been accused of domestic battery, aggravated domestic battery, or another violent crime, contact an experienced Joliet domestic violence defense lawyer for help. Call the Law Offices of Jack L. Zaremba, P.C. today at 815-740-4025 to schedule a free consultation.


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